You celebrated Mass last Saturday in honor of the World Day for Consecrated Life. Can you talk about vocations in general – which would include vocations to the priesthood or religious life and vocations to the married or single life?
Many times when individuals talk about their future, they will say: “I’m not sure what I want to do” or “I think this is the profession I want.” As young people reflect more deeply on their future, it might be helpful to think of the question in another way. Something like this: “Given the gifts I have been given by God, what is God calling me to do? To which vocation is God calling me?” We’ve just celebrated a day to honor women and men in consecrated life – those whom we often refer to as religious. We are mindful and grateful that God has called them to consecrated life. By saying yes, they have allowed themselves to be formed, and we thank them for their dedicated ministry. The church in the Archdiocese of New Orleans would not be the vibrant church that it is today without the nearly 300 years of service the religious have provided since the Ursuline Sisters came to New Orleans in 1727 to minister to God’s people. I am personally very grateful for the work of our religious and for the opportunity to share ministry with them.
What is unique about their vocation?
These women and men take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They state that they will own nothing – and all that they have comes from their community and is shared with their community. They promise chastity, which is a commitment to purity and seeing the Lord Jesus as their “all.” They willingly do not marry in order to give completely of themselves. Through obedience, they promise to do whatever is needed in the church and to let go of their own desires. The religious in our archdiocese serve in many ministries, including education, health care, parish ministry, administration and areas of charity and social justice.
Can you talk about the vocation to married life?
The catechism teaches that the sacrament of matrimony “is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” Although religious life and the priesthood exclude marriage, we believe as a church that marriage is a sacred way of life in which two people come together to give themselves completely to one another – and, at the same time, invite God into their relationship. We believe that spouses enable each other to become truly who they are by the love of the other. We give thanks to those who live out the sacrament of marriage and who make many sacrifices for others, especially their children. Family life is at the very heart of who we are as a church, the people of God. Today, we are also conscious of those who are single parents and those who have experienced separation or divorce. To those who have experienced that pain – both the spouses and the children – we extend our heartfelt prayers and desire to be of support.
What does the archdiocese do to promote vocations at all levels?
Our Vocation Office, Permanent Diaconate Office and Office of Religious work with men and women who believe God may be calling them to the priesthood, diaconate or religious life. We have two seminaries in our archdiocese that prepare men for the priesthood and also provide theological, intellectual, human and pastoral formation for lay people through the Institute for Lay Ecclesial Ministry and master’s programs. The archdiocesan synod set as a goal having an active vocation committee in each parish to encourage prayers for and awareness of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. And, Our Office of Marriage and Family Life provides resources and workshops to strengthen marriages and help prepare couples for sacramental marriage. In the Christian life, the divine calling to follow a certain state in life is spoken of as a vocation. The following description in Our Sunday Visitor’s “Catholic Encyclopedia” is something we can all take to heart: “In its broadest meaning, the term (vocation) refers to the universal call of God to all to a life of grace and union with him. This is the greatest vocation, the call that gives human life its supernatural destiny and meaning.”
Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.