Deacon Frank Sullivan, campus chaplain at Hartley High School, gave a warm welcome to this Franciscan friar for Vocations Day. We had a long line of young men filing into the chapel to hear about religious vocations from the perspective of a Dominican friar Tom Blau, O.P., Diocesan priest Fr. Dan Dury, and myself a Franciscan friar.
Hartley has an impressive vocation program for juniors and seniors to prepare them for a career immediately after high school. They can spend a half day at High School classes and half day at vocation preparation school taking more classes. These unique career centers located around Columbus, Ohio prepare the Hartley student to learn the trades of the job and complete high school classes to receive a high school diploma. Impressive vocation program for a career but we were visiting to speak about something bigger than just a vocational career.
On Vocations Day we were concentrating on religious vocations. There were Dominican sisters combing the halls. Sr. Mary Jacinta and Sr. Mary Perpetua spoke to all the young women. The young men were cycling through the chapel to hear from two mendicant friars and a diocesan priest. Great questions and insightful young women and men who were willing to absorb our stories and begin that dialogue with God, “Where God are you calling me?”
That dialogue with God is so crucial. God continues to call young men to religious consecrated life, priesthood, and diaconate and its incumbent on men to have ears ready to listen. Part of the difficulty of discernment, or making a big decision in your life, is calibrating our ears to openness and readiness. All these men were listening attentively with hearts wide open and readied for our message. And what was the message?
People are yearning to give their lives to something filled with worthwhile meaning. People cling to a life imbued in meaning, and want to give themselves to something bigger than themselves. Look at 9-11 for example. On September 11th, 2001 when the terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Centers, the result was tragedy and chaos. While people were fleeing the area in hysteria and running from the scene for their lives, the first responders were doing the opposite. The firemen, police, and EMS providers were rapidly moving toward the danger to put their life on the line for strangers they would never meet. And this noble calling of sacrifice requires a bit of lunacy. Is there a salary worth adequate compensation for this level of danger? Frankly, I don’t think you could pay them enough money for what they do. On that heroic day 343 firefighters and 60 policemen lost their lives in the fall of the twin towers. Patches sewn on jackets were later issued that said, “Remember 343” so that we not forget the sacrifice made by these heroic men and women. Now if I were to post a job description to new recruits and say you will never be paid your worth in a salary, you will be forced to confront terrorizing dangers, and there is a good chance you will lose you life for people you may never meet. I would think new recruits in New York for fire, police, and EMS would be impossible to find! But the reverse has happened. Recruitment classes have had no problem filling their quotas. In fact the numbers of willing people to donate themselves to this noble calling are at record levels. Why?
Deep inside of us we yearn to give ourselves to a noble purpose, we want to dedicate ourselves to something bigger than ourselves, and that is our vocation! The students at Hartley High School get this, and they want to move toward a noble sacrifice of self worthy of their investment. The power, pleasure, wealth, and prestige of our culture have their enticements, but meagerly compare to one’s higher calling toward the things that are everlasting.
The dialogue has begun. Young men and women at Hartley High School are asking the bigger questions like: “Where are you calling me, God?” What is the direction that moves me beyond myself?” “Where can I serve the world that gives me the greatest meaning?” “Where is Jesus Christ leading me to live out this joyful God given call?” “Is my vocation a call to be a single person, married person, ordained person, or consecrated religious person?” Thanks for responding to the challenge to ask the bigger questions. Way to go Deacon Sullivan, “let’s roll” in this essential and world changing ministry. Go Hawks!