For many in the secular world, a job is just a job – the thing that gives you a paycheck to feed and shelter your family, and often ends at the company door.
A vocation, however, is a career or occupation that one is particularly drawn to, well trained for and passionate about. For Catholics, one’s vocation is even deeper, more profound and subsuming.
A MASS IN HONOR OF THE 350TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LOVERS OF THE HOLY CROSS WAS CELEBRATED AT CHRIST CATHEDRAL ON SEPT. 14, 2019. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DIOCESE OF ORANGE
For a priest, said Father Brandon Dang, director of vocations for the Diocese of Orange, “vocation is a whole other realm.”
It comes from the Latin root “vocare,”which means to call. And indeed, for priests and sisters and those in consecrated life, vocations are a literal call from God.
Fr. Brandon said that in the world of priests, “the general vocation is to know, love and serve.” And it’s from that deep well that all priestly duties flow.
Joan Patten, the delegate of consecrated life for the Diocese of Orange, harkening to the concept of a call, said “the Lord reveals our vocation when we listen to Him in prayer.”
Cole Buzon, a seminarian at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo who is doing an internship year at St. Polycarp in Stanton, said when talking about vocation, “God amplifies the desire within our heart.”
HEARING YOUR CALL
Every person’s path to their vocation in the Church, whether it is as a priest, sister or monk, or along some other form of consecrated life – begins with discernment.
According to the Catholic Church, discernment is the process in which men or women recognize their vocation or “calling” within the Church.
Some priests from an early age would “play Mass,” at home, others come to the faith from troubled times. Still for others, the call arises from seeming happenstance.
The fateful moment that started Fr. Brandon’s journey came when when some of his youth group members hit him up for a ride to a retreat and he decided to hang around.
The Church provides numerous avenues for members to discern. For the digitally inclined there is information online on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or the Diocese website.
COLE BUZON IS A SEMINARIAN AT ST. JOHN’S SEMINARY IN CAMARILLO. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Fr. Brandon is also open to the direct approach for those who have questions.
The Diocese plays host to a variety of events, most popularly its monthly Vocations 101 workshops at Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, where men and women can learn about vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.
There are also retreats, seminars and classes, in multiple languages, through which discerners can gather information, share stories, ask questions, and, most importantly, pray.
In consecrated life, women are called to be the spouse of Christ by permanently offering their lives to Him through the profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience in an institute of consecrated life. There are several different forms of consecrated life. The most commonly known form is
religious life. Religious priests, sisters, and brothers reminds us of Christ’s love for His Church through their public witness of community life, prayer, and
Their religious commitment implies a certain separation from the world and a dying to their “old life”. This is why religious take on new a name, religious
garb or symbol, and a new community/ family. Secular institutes is another form on consecrated life in which men and women fell called to permanently consecrate their lives to God through the profession of the evangelical counsels while remaining in the world. They extend the Church’s mission of evangelization by living out their consecration in secular workplaces and society.
Joan Patten, the delegate for consecrated life, is a member of a secular institute, the Apostolic Oblates. Other forms of consecrated life in the Catholic Church are consecrated virgins, eremitic life, and societies of apostolic life. Each form of consecrated life serves as a spiritual sign and responds to particular needs in the Church and in the world.
FATHER BRANDON DANG GREETS A PARISHIONER FOLLOWING MASS AT CHRIST CATHEDRAL. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DIOCESE OF ORANGE
The Diocese supports women and men who choose consecrated life, defined as “a call to make a radical, total and free gift of self to Christ and following his example by embracing for one’s entire life the evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity and obedience.”
There are a number of societies, orders and institutes for consecrated life in Orange County. For women there are 24 institutes for consecrated life with contacts in Orange County and many operating homes and convents. Many of the religious sisters in these orders have careers in areas such as nursing, elder care and teaching.
Men can also follow paths into many institutes and orders. Through these they can become monks, friars, brothers and advance all the way to a priesthood,
either outside or affiliated with the Diocese.
“Priesthood is the umbrella,” Fr. Brandon said, “How you live it out may be different.”
TAKING THE DIOCESAN LEAP
For a select few, the seed blossoms, leading to deeper exploration of diocesan priesthood. Some spend longer than others discerning, depending upon various factors in one’s life, but eventually the person needs to make a decision.
There are five stages to entering the seminary: inquirer, discerner, candidate, applicant and seminarian.
The early stages tend to be “a fluid process,” Fr. Brandon said.
Seminarian Buzon remembers that before he discerned, he knew only that he wanted to share his message.
His “aha” moment came when on a retreat while having lunch with Fr. Loc Tran of the Diocese.
“Out of the blue, he said, ‘Cole, you would make a good priest,’” Seminarian Buzon remembers.
And right there in the cafeteria in Irvine, Buzon heard his call. Those who believe they are called will start the process, which may conclude with the submission of an application to a seminary under the sponsorship of the Diocese.
Those accepted are typically assigned to one of three seminaries: St. John’s in Camarillo, Mt. Angel in Oregon, Bishop White in Spokane, Washington.
After the completion of philosophical studies or pre-theology, some seminarians are sent to the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Seminary takes seven to nine years, depending on prior education, and is where candidates undergo intellectual, spiritual, human and pastoral formation.
Seminarians who persevere and are recommended by their superiors to be advanced are eventually ordained to the transitional diaconate and then to the priesthood.
Throughout the process, they can experience profound change. Seminarian Buzon said he continues to listen for God’s voice and evolve.
“I don’t even recognize the person I am now to the one I was five years ago,” he said.
Although the Diocese sends candidates to seminary with the goal that they become parish priests – it may happen that God calls them elsewhere taking the seminary experience with them to their next path on the vocational journey to become good Christian men.
Seminarian Buzon said one of his seminary brothers left to join the Capuchin Order of Franciscan Friars.
“It’s cool, that will be a good fit for him,” said Seminarian Buzon.
After seminary, some priests may undergo further education and find specialties in the Diocese, Canon Law, Systematic Theology or any number of subjects. All those are at the discretion and direction of the bishop.
The hope is that wherever one’s calling leads, it takes them to one place. Or as poet Robert Frost wrote “My object in living is to unite, my avocation and my vocation, as my two eyes make one in sight.”