Discerning a Vocation in College

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by Raney Johnson, Diocese of Shreveport Seminarian

Some young men discover their calling to the priesthood in high school and decide to enter the seminary right after graduating from high school. However, others choose to spend a few years in college first, or finish all four years of college before entering the seminary. Along with those who wait to enter the seminary after going to college, some young men learn about their calling to the priesthood while in college.

In my own discernment of the priesthood, I found myself deciding to go to college first instead of joining the seminary right out of high school. I want to offer tips for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood while attending college from my own experience.

The first tip is to stay faithful to attending Mass on Sundays. In the busy schedule of college life, Mass can easily fall by the wayside. There is always the temptation to put the social or academic life of college before the spiritual life, however, the spiritual life, especially the Mass, should always be the bedrock of a young Catholic’s college experience. With mom and dad no longer watching all the time, attending Mass during college becomes an intentional decision. It might help to find a friend or a group of friends to attend Mass with each week. Going to Mass every Sunday is central to the discernment of any vocation, especially the priesthood.

My second tip is to get involved with the different ministries of the Mass. Seminarians have to both lector during the Mass and serve at the altar at some point in their seminary formation. A great way to prepare and become comfortable with this part of seminary formation is to become a lector and/or an altar server during college. I did both during my time at Louisiana Tech, and my love of reading God’s word and serving at the altar helped me to discern that God was calling me to the priesthood. Some other ways to become involved are:  becoming a choir member, usher or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. These ministries will help a young man discerning the priesthood become comfortable with serving at the Mass.

My third tip is to become actively involved with the Catholic student organization on campus. Most universities have a Catholic student organization and also a campus minister. Any young man discerning a vocation during college should become familiar with both the Catholic student organization and the campus minister. The student organization will provide a great community of fellow Catholic students and offer a great environment to cultivate a vocation to the priesthood during college. Similarly, the campus minister, who might be a priest, a religious or a lay person, can be an excellent help in the discernment of the priesthood. At Louisiana Tech, the student organization is the Association of Catholic Tech Students (ACTS) and the campus minister is Brother Mike Ward. Both helped me in my discernment process in different ways.

This leads me to my fourth tip, find a spiritual director. This could be the priest who serves the university, another priest in the diocese, or another qualified individual. Brother Mike Ward was my spiritual director when I attended Louisiana Tech, and his guidance allowed me to see clearly that God was calling me to go to seminary after college.

As a side note, even if the priest assigned to the university is not the campus minister or the chosen spiritual director, it is still beneficial to develop a relationship with this priest. The priest at Louisiana Tech, Fr. Frank Folino, offered me a great role model of the priestly life and helped me in my discernment to the priesthood as well.

My fifth tip is to grow in the spiritual life during college. For example, it might help to pray the rosary more than once a week, attend at least one daily Mass every week, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently, and visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament during adoration.

My final tip is to find a vocation director to talk to. He will be able to help determine your next step. That next step might be transfering from college to seminary, or it might be finishing college and then joining seminary. Whatever the choice, always let God be at the center of your discernment process and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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

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