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Students, clergy observe Vocational Awareness Week

| Monday, November 13, 2023

National Vocational Awareness Week, observed Nov. 5-11, is a time dedicated to promoting discernment of vocations for Catholics. In the Catholic Church, vocations are defined as God’s call to the individual to a way of life, whether that be marriage, the priesthood or consecrated religious life.

Liam Schlosser, a sophomore philosophy and theology double major at Notre Dame, described discernment as a process “all about receiving God’s call and His love for us,” explaining how he made progress in his discernment when he “really focused on living with Christ day by day.”

Schlosser said he started thinking about his vocation at age seven and began seriously discerning it during his junior year of high school

“When I was young I latched on to the idea of being a Catholic priest. My role models were mostly priests because they were the most joyous people I could find,” Schlosser said. “My desire for priesthood grew throughout high school and now, at Notre Dame, I am considering joining the Congregation of Holy Cross.”

Schlosser explained that National Vocational Awareness Week is important to draw people’s attention to vocational contemplation because “God has a plan for each and every person and it is our responsibility to discern what that is.”

Schlosser said his experience in Catholic school positively impacted his vocational discernment, as he “was able to think about and experience God in a more intimate way.”

Schlosser encourages students to consider their vocations, writing, “Your vocation is so important because God loves you so much. When He created the universe, he included you in His plan and gave you a unique role.”

Fr. Matt Cortese, chaplain of McCandless Hall at Saint Mary’s and a PhD student in liturgical studies at the University of Notre Dame, said a week dedicated to vocational awareness is an important way to draw attention to “what is often happening every other week.”

“Often when we’re going about our daily business, going to class, we’re not paying attention to the larger question of ‘How does a religious vocation … within the Church fit into my life?’” Cortese said. 

Cortese said he realized his own vocational call while in college, although he had started thinking about the priesthood earlier on in high school. He said since then the biggest reward of his vocation has been getting to meet and connect with a variety of people. As a Jesuit priest, Cortese said his ministry has brought him all around the world.   

“Another benefit that would be worth saying is that we are given lots and lots of time to pray, that prayer becomes the focus of our lives,” Cortese explained. He acknowledged one challenge of a life of celibate chastity are the “moments of loneliness,” but added those are “often offset by the people that we get to serve.”

Cortese argued that Catholic schools play an essential role in guiding young people toward finding and accepting their vocations.

“Especially when you’re at a Catholic school run by orders, whether that’s priests or brothers or sisters, you hope that you provide a witness, so that students will want to join for your project, God’s project,” he said.

Speaking to current students of the tri-campus who are discerning their vocations, Cortese said an important first step is to develop a prayer routine, which for Catholics includes attending mass weekly or even daily. Secondly, Cortese encouraged people to get to know those in religious life.

“I’ve found that most sisters and priests and brothers want to chat with people who could potentially join their groups, their orders, their communities,” Cortese explained. “Don’t be afraid to approach them. They like that.”

Cortese urged people to perceive determining one’s vocation as a continuous process.

“I think sometimes when we talk about vocations we can think of a vocation as if it’s something completely extrinsic, or outside of ourselves, as if there’s me and then my vocation that exists and I’m just sort of waiting to discover it,” Cortese said. “Really, your vocation is becoming most fully who you are and who you are called to be.”

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