All are called: What’s your vocation?
By Nissa LaPoint
Preaching, interacting with families and helping those in need is fulfilling for Father Gregg Pedersen—more than he expected.
“The priesthood is much more fun than I ever imagined,” Father Pedersen said of his work as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield. “I just enjoy it all.”
Like Father Pedersen, every person is called by God to know, love and serve him in a particular way referred to as a “vocation.”
In 1976, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began an initiative to increase awareness through National Vocation Awareness Week. This year’s recognized week from Jan. 13-19 is a time faithful are asked to renew their prayers and support for those considering a vocation, particularly those discerning the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life.
The following is a snapshot of these vocations and upcoming events to aid discernment.
Holy orders: Priesthood
Through ordination, a man is integrated into the order of bishops, priests or deacons by a sacramental act. When priests receive the sacrament, they share in the universal mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles to bring salvation to the ends of the earth and preach the Gospel everywhere.
The Archdiocese of Denver offers opportunities throughout the year for men to explore a vocation. Andrew Dinners are one way men are introduced to the priesthood.
“The Andrew Dinners are named after St. Andrew, who upon meeting Christ, got his brother Simon and brought him to Christ,” said Natalia Schumann, assistant in the Office of Priestly Vocations. “The idea is a pastor will invite a guy to consider the priesthood.”
Father Pedersen, who was ordained more than a year ago, attended a similar dinner before entering the priesthood and later graduated from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
He assisted in hosting a dinner at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in November.
“I thought it was a great experience,” he said of the dinner. “I know it gave the men a place to see that other men are considering the priesthood as well, and it was a good opportunity to hear from other priests about their vocation testimony.”
The dinners are by invitation only. They begin with evening prayer and social time with the parish priests and the archbishop, who often attends. The dinner is followed by a Q-and-A with Archbishop Samuel Aquila.
The archdiocese also offers free discernment retreats throughout the year. See the accompanying box for details.
Men’s Discernment Retreat for men 18 and older
Holy orders: Diaconate
Deacons also share in Christ’s mission and grace by assisting bishops and priests with celebrating the divine mysteries. Any man in good standing with the Church, single or married, who is at least 31 years old, may seek a vocation in the diaconate.
Although deacons cannot substitute for a priest, they are an important part of holy orders.
Through ordination deacons may preach, baptize, bless and conduct marriage and funeral liturgies. They may also serve as an ordinary minister of Communion.
Deacon Matt Archer, 42, of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Arvada, said he felt called for years but waited to enter the St. Francis School of Theology for Deacons until 2007.
“I had a very deep sense of being called during the Mass,” he said of the time he was directing a youth retreat.
He was ordained in 2011.
Whether it’s serving others through baptism and marriage preparation or simply supporting parishioners, Deacon Archer can’t get enough of the diaconate.
“I’m a year and a half in and I don’t see an end to the honeymoon period,” he said. “Everything about it has been wonderful.”
This vocation is defined as a “a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, entered freely in response to the call of Christ to perfection, and characterized by the profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.”
Women called to religious life may serve Christ through many ministries including health care, campus ministry, foreign missions, work with the poor and elderly, and contemplation.
The choice to be a religious sister is a radical decision to follow the Gospel and is a vocation that manifests the organic unity of the commandment to love, according to Sister Sharon Ford, director of consecrated life.
Discernment retreats are regularly held in the archdiocese. See the accompanying box for details.