January 28, 2022

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Catholic educators reflect on how schools can encourage students to discern vocations to serve the Church

By Sean Gallagher

Joseph Hansen serves as principal of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis. His son Sam is an archdiocesan seminarian. But he knew the importance of promoting vocations in Catholic schools long before his son entered into priestly formation.

“We always need to encourage our students to be prayerful and understand that God has a vocational plan for all of us whether it is the single life, married life, or religious life or the priesthood,” said Hansen. “Vocational examples, actually hearing from people that are living their vocation joyfully and are serving God, is a great way to impact our young people as they explore their path.”

In that vein, Hansen noted that his own ministry in Catholic education has been influenced by his son’s discernment of a priestly vocation.

“I am blessed to have a front-row account of a young man’s journey to priesthood,” Hansen said. “I can now share with young people Sam’s beautiful vocational story and how content he is as a seminarian.”

Hansen and other Catholic educators see Catholic schools as real seedbeds of vocations and the teachers and administrators in them as having a great mission in nurturing the seeds of service in the Church.

In the 37 years that he has served at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis in various capacities, Chuck Weisenbach has seen many of his students go on to embrace vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

“I have frequently commented that Roncalli High School has much to be proud of,” said Weisenbach, now Roncalli’s president, “but nothing compares to how proud we are to have been a part of the nurturing of so many vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It is clearly our most significant accomplishment.”

Weisenbach said that this normalization of priestly and religious vocations at Roncalli has grown enough that students there now see that it is “cool” if a fellow student is discerning such a call.

“The secularistic nature found in most parts of society does not give young people that message,” he said. “It is more of a message of ‘Why would you do that?’ ”

At the same time, Weisenbach knows Roncalli and other Catholic schools can do better by helping students know that vocations encompass a person’s whole identity and are not just a career choice.

“I think once they understand with clarity and depth that God is calling each of us to a specific vocation in his Church,” he said, “we stand a much better chance of our young people discerning what God is truly calling them to.” †

Related story: Catholic schools help students discover God’s call to pursue vocations to the priesthood and religious life

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