The following article was contributed by Christopher Hueg, Campus Minister & Theater Director at St. Mary Immaculate Parish School.
vocation /vōˈkāSH(ə)n/ n. a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.
From the time I was in kindergarten, I can remember wanting to be a teacher. I came home from the first day of school and proudly declared to my mother, “I’m going to be a teacher when I grow up!” As I continued to grow and learn in school, I found that this feeling to be a teacher did not go away. I attended a Catholic and Lasallian high school in Minneapolis, MN, where my education was a priority. I felt a true connection to all of my teachers. My teachers became mentors, counselors, advice-givers, and ones that I turned to in times of hardship and celebration. When it came time to select a college and degree program, I knew what I was looking for–a strong university with a great education program. I didn’t realize that selecting to attend a Catholic university would be the answer to finding my life’s calling or vocation: to be a Catholic educator and being that same mentor, counselor, advice-giver, or one who is there during the hard times and celebrations, like my teachers were to me.
In my current position as Campus Minister at St. Mary Immaculate Parish School (3-year old preschool through 8th grade), I am able to share this same vocational calling and listening to God’s word with each of my students, but in a more special way, too. I am able to share with them the possibility to be a vocation of the church: priest, deacon, nun, religious sister or brother. Each of these vocational callings are so important to our faith, and I believe in the strong feeling of God’s call to join in these ministries.
I give thanks every day for my Catholic education and my kindergarten teacher for being that role model to ignite a vocational calling in me that is still present today. Being a Catholic teacher is my true calling and my strong feeling that I am meant to be where I am today.
One of the themes of National Catholic Schools Week is to celebrate vocations, and finding ways to make it tangible and real for our students. At St. Mary’s this year, we chose a dress down theme that connects to a popular trend among our students and movie-goers alike: SUPERHEROS! As we celebrate the true superheros of our faith, we are able to be saved and welcomed into the kingdom of God when they share their message. Dress down aside, our Catholic Schools Team also wanted to highlight and make a more intentional connection to those who have chosen a vocational calling in the church. Blessed to be a part of a great diocese, we have several resources that connect us to our current seminarians and young men who are training to be in the priesthood. Each homeroom had the opportunity to “adopt a seminarian” and learn more about their life through a simple Google Slides platform. After learning about their seminarian, students decorated cards or wrote letters of encouragement to their seminarians to let them know they were in their prayers and were cheering them on in their studies. This personal connection brought the calling of religious vocation to a more realistic understanding for a lot of students.
Additionally, this year we were blessed with the opportunity to host an all-school assembly with our diocesan seminarians and their traveling basketball team, the Joliet Jammers, to play against our 7th and 8th grade boys basketball teams. The games were competitive, they represented our best Catholic sportsmanship, and the seminarians were able to share their personal vocational stories of when they heard the calling to the priesthood and how it might be similar to some of our students at St. Mary Immaculate. As the assembly was wrapping up, some of the classes were able to meet their “adopt a seminarian,” and share their cards with him. Many students afterwards shared that it was like meeting a Hollywood celebrity. This feeling of stardom is how each of us are challenged to see the call of religious vocation: meeting good face-to-face in the most common people, our religious superheros!
By focusing on faith, knowledge and service, Catholic schools prepare children to use their God-given talents to the fullest later in life.