Called to be Good News to Others

by Catherine Bertrand, SSND

In the last couple of years the National Religious Vocation Conference has worked with young adults all over the country. Some of the things we are learning indicate that in many ways, priests and religious are well-kept secrets. Young adults are edified by our lifestyle, although they don't identify with it to the extent that they could see themselves doing it.

Most people know that we work (they see us in ministry) but young people and parents also need to know what happens the rest of the time: how we live, and what makes our lives meaningful and fulfilling.

What one looks for in potential candidates today is relatively simple. Not only is it a desire on the part of the person, but we want to know if there are other people in the person's life who think this is a good idea. And, more important, we want to know: "How will this person be Good News for the People of God?"

We also want to know whether these are people who love the church, and are able to serve within the church of the present as well as the future. Among other things I look for is an absolute passion to serve others well. Candidates must demonstrate that this isn't just about their own needs or about finding a group of people that will give them a sense of belonging. The call to religious life and priesthood is primarily other-centered.

People Persons

Other questions I explore are whether there is a real significant sense of God in their lives that leads them not only to desire greater spirituality but to have a ministry. Are these integrated healthy people who can make a celibate choice and are not going to have to spend the next 30 years focusing on how to keep themselves together? Are these folks who have a good sense of themselves and their own sexuality, to give them the freedom to be able to be of service to others and to be in relationship with others? Are they good people persons ?

For those of us in community, I ask if the candidate is someone we'd want to live with. We're looking for people who have a basic enthusiasm and energy for life and who believe that religious life and religious ministry are something good to be about.

(Reprinted with permission: A Theology of Call: How to be Good News to Others in US Catholic, September, 1998)

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