Geographic Discernment


#1

Hello, everyone:

I am a Catholic seminarian currently studying for the Archdiocese of Chicago at Mundelein Seminary (~45 minutes north of Chicago). I have only just completed my first year of six (which includes two years of philosophy because my college major was a science), but I feel like my vocation is the priesthood. While I continue to actively discern the vocation itself, the thought of the priesthood fills me with much peace and it seems to "fit" well.

Along with the vocation decision, I have to make another decision within about 12 months, namely, whether I should remain in Chicago and serve as a priest of the Archdiocese or if I should return to Columbus, OH to serve there. I grew-up in Columbus and moved away in 2004 to attend college in Chicago. I feel very conflicted about this question and, so far, I have been unable to make a decision about which diocese to serve. Here is a short list of the pros of each location:

Chicago:
-"Feels" like home… I have lived here for 6 years and I absolutely love the area. I have numerous friends in Chicago, as well as a strong emotional connection to the area.
-Opportunity to study at the North American College (NAC) in Rome for theology (4 years)
-Myriad opportunities for graduate-level study after ordination, including ready access to an STL and STD program, which some new priests are encouraged to do by Cardinal George. While I believe my primary vocation is the diocesan priesthood and while I WANT to serve in a parish (preferably large!), I also would like the opportunity to serve the Church in other ways, such as through academic study and discourse.

Columbus:
-Has my family who have no plans to ever leave: being geographically near my mother and father feels very important to me.
-Is where I grew-up - I spent 18 years here before leaving for Chicago, so I sometimes feel that I should serve the diocese that "brought me to the dance."
-Has a CRITICAL vocations shortage: there is some talk about consolidating parishes and, despite a lot of growth, no new parishes can be opened in other parts of the city because of the manpower shortage; Chicago has no such shortage.

Much of my prayer is currently directed to this question. I would like to make a decision by next summer (2011) so I can begin my theology years in the appropriate diocese. Unfortunately, it seems the above reasons pretty equally weigh both locations and neither diocese "jumps out at me." My family is very important to me, but I also love Chicago and look forward to the opportunity for additional academic work after ordination (God-willing).

From the community, I would appreciate the following:

(1) Any specific advice or opinion about choosing either diocese based on reading the above (i.e., "You should stay in Chicago because…" or "You should go back to Columbus because…")
(2) Some techniques to prayerfully "discern" this question - I realize that God's will needs to be done here, not mine. While I am sure God will let me choose freely, I want to serve the diocese that best allows me to glorify Him and save as many souls as possible. I would like to come to a sense of where that may best happen, but I'm having trouble praying about such a specific issue, especially when I am keenly interested in the answer.

Thank you for reading and for your help in advance! Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis!


#2

I have read your comments. Very interesting.

Based on what I read it sounds to me that you would be doing your home town a great service by going where priests are in such demand. You will be in the belly of the beast living and learning with people who desparately need you. You will learn quickly what it means to be a priest and serve your parish.

If you want to stay in school then Chicago sounds like the place to be.

My questions to you would be: Did you want to become a priest to go to school for an extended period of time??? Did you want to become a priest to help God’s people???

Just my 2 cents worth. God Bless you no matter what decision you make. I’m sure you will be a fine priest someday.


#3

[quote="kyle1234567, post:1, topic:201763"]
Hello, everyone:

I am a Catholic seminarian currently studying for the Archdiocese of Chicago at Mundelein Seminary (~45 minutes north of Chicago). I have only just completed my first year of six (which includes two years of philosophy because my college major was a science), but I feel like my vocation is the priesthood. While I continue to actively discern the vocation itself, the thought of the priesthood fills me with much peace and it seems to "fit" well.

Along with the vocation decision, I have to make another decision within about 12 months, namely, whether I should remain in Chicago and serve as a priest of the Archdiocese or if I should return to Columbus, OH to serve there. I grew-up in Columbus and moved away in 2004 to attend college in Chicago. I feel very conflicted about this question and, so far, I have been unable to make a decision about which diocese to serve. Here is a short list of the pros of each location:

Chicago:
-"Feels" like home… I have lived here for 6 years and I absolutely love the area. I have numerous friends in Chicago, as well as a strong emotional connection to the area.
-Opportunity to study at the North American College (NAC) in Rome for theology (4 years)
-Myriad opportunities for graduate-level study after ordination, including ready access to an STL and STD program, which some new priests are encouraged to do by Cardinal George. While I believe my primary vocation is the diocesan priesthood and while I WANT to serve in a parish (preferably large!), I also would like the opportunity to serve the Church in other ways, such as through academic study and discourse.

Columbus:
-Has my family who have no plans to ever leave: being geographically near my mother and father feels very important to me.
-Is where I grew-up - I spent 18 years here before leaving for Chicago, so I sometimes feel that I should serve the diocese that "brought me to the dance."
-Has a CRITICAL vocations shortage: there is some talk about consolidating parishes and, despite a lot of growth, no new parishes can be opened in other parts of the city because of the manpower shortage; Chicago has no such shortage.

Much of my prayer is currently directed to this question. I would like to make a decision by next summer (2011) so I can begin my theology years in the appropriate diocese. Unfortunately, it seems the above reasons pretty equally weigh both locations and neither diocese "jumps out at me." My family is very important to me, but I also love Chicago and look forward to the opportunity for additional academic work after ordination (God-willing).

From the community, I would appreciate the following:

(1) Any specific advice or opinion about choosing either diocese based on reading the above (i.e., "You should stay in Chicago because…" or "You should go back to Columbus because…")
(2) Some techniques to prayerfully "discern" this question - I realize that God's will needs to be done here, not mine. While I am sure God will let me choose freely, I want to serve the diocese that best allows me to glorify Him and save as many souls as possible. I would like to come to a sense of where that may best happen, but I'm having trouble praying about such a specific issue, especially when I am keenly interested in the answer.

Thank you for reading and for your help in advance! Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis!

[/quote]

dont ask the internet, ask of God "where do you want me to go" the decision is not ours (the internet) nor is it yours. it is God's. pray, pray HARD and often, the internet cannot tell you what to do, what if the people who are here make the wrong decision for you?


#4

Hi, VetA:

Thank you for your comments. I am totally with you: I’m not looking for an answer here, per se, but rather some advice about how to prayerfully consider this question (some advice about discernment tailored to this situation), as well as the opinions of sincere Catholics on the decision itself. I have a spiritual director at the seminary with whom I meet every 2 weeks, as well as many friends and confidants both in Columbus and Chicago. However, I have found help on this website many times before, so I thought I’d see what people have to say.

Pax Christi,

Kyle


#5

i agree with VetA. Pray and pray and pray about what God wants you to do. Go where your heart is at peace. Personally I believe that when your heart is at peace with a decision (after a thorough discernment and prayer), God wills it. :slight_smile: Remember that when you pray, dont be biased! :smiley:

so Columbus has a vocation shortage? Reminds me of a religious order I discerned with. I thought I am called to join the order but I realized that this is not what God wants of me. My heart is not really at peace with the order (don’t get me wrong, the order is not bad!) but I really want to join them because they are receiving VERY little vocations. So I’m joining out of pity, not because God wants me there.Later I realized that the order would not be glad either if they learn that I’m joining out of pity. All of us wants to do God’s will.

I went to a silent retreat and I realized God has greater plans. Th****e plans that I think may be good, but God has greater plans.

So my suggestion is, go to a silent retreat. Ask the Lord what He wants from you. Probably His will may sound impractical, but it’s the best for sure. :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:


#6

Dear Kyle,

I can see why you have such a concern about your future. You have SO many opportunities to choose from, that making a decision would be difficult. I know you want cut and dry answers to your questions but there aren’t any I don’t think. You have valid reasons for both sides but think about this.
What if the Lord has a totally different plan for you? What if he wants you to “serve” in oh, lets say, Africa? Or in Haiti? Would you refuse? Or what about Iowa or Montana? Maybe he wants you to be a shepherd to his sheep more than a scholar. What would you think of that?
For me the bottom line would be to pray and listen but also listen with your “heart”, not your “head”. I have learned that the whispers of the heart are usually right, and they are from God, but sometimes our own “thoughts” of how “we” could serve the Lord get in the way. I catch myself doing that quite often. I think, Lord, I could do this for you, I think I would be good at it, or maybe this area would be good, I could use my talent of (whatever). But the choice is not ours, really, it’s his. It’s just hard to settle down and let HIM guide us because we are so anxious to please.
There is a Priest in Jamaica by the name of Fr. Richard Ho Lung. He started the Missionary of the Poor. He has something like 3-4 degrees. When the Lord put it on his heart to start this project, he scoffed, he thought, I can do more for you than this. He said he went kicking and grumbling, but after a while, he realized why the Lord wanted him for that task. I won’t get into all of it here, but let me just say he is a wonderful man and shepherd to his flock. He has since opened missionaries in Haiti, Africa one other country that escapes me at the moment :blush: (you can watch his show on EWTN).
So, I guess the point is that you just never know what the Lord has in store for you, either with or without a degree (or several like Fr. Ho Lung). We just have to be “open” to it whether it’s what we want or not. He knows whats best for us anyway and wants only the best for us!

God Bless and no worries :wink:
Deedledum


#7

I am an odd person to give advice on this issue so I will phrase it as I were considering it.

I would listen to my heart. It sounds as if your heart is in Chicago. I am sure that Chicago needs priests, too. It’s the largest archdiocese in the US ( I think).

Chicago is near Columbus. Your parents are not going to live forever, tho’ I hope that they live long and happy lives. I would want to settle somewhere for good, as I think that it would be very helpful for a priest and the diocese he serves to know the community well.

As well as the other possible decisions–religious life, marriage–those considerations may or may not arise in future years. No need to think about them now, If you haven’t done it already.


#8

Have you discussed this with your spiritual director? What does he think?


#9

kyle,

When it comes to seminary formation your soul is the first priority. Do not entrust your soul to any seminary which could give you poisonous formation. Ask yourself and investigate the quality of the seminary in Columbus. I don’t mean to imply that it’s quality is poor, but merely that you should check this out before the decision needs to be made. You also may find that, after the high quality of a metropolitan seminary like Mundelein, that you are a bit underwhelmed by a humble diocesan seminary.

Next, as to academics. This is difficult for a diocesan priest, but not impossible. I will be entering religious life shortly. I highly recommend that you take a look at the Dominicans, who are in Ohio. The Eastern Province was founded in Kentucky and Ohio, so there are several Dominican parishes in Ohio. They are a very intellectual bunch and you will have plenty of opportunity from within the Dominicans to get at least a STL if not more in formation. The Eastern Province Dominicans are also unique in the high amount of parish work which they have-- because America was mission territory the Dominicans in the Eastern Province took on many parishes. They might be a good fit for you. Give me a message if you’d like to discuss this.

The critical issue for you seems to be the ‘need’ of Columbus for priests. I recommend committing this to serious prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord has given you acute awareness of this. Perhaps He is calling you to help? But then again, perhaps He is not. There are many needs in the Church and they cannot all be met by you. Consider whether or not this ‘need’ is in YOUR vocation. If you were called to the contemplative life then you wouldn’t fulfill this external ‘need’ but you would fulfill the real need of the Church (in the sense that, if God is calling you to a contemplative vocation, then what the Church really needs is you in a monastery, regardless of whether you’d be good at staffing a parish). If you don’t feel called to do ordinary parish work, or to do something else… then that is also a consideration that you might not be called to Columbus.

In fact, your lack of ease with being an ordinary parish priest may be a sign that you’d do better in religious life. Think and pray about it. Entrust your vocation to the Bl. Virgin Mary. God bless,

Rob


#10

Everyone -

Thank you for your thoughtful replies so far. To clarify, I do feel quite called to the diocesan priesthood. I had many years of very positive experiences in a diocesan parish in Columbus, and I would like to influence the people of God in the same way that parish was able to influence me over the years. I like the idea of being a "generalist" (i.e., not narrowing down a particular charism, but instead responding to diverse needs all the time, especially in a large parish). I don't mean to put God in a box, for I am still open to being called to religious life or marriage, but I feel like the call leads toward the diocesan priesthood at this time. With that feeling understood, it seems the decision must either be Chicago or Columbus (the two places I have lived). I suppose God might call me to an entirely different diocese, but I know Chicago and Columbus quite well. Using my logical faculties, it appears the decision is between these two places. Unfortunately, my logic fails to get me any further. There is equal reason to go back to Columbus as to stay in Chicago: both dioceses have pros and cons, but they weigh each other out fairly well. I recognize that I need to turn to prayer now to continue this discernment. HERE is where I ask for advice from the community. How can I prayerfully discern this question? Another member suggested time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. That is what I am looking for - rather specific ways to enable my will and God's to intersect.

My continued thanks for your attention and assistance,

Kyle


#11

But if the original poster is going to be write philosophical or theological works, he would have decide as to whether the Order of Preachers, which is mostly Thomistic in orientation, would really fit him. I, myself, have hesistance towards joining the Dominicans or any self-styled Augustinians(the Dominicans follow the Rule of St. Augustine yet do not identify themselves as Augustinians), since I wish to contribute to the Church’s library yet worry about possibly deviating from Thomism or Augustinianism, respectively.


#12

[quote="Young_Thinker, post:11, topic:201763"]
But if the original poster is going to be write philosophical or theological works, he would have decide as to whether the Order of Preachers, which is mostly Thomistic in orientation, would really fit him. I, myself, have hesistance towards joining the Dominicans or any self-styled Augustinians(the Dominicans follow the Rule of St. Augustine yet do not identify themselves as Augustinians), since I wish to contribute to the Church's library yet worry about possibly deviating from Thomism or Augustinianism, respectively.

[/quote]

There are some who are dogmatic about Thomism in the OP. On the other hand, there are others who are critical. I have received the most cogent criticisms of Thomas, funny enough, at the hands of a Dominican friar. My impression is that there is ample intellectual freedom to pursue philosophy and theology in the Dominicans. As I said above, there are some who are very dogmatic about what constitutes proper Thomism. These people are welcome to their elite club. :D The rest of us revere the great man for his saintliness and erudition, but like him, would never dream of admitting a philosophical or theological question without a dispute-- for, objection one, it seems that... :thumbsup:

Of course, the Augustinian rule does not make one an Augustinian in philosophy or theology, and so that's little to be feared. Granted, St. Augustine is revered as "Holy Father Augustine" within the Dominicans, but you will find relatively few Augustinians within the Dominicans

If you have any ideas about the sorts of things you are interested, I might be able to give you some heads up philosophically. :) Drop me a private message sometime.

kyle,

anode hit the nail on the head-- as she usually does. Your heart is at the very seat of your vocation. What are you attracted to? For any vocation, three criteria must be met. You must have the inclination to do it, the freedom to do it, and the ability to do it. Inclination, or attraction or desire is huge because God created you so that some things will set your heart aflame and others will not. The deepest longings of your heart will ultimately be fulfilled by whatever your calling is. So don't be afraid to choose what you like. It's not a bad thing.

What does your heart tell you? Take it before the Lord. Start being aware of what attracts you in your vocation, and whether that is present in the one or the other. That's why I warned you about going back to Columbus. You present it as an awful drag. There's such an obligation or duty to go back to Columbus-- and love NEVER speaks of obligation, because love knows no obligation. OK-- maybe I'm exaggerating, but I'm doing it for the sake of my point-- take this to prayer and see whether this is the case. If it's purely obligation, I can't see that it's your vocation. God bless,

Rob


#13

I thank you very much for your insights, sir.


#14

Another thing to worry about, though, when discerning religious life is university debt. For instance, the website for the Dominicans of St. Joseph’s Province states that candidates cannot have debt over $30,000. Not to be antagonistic, but what student(unless his parents paid his way) just out of college(or better yet, just out of professional or graduate school without a scholarship or stipend) would not be heavily in debt?


#15

...I guess that one just has to put it into perspective and consider all options.


#16

poll opinion from me would be useless because I don’t know what the bishops and vocations director and seminary rectors would advise you in both cities, and they are the people you should be talking to. In my family Buckeyes fans stay fans no matter where they live, and so do Cubs fans so that should not be an issue. Bears fans don’t seem to admit it, though. Both dioceses have need for good priests, both are great places to live, and it is a tossup on the weather. I am sounding frivolous to make the point that you have to weigh the various factors, and personal preferences carry less weight than the counsel you get from your superiors. If there are overriding family issues, such as health of your parents, you vocations director should know that, too. Both are great seminaries and you should get a great education and formation at either.

You put leaving seminary in your poll, which means it is on your table for negotiation, so obviously that is the first thing you are going to discern with your director, so don’t put the cart before the horse.


#17

Since you are from Columbus, why not discuss your quandry with the good Pastor of Holy
Family Church in Columbus? I am certain he will be more than willing to help you & even put
you in contact with other good Priests & fonts of information. I am sorry that I cannot recall Father`s name right now, but he is a very good Priest. I will keep you in my prayers.


#18

I half-heartedly voted just because. You really need to listen for God’s answer. I think the best answer for discerning God’s will I ever heard - I heard 8 years ago in AA.

This woman who was ten years sober told me that when trying to pick between two paths pray on it - one will start to open up - one you will have to force. The one that “magically” opens up is God’s will. That is God showing you what He wants.

I have heard that put 100 different since but her Philly attitude just kept it simple for me.

If you really are interested in Religious Life - you can kind of meet that in the middle. I know the SFO still accept Priests. It would give you some personal time in the middle of the many ministry duties you will have to align yourself with the characteristics of St Francis and find peace. It will also get you and others involved in different type of ministries.

God bless you and good luck.


#19

I can't answer your question. From the pros and cons you've listed I don't see a clear "winner".

What I would do is pray a novena to an appropriate saint. Do you have a favorite saint who has helped you in the past? Or perhaps St. Therese, patron of vocations, or St. Jean Vianney, patron of parish priests.

The saints have been particularly helpful to me when I've been stuck on the fence.


#20

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