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    Thursday, March 30, 2006

    Vocations: acknowledging the heroic radical move for God that it is


    Picking at her black fingernail polish and fiddling with her shirt and shoulder-length blond hair, 16-year-old Chelsea Sledgeski seems every bit the typical teen.

    link

    Sledgeski is considering becoming a nun.

    When she talks about what would attract a suburban girl with a sparkly shirt and a safari-themed room to a life of chastity and poverty, her first words aren't about devoting herself to the needy or saving souls from eternal damnation. Her inspiration sounds pretty pragmatic: Nuns and priests seem really happy compared with adults traveling other life routes.

    For now, priests and nuns are being imported from countries, such as Vietnam and Nigeria [and Poland], that have rising seminary populations and more conservative religious cultures. But the longer-term strategy requires deciphering the themes that will pull in young American Catholics. And churches' recruitment drives increasingly are focused on what Sledgeski talked about: how to be happy.

    "Fishers of Men," a 20-minute video released this month by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, presents priests as handsome and heroic, appearing in scenes of war and civil rights marches that are contrasted with the image of bored-looking people riding an escalator to meaningless jobs. The video will be shown at Catholic schools, churches and religious retreats around the country.

    link to short clip of the video

    Recent local campaigns have played off the same idea, using posters, pamphlets and newspaper ads to show that priests are anything but lonely and isolated. One of them features the slogan "Life's Great in Black and White" and a photo of a group of young priests smiling and laughing. Other churches have picked up the catchphrase "Men in Black," using it on posters riffing off the Hollywood movie or as the name of a team of priests who travel to parishes to shoot hoops and talk about their work.

    Peter Stamm has been interested in joining the clergy since third grade, when he became an altar boy at Our Lady of Victory, a church near his subdivision of Spring Valley in Northwest Washington.

    By ninth grade, the call was too loud to ignore, drowning out the intensifying sex abuse scandals that prompted his classmates at the parochial St. Anselm's School to be unkind.

    "People made their voices very well known that I was a pedophile, a homosexual, like in the halls and stuff," he said with no inflection. "Luckily, I was at a good place in my prayer life. I accepted all the persecution I got and prayed for people doing it."

    Home during his spring break this month, Stamm talked excitedly in his family's elegantly appointed living room about his upcoming weekend with a group of friars in Emmitsburg, in Frederick County, who own nothing and beg for food.

    "I think when people see this radical lifestyle they are drawn to it. It's very liberating to not be attached to the unnecessary," he said.

    Opposition from parents is the biggest challenge the church faces in the vocations field, officials say.

    Bob Sledgeski is Catholic and was the one who pushed his daughter to start attending the more charismatic services at Our Lady of the Fields. Now, they have teenager-parent arguments about whether her grades are suffering because she is spending so many nights at church. He appreciates the role priests and nuns play and is ready to accept God's will but wonders whether his daughter could satisfy her urge to serve God in some other way, such as with the Peace Corps.

    Chelsea Sledgeski is trying to sort it out. Until about a year ago, she thought even the idea of God was "weird -- how someone could dedicate their whole life to something they couldn't even prove."
    But then she started going to church, to the pizza nights, the musical services and the skits about Lent that play off the show "The O.C." One night in the church's lower hall, priests and nuns came to talk to the teens.

    "And I remember them talking about how they made these sacrifices, and they couldn't get married and took vows of poverty," she said. "I remember them just being very happy about it, and I thought that was kind of strange. How could you be very happy about not owning anything? But now I'm starting to get it."

    Thanks to 'Papist' the DC Lawyer for forwarding the information.

    2 Comments:

    Blogger DilexitPrior said...

    Opposition from parents is the biggest challenge the church faces in the vocations field, officials say.

    Bob Sledgeski is Catholic and was the one who pushed his daughter to start attending the more charismatic services at Our Lady of the Fields. Now, they have teenager-parent arguments about whether her grades are suffering because she is spending so many nights at church. He appreciates the role priests and nuns play and is ready to accept God's will but wonders whether his daughter could satisfy her urge to serve God in some other way, such as with the Peace Corps.


    I agree that opposition from parents is a big problem.

    I know from my own experience that it's very confusing and frustrating for those of us who are discerning a vocation to the religious life when our parents, who have raised us in the Faith, then question our passion for the Faith. I know that I'm not the only one who has experienced this. Many of my friends who are in seminary or are entering religious orders as postulants also have had to face the challenge of parents.

    The family should be the first not the last place to provide encouragement and support to those discerning a religious or priestly vocation.

    April 02, 2006  
    Blogger Joseph said...

    Before highschool, I wrote away for vocation information from various Orders. The Trappists appealed to me most.

    My mother was shocked, and talked me out of it, unless I thought a Diocesan Priest might be OK.

    Anyway, I lost a little traction there, and never really looked into it again after getting to highschool.

    April 03, 2006  

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