Bishop’s Reflection: Live Your Life with Trust and Hope in God’s Call
by Bishop Michael G. Duca
We are in the middle of Lent and usually I would write this article to inspire and encourage all of us on our spiritual journey toward Easter. But the Church is a busy family, and while Lent is guiding us on to Easter there are other thoughts and concerns on my mind as well. In particular, my upcoming 40th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood in April and my 10th anniversary as Bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport in May. These important milestones caused me to take time to consider all that the Lord has done in my life as a priest and remind me how much bigger is God’s will for me than any future I can imagine. Vocations are also on my mind because this is the time of the year that many young men are deciding to enter the seminary to discern their vocation, to discover God’s will in their lives.
My call to the priesthood came as a small voice within me one day in church when I thought, as I watched the priest at Mass, that “I might want to do that… to be a priest.” My parents encouraged me to explore the priesthood as a future vocation. This support was important because it allowed me to imagine myself as a priest and to become comfortable with the idea of being a priest. After high school I entered Holy Trinity Seminary and was ordained a priest on April 29, 1978 at the wise old age of 25.
When I was ordained, even though I knew I was answering God’s call, I thought I was also still in control. Yes, I was doing God’s will, but I thought I saw clearly what God’s will was for my life. I imagined quite confidently that I would be an assistant pastor for a few years, then I would pastor a number of parishes in the Diocese of Dallas before retiring in a parish and die. As simple and uneventful as this outline of a life sounds, I was happy with this plan. How naïve. What God sees in us is so much better and greater than we can imagine. I did live my first seven years of priesthood as expected. I was an associate pastor in three different parishes. But after my third assignment, instead of being named the pastor of a parish, my next assignment was as Vocations Director and Campus Minister at Southern Methodist University (SMU). At the end of this nine-year assignment I expected to be named a pastor, but instead I was sent to Rome to study Canon Law and then returned to Dallas as Rector of Holy Trinity Seminary. It was as though no matter what I imagined my life to be, God was leading me in another direction that was very different. When I was finally able to accept (i.e., I gave up) that God may have a different direction and a deeper understanding of my life, I stopped fighting and second guessing God’s will for my life. Instead I embraced His will and with that surrender came a new freedom and wisdom that allows me every day to accept with joy this wonderful call to be your bishop, even though I often feel unworthy.
I believe many of us have had this experience of fighting God’s will in our lives, and if we are wise we eventually let go and accept the challenges of the life that are ours. These challenges are the result of a life that was created both by our choices and those aspects of our life that we did not choose, but were given to us. When we live our lives with trust and hope in God’s call, we are living a vocation, we are answering the call of God in our lives to holiness and to live as his disciples. As we embrace our vocation we must often let go of and grieve our small, imagined future (one we are usually very attached to). We will be challenged to die to self a little more so we can love more deeply and we must learn not only to trust God’s will, but to find peace in being faithful to His call.
Teach your children to not just seek a career but to pray about what God’s call is in their life. Encourage your children when they inquire about a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. When your son tells you he thinks he might want to be a priest or your daughter is considering a religious life, support them and encourage their imagination so that if God is calling them, they will be able to hear the call. Teach them to live their lives in relation to God’s call to holiness and discipleship.
That quiet voice I heard as a child has led me on a journey of faith that I could not have imagined, and I thank God. The life I envisioned for myself was small and unimaginative and God’s plan, well, let’s just say God has a wonderful imagination and I am only beginning to see what He has in store for me.