Discerning a Vocation in High School


by Raney Johnson, Diocese of Shreveport Seminarian

High school can be a fun but stressful time. Life can easily become consumed with classes, extracurricular activities, jobs and finding moments to spend time with friends. Added to the stress of all this is the anxiety that comes with thinking about what to do after high school. It can be difficult to see where exactly discerning a vocation fits into the active life of a high school student.

I started discerning my vocation at the end of my freshmen year of high school. Some start the discernment process at the end of their time in high school as seniors. Whether a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, it is never too late or too early to discern a vocation in high school.

Since my own vocational discernment has been to the priesthood, I’m going to focus on discerning a vocation to the priesthood in high school. However, some of the tips I will give are applicable to the discernment of any vocation while in high school.

My first tip is to find someone to talk to about discerning the priesthood on a regular basis. Thinking back to my freshman and sophomore years, speaking with someone regularly about my desire to be a priest would have been very helpful. I kept my desire to be a priest very private until around the beginning of my junior year. I waited to discuss wanting to become a priest due to a mixture of fear and feeling unworthy of the priesthood. I know other young men discerning the priesthood might experience the same emotions, but these feelings should not be a deterrent to seeking out someone to talk to. The person could be a religious education teacher, a youth director or a priest. Each diocese even has a Church Vocations Director who is specifically charged with helping to discern a vocation. In the Diocese of Shreveport, Fr. Jerry Daigle is the Church Vocations Director.

My next tip is to include mom and dad. This could be a simple heads up that discerning the priesthood is on the radar, or a sit down conversation. Bringing up discerning the priesthood with parents should happen whenever it feels comfortable to do so. Parents only want what is best for their children, so any reservations about a discernment to the priesthood are probably coming from a particular concern. So, if mom or dad react negatively to the idea of discerning the priesthood, do not feel discouraged, and if mom and dad get overly excited about the idea of discerning the priesthood, do not feel pressured. Simply ask them to be patient and understanding, and maybe even try to set up a meeting between them and the Church Vocations Director to discuss any questions or concerns.

My third tip is to visit a seminary to see what it is like to be a seminarian discerning the priesthood. St. Joseph College Seminary in Covington, LA has a Come and See retreat every year so that young men discerning a priestly vocation can visit and learn about life in the seminary. If possible, try to go to one of these retreats or another retreat that is specifically for young men in high school discerning the priesthood.

My fourth tip is probably the most important. Always keep God at the center of your vocation, and it definitely helps to also keep the Mother of God, Mary, close while discerning. Visiting Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament during adoration every so often, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a month, and praying the rosary were all spiritual practices that helped me to discern in an active way while in high school. I would encourage these spiritual practices to anyone discerning a vocation to the priesthood. Becoming an altar server and helping at the Lord’s altar is also a great way to discern the priesthood in high school. My experiences as an altar server in high school kept my desire to be a priest strong.

My final tip is to stay calm. Discernment of any vocation should always be peaceful, especially discernment of the priesthood. Never feel pressured to become a priest and always discern in freedom. Jesus stayed close to me throughout my discernment of the priesthood in high school, and any young man discerning a vocation in high school should know that Jesus will do the same for him.

If you would like more information about the priesthood, contact Father Jerry Daigle, jdaigle@dioshpt.org, or call 318.868.4441.

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