Openness to God’s call

By Father Michael Chrisman, Director of Vocations

They spent their days working in the hot sun, mending nets by adding a knot here and there, and at times, even caught some fish. This was life for the hardworking Galilean anglers Peter, Andrew, James and John. Then everything changed when they heard the call of Jesus, “Come follow me.”

Every day we have conversations with people, from the simple pleasantries of “hi” to more in depth conversations like, “I’ve been thinking about the priesthood. What do you think?” In any conversation no matter how big or small, there are two basic parts: the speaker and the listener. The same is true when one has a conversation with God, i.e. prayer.

Throughout Scripture there are countless moments of conversations. Moses had a conversation with God in the presence of the burning bush (Ex. 3:4-22), Samuel with the priest Eli then Eli encouraged Samuel to talk to God with the famous line, “Speak, for you servant is listening” (1Sam 3:10). King David had conversations with Bath-Sheba, Nathaniel, Solomon, etc. (c.f., 1 Samuel, 2Samuel, 1Kings). Mary with the angel Gabriel (Lk 1:26-38), Elizabeth and Mary (Lk. 1:39-56), John the Baptist had conversations with everyone who came to the banks of the Jordan River (Lk 3:1-22, Mt. 3:1-17, Jn. 1:19-34). Moreover, Peter, Andrew, James and John had conversations with Jesus (Mk1:14-20).

In these conversations there is a universal sense of openness which leads to something great. After every conversation people’s lives are forever changed, either directly by God in the cases of Moses, Samuel, Mary, and John the Baptist or in other cases one’s life is changed indirectly, by the wisdom of God through others: King David, Bath-Sheba, and Elizabeth.

In his homily at the confirmation Mass on April 28, 2013 Pope Francis challenged all who were about to be confirmed and all Christians to be open to the call of God. He said, “We Christians were not called by the Lord for small things; push on toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on the noble ideals.” In order for one to come to know these “highest principles” and “noble ideals” one must be first open to God, in the same way that one is open in a conversation with a spouse, relative, friend or acquaintance.

When we are open to God we become free to dive into the depth of our heart’s desire to discover the great plan God has for everyone. The discovery of God’s plan for us causes a great sense of joy, happiness, peace and fulfillment in the person. However these feelings are not limited to only one person. As a people of God, bonded together in baptism, forged by the fire of the Holy Spirit in confirmation and strengthened with the Body of Christ from heaven in the Eucharist: through the sacraments, we become closely connected—bonded as one body, “as all the parts of the body though many, are one body, so also with Christ,” St. Paul reminds us (1 Cor. 12:12).

Over the past year we have experienced the connection of the Body of Christ in many ways. We celebrated with great happiness the transitional diaconate ordination of John Nkwocha on December 12, 2013. As we gave hopeful thanks to God for the ministry of Deacon Nkwocha, shortly after his diaconate ordination we celebrated again with great fervor the ordination of two more seminarians to the transitional diaconate: Deacons Carl Wertin and Isaac Kariuki on June 6, 2014. The openness to God’s plan by these three men was only heightened with further celebration on June 20, 2014 as Deacon John Nkwocha became the newest priest in the Diocese of Pueblo. We also look forward with joyful hope to the priesthood ordinations of Deacons Isaac and Carl on June 19, 2015 at the Cathedral in Pueblo.

As the number of our seminarians gets smaller due to seminarians becoming ordained priests, interest in the priesthood and religious life, especially in our Catholic schools has grown. During the week of November 2 to 11, 2014 we celebrated vocations through National Vocations Awareness Week. During that week there was a Mass and lunch at St. John Neumann with Bishop Berg and priests of the city of Pueblo. At St. Therese School the students had breakfast for the priests of the city then the priests and seminarians played a volleyball game against the 8th grade (the 8th grade won in a close match).

Vocations Awareness Week concluded with a city-wide Holy Hour for Vocations at the Shrine of St. Therese, where the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament from St. Mary Help of Christians and other religious sisters of the diocese joined with Bishop Berg, Monsignor Nuñez and other priests and deacons along with members of the Serra Club, the Nocturnal Adoration Society, Perpetual Adoration Society and men, women and children from all across the city came to pray for an increase in vocations from our diocese.

As seminarians like Deacon Carl, Deacon Isaac, Deacon Henry and Stephen Injoalu continue to show us the faces of those Galilean fishermen, who opened their heart to Christ’s call, their openness inspires men to think about the priesthood, women to consider religious life, couples to consider marriage, and all of us to push toward higher principles and build up the kingdom of God here in the Diocese of Pueblo.

Let us continue to pray for and encourage vocations from our own family, from our parish community, from the Body of Christ alive in our midst. For I know well the plans I have in mind for you says the Lord, plans to give you a future full of hope (Jer. 29:11). All we have to do is be open to the voice of God.