Vocations Office - For Parents
Fr. Paul Sullivan
Father Matt Lowry
How can I support my son?
First, I would remember that a vocation is the unique and special call from God and that God will always take care of those He calls. And so uniting yourself to God in prayer will bring wisdom and peace.
It is understandable that some parents are not sure whether they can adequately support their son during his seminary training. This is another common anxiety. In many other moments in your son's life you have felt ready to offer sound advice from your own past experiences. However, because a vocation to the priesthood is such a unique call, you may feel unqualified to offer helpful advice. Your son understands this and does not expect you to be all-knowing and ever-present with advice! One helpful question you can ask your son is, "What is the most important thing I can do to assist and support you?" This simple question will mean a great deal to your son. Further, it is a sign of your unconditional love as a parent.
What about the expenses?
Regarding finances, the majority of the expenses associated with your son's education while he is enrolled in seminary will be assumed by the Diocese of Phoenix. If a seminarian is not covered under his parent's health insurance, the Diocese will provide a health insurance plan. Such concerns are taken into consideration for each candidate.
Will I ever see my son again?
Some parents feel as if they are losing their son in a permanent way, or that they will not be able to see or visit their son during his years in the seminary.
If your son's discernment leads him to enter seminary, his departure will be similar to a son leaving home to attend college or to enlist in the military. There will be an inevitable transition period for all parties. If a son enters seminary to study for the priesthood, he is free to make visits home during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and over the summer vacation each year. It is similar to regular college. In fact, throughout his formation in seminary, he will be encouraged to maintain healthy family relationships.
I just don't understand!
It does happen that some parents have expressed remorse about their son's acceptance of a vocation with the sense that they would be happier if they were called to a married vocation over a single-hearted vocation to serve God's people and God's Church. This is a valid concern for parents.
A vocation comes to a young person in the form of a personal call from God; a call that was present from all eternity in the will of God. God is all loving and would only call His son or daughter to a place of joy and fulfillment. Dialogue and inquiry about your son's desires and hopes can be a great help toward understanding. Also, prayer for your son and for yourself is especially important as he discerns God's will. What about grandchildren?
Some parents are saddened by the fact that they'll be unable to enjoy the presence of grandchildren or a daughter-in-law if their son doesn't get married. Although the presence of grandchildren would offer much happiness, every parent desires first and foremost that their son or daughter live a joyful and fulfilled life. If God is calling your son to serve the Church as a priest, fulfillment, happiness and holiness of life will only be fully realized by him if he faithfully responds to God's call. Further, the Church recognizes with great respect and appreciation this sacrifice of parents. We trust that God will bless you abundantly in other ways for supporting your son through his discernment process.
Will my son be lonely?
Some parents express anxiety over their son's potential loneliness as an unmarried person.
There is a great difference between being alone and being by yourself. A person can be in a room full of people and still feel all alone. In the life of a priest, moments of solitude or being by themselves are required for prayer, reflection, homily preparation, and rest. Many priests experience this "being by themselves" without feeling lonely. Further, in the midst of his ministry, a priest interacts with hundreds of individuals a week, and enjoys many life-giving friendships. Nevertheless, no vocation is immune to loneliness. Therefore, regular contact with family members, especially his parents is always a great joy and blessing for a priest. Further, a priest must always be vigilant in maintaining healthy relationships not only with his family, but with friends, brother priests, sisters and parishioners as well.
Ultimately loneliness is the reality of incompleteness and longing for union and communion. Our ultimate union is with God. For centuries, celibate living has been practiced with joy most especially by those in union with God by way of a profound spiritual life. Ultimately, one who is called to this life will need to foster an intimacy with Christ who we will all unite with in eternity.
What if my son leaves the seminary before being ordained?
Some parents express anxiety about what may happen if their son leaves the seminary before completing its course of studies and formation program. It is possible that your son could spend many years in seminary and discern that a life of single-hearted service in the Church is not the vocation God is calling him to. There is nothing wrong or shameful about withdrawing from the seminary and the diocese's program for priestly formation for this reason. The time any young man spent in formation should never be considered a waste. Your son will have grown in holiness, self-awareness, and in personal maturity through the entire process of discernment and by his time in a formation program. He, his future and the Church are sure to be enriched by the experience. If my son has flaws, does it mean he should not be in the seminary?
Occasionally parents become concerned that their son is not suited to serve the Church due to certain temperaments or failings. These same concerns are commonly expressed by the very individuals who are in discernment.
The priesthood and religious life requires a high caliber of skills, abilities, and psycho-sexual maturity. However, it is not reserved to "the perfect." If every young man who experienced the first movements in his hearts to serve the Church waited until he felt completely worthy to begin his discernment, we would not have any priests at all! A genuine vocation is not measured by one's feelings of worthiness, but rather by one's desire to respond to God's call to serve the Church as a disciple of Christ.
The academic rigors and spiritual formation programs offered in the seminary are designed to develop a young man's natural skills and abilities and to remedy any weaknesses or deficiencies. This formation takes time and is one of the reasons why it takes so many years to become a priest. Before the discernment process reaches this stage, however, the most supportive action a parent can take is to encourage their son to listen to and be faithful to God's call.
Where did my son's interest in the priesthood originate?
Some parents are taken aback by the news of their son's discernment to serve the Church, especially if they do not consider themselves a very religious family. Some parents are puzzled about the origin of their son's vocational call.
While a child's faith, worship, and vocational plans are often times influenced by family practices and expectations, a vocation to serve the Church is a call from God, the author of all life. This call is always unique and intensely personal. Although your son desires to discern his call with great attention and fidelity, you are not obliged to alter your current religious practices unless you wish to do so. Still, your son will certainly benefit greatly from your support and prayers during his discernment.
Should I be concerned if he didn't tell me first?
Do not to be offended or hurt if your son did not confide in you first, or early on in his discernment. Young people who are in discernment oftentimes keep their thoughts and their process of discernment confidential from the people who mean the most to them until they feel ready to put the experience into words and to speak about it face to face.
Rest assured that your son both needs and desires your support and encouragement. In fact, your support as a parent is most likely valued more than any other figure in your son's life.