Published October 11, 2007
Nine hundred fifth-graders spent the day at St. Joseph’s Parish in Marietta last week, participating in a vocations festival. Career days are routinely planned for high schoolers and even college students—but fifth-graders?
Researchers tell us that children begin giving genuine thought to what they might do as adults when they are about 11 years of age…the age of fifth-graders. Youngsters at that age allow their hearts to wander freely over a wide range of possibilities. They might become doctors, lawyers, sports stars, pilots—even priests or sisters!
The day was a perfect time for us to plant a gentle seed about a church vocation. The fifth-graders were open to that suggestion as a possibility among all of the other possibilities that might lie before them.
As they grow older, they will eventually narrow their choices. They will discover more about their abilities and preferences and what the world holds up before them as more or less attractive and personally fulfilling. It is important at this moment in their lives to show them happy priests, sisters, deacons and brothers who might inspire them to keep those thoughts alive beyond the fifth grade. That is what Father Luke Ballman and some helpers—including the Archbishop—did for the fifth-graders last week.
A couple of weeks ago, Msgr. Steve Rossetti, the director of St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Springs, Md., addressed our priests’ personnel board on the topic, “What makes for a happy priest?” His observations included his own research on that topic during the past decade.
St. Luke’s Institute is a facility that provides professional assistance to priests who are struggling with their vocation. Msgr. Rossetti’s research defies the commonly held opinion that Catholic priests are unhappy, dissatisfied with their vocations and ready to abandon the ministry at the drop of a hat. His research, in fact, reveals quite the opposite. The overwhelming number of priests are very happy, with a higher than typical job satisfaction.
There are many factors in describing what makes a priest happy—satisfaction with his bishop, close friendships with other priests, living conditions, workload, and sufficient time for prayer and recreation. The simple fact is that most priests would once again choose the priesthood today if they had the option of changing their vocation.
There are many widely held false assumptions that are easily passed along as truth when it comes to choosing the priesthood as a life vocation. In spite of some very difficult days in the recent past, our priests are overwhelming happy with the choices they have made.
Our personnel board invited Msgr. Rossetti to provide us with some professional guidelines to help us serve our priests better. His observations also should encourage us as priests to witness to the joy that is ours more effectively so that even youngsters in the fifth grade might know that being the church’s priest or sister or deacon or brother could make them at least as happy as being something else in life.
In fact, the best vocational advertisement continues to be happy, joyful and positive priests and Religious who convey with our enthusiasm, smiles and laughter that God is doing something wonderful in our lives and that He might be willing to do the same in your life—given half the chance.
The Serrans in our archdiocese work hard to support and encourage happy priests and Religious. Last Monday, the annual day of relaxation and recreation, which has become an important event on the Serran calendar, gathered a lot of happy priests together. Maybe we should have made a CD of the laughter and joy of the day as a vocation advertisement! Thanks to all of the Serrans who made this event both possible and successful.