Parents of priests say prayer fostered vocation

| Catherine Deeds | June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

From left, Jim and Marie Shovelain, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, and the Shovelains’ sons, Father Paul Shovelain and Dominic, a seminarian, pose in the Shovelains’ home on Thanksgiving Day in 2016. Courtesy Jim and Marie Shovelain

For Jim and Marie Shovelain and their five children, family vacations included visits to Marian shrines in the Midwest. And when getting into their car, the family would pray, “God in front and we behind.”

Despite incorporating their Catholic faith into their daily lives, the Shovelains credit prayer with leading sons, Father Paul Shovelain, who was ordained in 2014, and Dominic Shovelain, a seminarian at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, to a religious vocation.

“The priority was passing our Catholic faith on to all of our children,” Marie said. “Our children’s grandparents also played a role in praying for the vocations of their grandchildren.”

The Shovelains first noticed Father Shovelain’s interest in the priesthood when he was age 4 and said the youth group at their parish, St. Michael in St. Michael, played a big part in his vocation process during his teenage years. The Shovelains said they always tried to live their Catholic faith authentically, prayed often and attended weekly Mass as a family.

Rather than “pushing” their sons to become priests, Jim suggests that parents pray for them to do God’s will.

“Pray as a couple, pray as a family, and include religious sites in family vacations, and Mass,” he said. “God needs to be included in your vacations and all aspects of family life.”

As parents of a priest, the Shovelains consider themselves grandparents to their son’s parishioners at St. John the Baptist in New Brighton, where he’s parochial vicar, and wherever he serves.

“It truly is a blessing being a parent of a priest and a seminarian,” Marie said.


Father Blume, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, quoted Pope Francis about the need for prayer in each family to foster vocations:
“Behind and before every vocation to the priesthood or to the consecrated life there is always the strong and intense prayer of someone: a grandmother, a grandfather, a mother, a father, a community. … This is why Jesus said: ‘Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest,’ that is, God the Father, ‘to send out laborers into his harvest’ (Mt 9:38). Vocations are born in prayer and from prayer; and only through prayer can they persevere and bear fruit.”

— Regina Caeli message, Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 21, 2013


Donna Little downplayed her husband’s and her influence on son Ben’s vocation, saying there was nothing “magical” that she and Rob did as parents to encourage him, although they and others saw a possible vocation in him at an early age. They would talk to their son and gently ask if he ever thought of being priest, but “didn’t push.”

“We tried to keep a happy, Catholic home,” Donna said. “Mass and church activities were an important part of family life.”

Her advice to other parents is to pray for what is best for their children. And, “Love the faith, live your faith, and make sure your kids see it,” she said.

Father Little graduated from the University of Dallas, a Catholic institution in Irving, where his faith deepened, his parents said. He was ordained in 2012 and is pastor of St. Michael in Farmington.

Father Luke Marquard was almost 34 when he was ordained four years ago. He is pastor of Good Shepherd in Golden Valley. His parents, Steve and Mary, said they also made Sunday Mass a priority and tried to live their Catholic faith fully.

“As parents, we saw signs of Luke’s vocation sooner than he did, but felt it best to pray for him to see it in himself rather than push him into the decision,” they said.

Steve has this advice for parents: “We need to simply present the vocation to priesthood as a real choice that is there for the right young man to discern,” he said. “We can explain the concept of vocation well and demonstrate how prayer is a vital part of hearing God’s call. Then, pray as a parent for your child to be open to God’s call, and be praying for yourself to be open to whatever that may be. Be prepared to give your child back to God, which is both a challenge and a gift to any Catholic parent.”

“A son’s decision to enter the priesthood is not about us as parents,” Mary added. “So often, we have heard people wanting to give us the credit for ‘raising a priest.’ The best thing we can do is to pray for our children, from the moment of conception, that they will have hearts that will be open to hearing God directing them throughout their lives, and that they will be able to love as Jesus loved.”

Priestly vocations come from many different families and situations, explained Father David Blume, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“Ideally, parents will be open to whatever vocation God may call their children to pursue,” he said. “If they are, that message will come through in many different ways, and children will pick up on that. It is helpful to give a word of encouragement that our life is to be lived for God, and the closer we are to God’s plan, the happier we will be.”

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