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"Brother Priests Minister in West Virginia"

Links for Learners

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

March 1999

The following Links for Learners resource is offered to those who would like to use St. Anthony Messenger in an educational setting or for further study at home. This resource is prepared with high school students in mind, but can be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article for further study each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain this resource. Up until December 1998 it was called a teacher's guide or classroom resource. Teachers with access to computer labs should encourage students to access the article directly online. Students have our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom use. We encourage you to subscribe to the print edition of St. Anthony Messenger, where you will see all of the graphics, and more articles that you might find useful on a variety of topics. Please let us know how we can improve this service by sending feedback to

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.

Links for Learning

1. Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

  • Religion — life vocations; the sacraments; Christian life-styles.

2. Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs such as:

Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA instruction.

Key terms such as vocation, life calling, religious life, priesthood, marriage, sacrament will help in tying the article to your programs.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners.

life vocation




religious life



Finding Your Way in Life

In this month’s article, we learn about two brothers from West Virginia who took different routes early in life and wound up with the same calling, the life of a Catholic priest. After reading the article with your group, begin a discussion of the routes to a life vocation each of the brothers used.

One brother felt the call to be a priest since he was a child. He play-acted in the role, even dressing up in homemade vestments. Don’t many of us do the same? As kids we dressed up as a doctor or pretended to be a store clerk. Imagining ourselves professional athletes, we practiced free throws or soccer kicks for hours on end. Maybe we dressed in mom’s or dad’s clothes and imagined ourselves grownups caring for our kids and working around the house. Of course we don’t always end up being what we play at as children, but it’s often an indicator of an interest in a particular life path.

For some of us, the choice of direction is clear. The difficult part can be convincing our parents or others that this is what we need to do. Our parents want the best for us, and that usually includes financial security. Some careers can be perceived as relatively unstable and erratic. Parents don’t want to see their kids come to their mid-twenties, for example, discover that the acting life isn’t for them and have no other career skills to fall back on.

Sometimes, too, we get to high school and college and still have not a clue as to what we want to do with our lives. Or, like the second brother in this month’s article, we feel especially lost, try a number of different jobs, and even fall back on escape routes such as alcohol and drug abuse before we finally find our way.

No matter what our path, through it all, God persists in his call.

Talk now in your discussion group about your individual interests. Share some of the dreams and goals you have. Share, too, the uncertainty about the future that you may feel. What are some of the obstacles you face in following through on your dream?

How Do You Find a "Life Vocation"?

Vocation, at its most profound level, means a life calling. Contemporary society considers vocation a synonym for a craft or profession. The Church sees it at a deeper level. The U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation provides an in-depth look at the Church’s view of vocations.

Archbishop J. Francis Stafford spoke on the subject of vocations in his 1994 address, "The Vocation of Marriage in God’s Plan," in Lima, Peru. This speech offers a fine explanation of the calling of marriage, and vocation, in today’s world.

Finding your life’s work means listening. It’s really that simple. But listening to what?

Look for a paperback book titled By Way of the Heart, by Wilkie Au, published by Paulist Press. In chapter three, "Heart Searching and Life Choice," Au states that the search for vocation calls for thought and reflection. And silence–the quiet that is so hard to come by in today’s world. God’s call, Au believes, is embedded in our heart and comes forth from the midst of our particular life circumstances. Each of us will find our unique calling in our own heart and in prayer.

Au further tells us that genuine desire or wanting is the foundation for a life choice. He doesn’t mean simply following each desire that strikes us. Au wants us to connect our desires and longings to the rest of reality. What does a longing mean when compared to the whole of our life?

A discussion leader or teacher will find provocative quotes in this chapter for getting a conversation going in a group or class. And interestingly, in grappling with the question of what is my purpose in life, Au frames his material not only for young people starting out in life, but also for people in mid-life transition and even for early retirees.

The Beginning of a Life Choice

In many of these Links for Learners, we have discussed the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation as starting points in our Christian lives. Vocation starts there too. There is one vocation we all share as Christians — the call to love others as God loves us. In Baptism, we are each signed as God’s child. Later, in Confirmation, we reinforce or confirm this role as a child of God. Each sacrament gives us strength to live as Jesus would have us live.

The sacraments also serve as signposts as we reach major milestones in our lives. As a baby, or as a teen or adult convert, we are starting out fresh, beginning a new life. Baptism supports that moment and keeps it alive all through our lives. When we begin maturing into adulthood, when we are nearing decisions about what college to attend and what courses to take, Confirmation offers us more of God’s direction. Every week in Eucharist we feed on the love of Jesus, nourished to return to our days’ efforts.

What Kinds of Life Choices Are There?

You may find it helpful to talk first about how Christian service is exhibited in the various life vocations people choose. How do we serve others as a teacher, an accountant, a sales manager, a professional football player, a beautician? Where is the common Christian element in every life choice?

Some authors will say there are only three basic life choices: married, single or religious life. From these basic styles come our career choices and particular life directions.


We’ve discussed in earlier Links for Learners how the Church considers marriage to be so sacred a calling that it offers, indeed insists on, a couple’s preparation through Pre-Cana retreats and workshops. You can find Pre-Cana information on many of the local diocesan and parish Web sites.

Religious Community Life

Some Christians commit themselves to a life of religious service. They enter a congregation or order dedicated to a specific mission, whether teaching, working with the poor, or perhaps health care. The Sisters of Notre Dame are just one of many examples of the religious community life-style. Their Web site provides visitors with an overview of the call to religious life.

Orders such as the Missionary Cenacle Family offer participation in their Catholic community in roles as religious brothers, sisters, priests and also as lay persons.

Monastic orders of both women and men devote their lives to the service of work and prayer. Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, is certainly one of the better known of these contemplatives. For the story of his struggles to find his way to his vocation, see his biography, The Seven Storey Mountain. A number of Web sites are devoted to Merton and his work.

In the October 1998 online issue of St. Anthony Messenger, you’ll find the story of Edith Stein, a woman of Jewish background who came to the life of a Catholic sister and eventually died in the Holocaust of World War II.


To get an understanding of how groups within the Church work to encourage vocations to the religious life or to the priesthood, see these online sites and other resources:

    • On their Web site, the Crosier’s, a religious order, provide a brief discussion of different life-styles (married, single, religious) and how these styles differ from careers. You’ll also find a chat room where anyone with an interest in priesthood can log on to discuss his interest with others.
    • The Vocationists explain their purpose in encouraging vocations to the religious life and priesthood, especially among the poor. Their House of Formation is located in Florham Park, New Jersey.
    • St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers one seminarian’s week-long diary of life in preparation for priesthood. The seminary conducts an annual open house and daily e-mail access.


Additional Resources

You may also find this poem by an anonymous author helpful as a discussion starter for talking about life’s purpose and our calling to service:

"Your Life is Jesus to Someone"

Your life is Jesus to someone,

though tattered and torn it may be.

Though often times weak and unstable,

you’re all of God someone will see.

Your tongue is Jesus to someone.

That idle, insensitive word

reflects to at least one searching heart

an idle, insensitive Lord.

Your goals are Jesus to someone.

What you put first, they believe,

are the goals of God for the Christian.

Your life is all they receive.

Your faithfulness… that’s Jesus to someone.

Their judgment of how God is true,

rests unquestionably in the faithfulness

they see day by day in you.

Your love is Jesus to someone —

that someone who is seeking to know

that Jesus will follow and guide and

befriend wherever in life they might go.

So beware lest others blaspheme

God by what you say or do,

for the only Jesus that someone knows

is the Jesus they see in you.

Print Resources

By Way of the Heart: Toward a Holistic Christian Spirituality, Wilkie Au, S. J., Paulist Press, New Jersey, 1989.

The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego, 1990.


Further Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site's archives. - The New York Times - The Los Angeles Times - Time magazine - CNN - MSNBC - This site will take you to a number of online publications. - The Associated Press - The Chicago Tribune - People magazine The Washington Post The History Channel - The Miami Herald - The Close Up Foundation - ABC News - Channel One's online resource

Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

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