What to Do When Your Child Receives Their Vocation.

When your child receives their vocation, it usually is not an event, but an evolving process which you have likely witnessed unfold over time that culminates in a concrete decision to follow the vocational call from God.

Your diocese should have a priest or sister appointed to assist individuals start, or further their vocational discernment. This is a good place to start for local support to nurture this new calling.

For your child this will result in either unknown exploration or a defined direction. If this realization crystalizes for the consecrated life, priesthood, or brotherhood it may or may not feel attached to a specific community or way of life, i.e., Franciscan, Dominican, Benedictine, or diocesan. At this point it is important to avail your child the opportunity for discernment retreats, or events that will allow your child exposure to many communities to assist in defining their call. If your child has already felt a call to a particular way of life, then starting with those communities is a good place to begin.


Praying for Your Child in Their Vocation.

Praying for our children is nothing new as parents. Praying for a child’s religious vocation is new and sometimes even difficult as it brings many changes to our lives and those of our families.

It’s important to remember that we are praying for the will of God in our child’s life which is leading them on a journey that may be unexpected, and often not what we as parents had thought our child’s life would look like.

Luke 18:16 says, Jesus calls His children to Himself, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them.”

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you, I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

CCC 2232: “Parents should respect the vocational call and encourage a child to follow it.”

CCC 2233: “Parents should welcome and respect with joy and thanksgiving the Lord’s call to one
of their children to follow him in virginity for the sake of the Kingdom in the consecrated life or
in priestly ministry.”

How to Support Your Discerning Child.

Your child’s discernment is a multi-year process that has milestones along the way. Your support as a parent does not start and end when your child decides to enter religious life or the priesthood.

Your support will take on different elements and forms as your child progresses on this journey. Supporting your child while still in your home or close by, provides more latitude in what you can provide than when your child enters religious formation.

Depending on where and with whom your child enters religious formation, the community will add new guidelines on physical interaction, and communication. Love, emotional, and prayer support will never change, but other forms will evolve as your child moves through the stages of formation based in some part by the community they join.

How a Support Community Can Help.

We are a unique family of parents that have children who are discerning or have entered religious life. For most of us we are 2 or 3 generations away form having religious vocations in our family tree, if at all. Gone are those familial experiences by family members when they had
a child enter religious life that could rely on each other for support.

Having a support community such as Parents of Vocations provides you a ready-made family
that is walking, or has walked, in your shoes that can share their experience of the journey you
are now on.

Even though we have many things in common we do not share identical paths. Some
communities are cloistered, some allow periodic visits, and others even have freer interaction
policies. So as a community we have parents that have similar experiences to you. By building a
community we are able to share what we have learned, and support each other in fostering our
child’s vocation.

Coping with mixed emotions.

Coping with mixed emotions can take us by storm, especially in the early days and months.

For as many human emotions there are, there is an opportunity to feel them all and often in
the same day, or even moment. We enter this process as parents being spectators, or “ride a
longs”. We have not made this decision ourselves, and grapple with the magnitude of what this
will mean for our lives moving forward.

On one hand, we see individuals in the community our child has identified that love, honor,
respect, and cherish our children. However, that same life change creates loss and heartache
for us. Finding ourselves dealing with the conflict of positive and negative emotions
surrounding the same event can be confusing.

Each parent will react and respond to these emotional challenges differently and on their own
timeline. Finding helpful solutions can be shared by spouses and other family members to
provide some relief amidst confusion.

In the end it is critically important to honor your feelings both positive and negative. There is
also no “one size fits all” to this process. It is individual by nature, as are the graces one receives
by walking through it.

A Parent Role in a Child’s Vocation

First and foremost, the role of the parent is one of unconditional love and support.

Your child is in the process of making and committing to a radical commitment in today’s world and needs a solid foundation backing them on this journey. It is important to understand that this is a discernment process that will take years before your child commits to this way of life

Knowing that your child has the support of their parents is a huge relief, and a weight off the shoulders of the discerning child. While being supportive of your child’s decision it’s also comforting to know that there are experienced sisters and priests assisting your child who specialize in the discernment process. This process does not always result in a child entering religious life or the priesthood, but sometimes discerning that they are in fact not called to this way of life.

One of the hardest parts of parental vocational support is to provide it from an unbiased position, of neither for nor against so as not to unduly influence their discernment either way.