Local clergy, religious say prayer, conversations aided in discernment

| November 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Catholic Spirit asked the following clergy and consecrated religious to share a part of their discernment process, what brings them joy in their vocation and their advice for others considering a religious vocation. Their responses were edited for clarity.

Father Alex Carlson

Father Alex Carlson, 34
Pastor of St. John the Baptist, Excelsior
Ordained in 2010

What prompted you to consider becoming a priest?
The example of all the priests that served at the parishes I attended over the years. Be it as a kid or in high school, it seemed like every priest truly was doing something he loved, and that was conveyed through their living out of their vocation.

What did your discernment look like?
I discerned entering the seminary out of high school, but I decided to go to Bemidji State University. During my freshman year, I felt God calling me to go to St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul. While both at SJV and the St. Paul Seminary, I continued to discern diocesan priesthood, and God continued to call me toward the priesthood, with me eventually saying yes.

What gives you joy in your vocation?
I receive great joy in helping people encounter God, most especially through the sacraments of the Eucharist and confession. I also have great joy in seeing people grow in their faith and being a small help on their spiritual journey.

What advice do you have for others discerning a religious vocation?
Obviously pray — that is the most important thing. Also, talk to other people about it. One of the greatest helps of my discernment was talking to friends about what I was thinking. They always had great advice and helped me see things I could not see myself.

Deacon Tom Michaud

Deacon Tom Michaud Jr., 45
Divine Mercy, Faribault
Ordained in 2010

What prompted you to consider becoming a deacon?
As I started to return to the Catholic Church, I learned my faith, got my questions answered and went on retreats. I fell in love with Jesus and his Church, but I never thought of becoming a deacon; I had other plans for my life. So, the quick answer is, the Holy Spirit prompted me. Once I felt the call, I discerned for two and a half years.

What did your discernment look like?
For the first year of my discernment, I prayed, I read everything I could about the diaconate, and talked with deacons about the program and asked them what they did as a deacon. I then told my wife what I felt called to do. Her response was, “I was wondering when you were going to tell me.” We then talked and prayed about this for the next year.

What gives you joy in your vocation?
So many things: knowing that this is God’s will and I am just responding to it. When I am in the prisons, hospitals, Extreme Faith Camp, Steubenville retreats at St. Thomas or in Rochester, being on the altar proclaiming the Gospel and giving homilies. This is just a small list of what gives me joy in my vocation.

What advice do you have for others discerning a religious vocation?
Pray. If you are married, talk with your wife, pray with your wife while you are discerning, talk with as many deacons as you can, read about it, go to the inquiry sessions that we have throughout the year, go to a deacon ordination, and if you have children, talk with them about it. The Institute for Diaconate Formation in St. Paul is also a good resource.

Brother Conrad Richardson

Brother Conrad Richardson, 44
Franciscan Brothers of Peace, St. Paul
Final vows in 1998

What prompted you to consider becoming a religious brother?
Initially, I felt called to the diocesan priesthood, but early in my discernment I had opportunities to volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity and the Franciscans, and I was attracted to their communal life of prayer, fraternity and service to the poorest of the poor. I began discovering that Jesus was calling me to follow him unreservedly through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience with brothers who lived, prayed and served together.

What did your discernment look like?
By way of our Lord’s divine mercy, I had rediscovered my faith in a powerful way and in turn discovered my vocation as a religious brother. Along the way, God provided me with many guides to assist me in working through the various highs and lows that come when discerning God’s will for your life. It was a particular blessing to have lived in a house of discernment for a year in the Archdiocese of Denver, where I’m from. After reaching out to and visiting three different Franciscan communities, I had the greatest sense of belonging with the Franciscan Brothers of Peace.

What gives you joy in your vocation?
Including my initial formation of postulancy, novitiate, first vows and perpetual vows, I have been in religious life for over 20 years. With certainty, I can say that ultimately no other way of life could bring me more joy and fulfillment than the one I live now. Have there been challenges? You bet! Have I ever doubted my vocation? Uh-huh! The blessed assurance that I receive from God when I surrender myself to him with repentance and trust sustains my joy of knowing that I am right where I am supposed to be. On top of all that, my brothers and I have an absolute blast together, and when we are able to share the love of Jesus with others, especially those most in need, nothing else beats it.

What advice do you have for others discerning a religious vocation?
The most frequent command in the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.” St. John Paul II echoed those words of Christ so many times during his pontificate. It is not necessary to have absolute certainty that you have a calling to the religious life in order to have a genuine vocation. A curiosity may be enough to see whether you are called. The best way to have greater certainty is to visit religious communities in person, as well as your diocesan vocations office. The internet is a good start, but it will fall short without personal contact. Even if you were to formally enter a community as a postulant, you do not take perpetual vows for a number of years into religious life. The postulancy and novitiate periods are considered times of ongoing discernment, and a person is free to leave at any point if they feel God calling them elsewhere. “Do not be afraid.”

Sister Magdalena Dudenhoeffer

Sister Magdalena Dudenhoeffer, 28
Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia
Fifth-grade teacher at St. Croix Catholic School, Stillwater
Final vows in 2015

What prompted you to consider becoming a religious sister?
I had an experience as a 5-year-old during Mass in which I felt a call from the Lord. That moment left a deep impression in my soul and thoughts of a religious vocation remained in my mind and grew in intensity. My parents always presented religious life in a positive light.

What did your discernment look like?
I visited and communicated with multiple orders from eighth grade through high school. I felt the beauty of each order, but none felt like the place that God wanted me to stay. When I visited the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, I felt immediately that I was coming home.

What gives you joy in your vocation?
What gives me the most joy is belonging to Jesus as his bride. I also find so much joy in my students and in seeing the Lord reflected in their hearts.

What advice do you have for others discerning a religious vocation?
To trust Jesus with everything. He has the plan for your vocation and your happiness — let him reveal it to you. If you are open to his grace and deepening your relationship with the Lord, he will show you the path and lead you to holiness and joy.


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Category: Featured, Vocations