By Father Matt Schmitz / Promoter of Vocations for the Diocese of Crookston
When I was in middle school, the diocesan Office of Vocations hosted a camp for young men to spend time in community and to learn more about the priesthood. The weekend included Mass, prayer, sports, a tour of a seminary, and a Red Hawks game.
Fr. Joe Richards was the vocation director at the time. He was also my parish priest. He told my parents that he thought I should attend the weekend. My parents proposed the idea to me. I wasn’t interested. “Sign up for seminary” camp? Thanks, but no thanks! They persisted: “Fr. Joe thinks you should go. Just give it a try.” I still wasn’t interested. Finally, they told me, “Fr. Joe thinks you should go, so you’re going!”
I attended the camp and had a great time. I met other young men my age who were Catholic and cared about their faith. This was a new experience for me as I was the only Catholic in my class at school. I continued to attend the vocation camp every summer throughout high school.
The vocation camp was important in my life because it got me to consider priesthood for the first time. It taught me about the importance of discernment, of listening for the call that God had placed in my heart so that I could hear what He was inviting me to consider.
As children, we are often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a natural question but it misses the mark. The better question would be, “What do you think God is calling you to be when you grow up?”
God calls us to serve him through various states in life: generous single life, marriage, religious life, or priesthood. Your vocation is not primarily about you; it is about how God is inviting you to serve him and the Church. It is in following God’s plan that we will find our ultimate joy and happiness. We should not settle for deciding what we want to do but instead discern what God is calling us to do.
Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins…No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God (Hebrews 5:1,4). The priesthood is not the life I would have chosen for myself. I had other plans. It was only in asking God, “What do you want me to do with my life?” that I discovered my vocation to the priesthood. Now, on this side of ordination, I can say that there is no other life that I would rather live. I love being a priest. I love it because I have become who God has created me to be.
Every young Catholic man should ask the question, “Is God calling me to be a priest?” He should ask the question because it’s a real possibility. The priest brings Jesus directly into the lives of his people through the sacraments. If the Lord is calling a man to the priesthood, his yes to that call will impact many souls for eternity.
Our diocesan vocation camp, Esto Vir (“Be a man!”), will take place August 6-8 at Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp. If you are a young man age 16 or older, please join us! It is a place for you to gain some tools for discerning your vocation and to meet other Catholic men who are discerning theirs. I promise you it is not “sign up for seminary” camp!