Bishop Asks Middle-Schoolers to Consider Religious Vocations


(Thursday, March 6, 2008 5:09 PM EST)

Students in eighth grade are at a time in their lives when they're asking a lot of questions, figuring out who they are, and who they hope to be.

To help middle-school students in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington tackle this question, Bishop Paul Loverde recently led 41 eighth-grade classes in a “vocations mass” at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale.

In the Catholic tradition, “vocation” has a specific meaning - a calling from God, rather than a job.

Loverde discussed all three basic vocations: marriage, Holy Orders (service as a priest, brother or sister) and single, chaste living. But his emphasis was on the church's need for more priests, brothers and sisters.

“This diocese is growing, growing and growing,” he said in his homily. “With more than 400,000 Roman Catholics registered, and about 160,000 unregistered, who is going to provide their spiritual growth in Christ?”

Loverde told students that they “won't just get an e-mail, fax, phone call or letter” telling them what their calling is.

He advised that they pray, be sensitive to events in their lives and to become aware of their talents, when making their decision.

Loverde told the students he first realized his calling when he was 8 years old, when a cousin who recently had been ordained a priest visited him.

What do today's eighth graders think about devoting their lives to the church?

“I've thought about being a priest,” said Holy Spirit School eighth-grader Joseph Pearring. “But I'm not sure if it's me.”

The number of young people becoming priests, nuns and brothers has decreased over the years, and some say it's because of the perception of what holy life is like.

Young women don't want to become nuns because “the stereotypes of nuns are they just sit a room praying all day,” said Holy Spirit School eighth-grader Amy Smith.

More exposure to the lives of priests, nuns and brothers might be a way to attract youth, Pearring said.

“I used to think that all nuns did was sit around and pray,” he said. “But when nuns from Pope John Paul the Great High School visited us, [I learned] they do so much more. They have a lot of fun.”

Neither Smith nor Pearring knew with certainty what their vocation is, but they said they'd know in a few years.

“I think I'll know after high school,” Smith said.

Bishop Paul Loverde told students he first considered becoming a priest at age 8. He was ordained in 1965 in Rome.
(Diocese of Arlington)

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