Looking for Vocations? We’re Here!

There’s an old story that goes like this: a man was in his house as flood waters began to surround it.  Soon, the water was inside his first floor, so he scrambled to the second floor, and began to pray God would rescue him.  Not long after, a man came by in a row boat, and said, “Here!  Hop in my boat and I’ll row you to safety!”  The man responded confidently, “No, I’m praying and God will deliver me.”  And the water rose higher still and the man kept praying.

A little while later, a motor boat came by.  By this time, the water was about to flood the second floor of the man’s home.  “Hop in!  We’ll take you to shelter!”  “No,” the man responded, shaking his head, “God will come and save me.”  Unable to persuade the man to leave his flooding home, the boat sped away.  And the water flooded the second floor, while the man scrambled out the window and onto his roof, all the while praying.

As night approached and the water began to swallow the roof, a helicopter stopped overhead and let down a rope.  “Grab hold!  We’ll rescue you!”  “No!” the man shouted back.  “I’ve been praying and I’m confident God will save me!”  Unable to convince the man to grab hold of the safety line, and the storm getting worse, the helicopter had no choice but to leave the man sitting on his roof.

As the water began to cover the last inches of solid footing, the man despaired and cried out to God, “Where are you?  Why didn’t you answer me?  Why didn’t you come and save me?!”  From the heavens, the man heard a reply, “I sent two boats and a helicopter, what more do you want?”

BT02So many faithful Catholics have been praying to God for vocations.  But sometimes, it’s difficult to see the answer to our prayers because they come in a way we don’t expect.  Our prayers for vocations have been answered!  We are here! 

This past weekend, I spend a wonderful three days meeting 16 other men and women who have discerned a call to the priesthood or religious life.  We came together from across the country – California, Washington, New Hampshire, Texas, Michigan, Alaska, and beyond – because we have a common hurdle: we cannot answer the call God has placed in our hearts until our educational loans are resolved. 

Pizza party at The Laboure Society office!  The office space used by The Laboure Society is donated by its President, Mr. George Zirnheldt.

Pizza party at The Laboure Society office! The office space used by The Laboure Society is donated by its President, Mr. George Zirnheldt.

But there is hope: The Laboure Society invites others to give in support of fostering vocations that would otherwise be delayed or lost due to educational loans.  We each made our way to Minnesota for a weekend we came to describe as a “bootcamp retreat”.  For three days, we learned about the ethics and biblical basis of philanthropy and fundraising.  We prayed together and shared with each other our stories, joys, and struggles we faced while discerning, and continue to face as we strive to follow God’s call in our lives.  We were encouraged and strengthened by the outpouring of support from the staff, board, and other friends of The Laboure Society; they give so much because they believe helping aspirants like us will foster the vocations for which the Church has long prayed.

Founder and Executive Director Cy Laurent with Megan Spelic, an aspirant from the last class (now free to enter Little Sisters of the Poor in October!), share experiences and insights with the current class.

Founder and Executive Director Cy Laurent with Megan Spelic, an aspirant from the last class (now free to enter Little Sisters of the Poor in October!), share experiences and insights with the current class.

We are not alone.  Recent studies indicate student loans are a significant and growing problem in bringing forth priestly and religious vocations.  Thousands of young men and women are discerning – about 10,000 in fact.  But up to almost half of them have educational loans.  Imagine if our numbers of priests and religious in formation could nearly double, just by having this one hurdle cleared away.

As I mentioned in another post, Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, has commented, “Our national education debt problem is definitely impeding young women and men from pursuing a life as a religious priest, sister, or brother… Some communities have no alternative but to ask potential candidates to delay their applications, or even worse, turn them away altogether.”

For the next five months, my classmates and I are excited to have the opportunity and challenge of inviting others to support vocations by supporting The Laboure Society with offerings of time, talent, and treasure.  Each of us have already made sacrifices in taking steps to answer God’s call, and we made commitments to The Society and each other – including working full-time, simplifying our lives and reducing our assets as much as possible, and committing time and energy to fundraising efforts for our class.  As one of my fellow aspirants, Toni, summarized, “Our vocations are not our own.  We are being called to serve God and the Church.  And we each long to be free to do that.  We are committed to sacrifice and persevere.  But we also need help from others to get there.” 

For all 17 of us to be free to enter formation at the end of this class term in May, our class needs to raise over $890,000.  To work toward that goal, we each have an individual goal of raising $45,000.  Along the way, board members, staff, and friends of The Laboure Society generously offer their time and expertise, meeting with us weekly via telephone and generally making themselves available, giving their time, talent, and treasure to us and The Laboure Society in so many other ways.  We are all in this together and would be so excited to see everyone in our class be able to enter formation! 

Mass at the old St. Peter's Church.  This is the oldest church in Minnesota; when the area was first being settled by Europeans, a priest had to hide in the wall behind the altar during an Indian raid.

Mass at the old St. Peter’s Church. This is the oldest church in Minnesota; when the area was first being settled by Europeans, a priest had to hide in the wall behind the altar during an Indian raid.

We need your help as well.  If while reading this, you’ve felt a tug in your heart and spirit, don’t ignore it.  God is inviting you to take a step of faith and support building and strengthening the body of Christ – ask Him what it is He wants you to do to foster vocations.  Please prayerfully consider making a donation to The Laboure Society, either a one-time gift or a monthly donation.  Who do you know who would be interested in supporting vocations?  A priest, family member, friend, colleague…  We need others to know about this need and work – share our Facebook pages and blogs with your friends and family.  Finally, we also need and ask for your prayers.

If you have questions or want more information about my story or The Laboure Society, please do contact me via this blog, my Facebook page, or by e-mail.  I would love to share more with you.  Please know my fellow aspirants and I are praying for you as well.

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