Promoting Vocations Within the Family {Talk Notes}

Following are notes for my portion of the talk that my husband Joseph & I will give to the “Wake Up the World: The Joy of Consecrated Life” conference in Peoria September 19.  Surprisingly, I am recommending a lot of books (ha), and so this post helps people recall the books without having to take copious notes.  Also, for those who are not able to attend but might care to see.

Joseph & I have discussed about the division of labor for this presentation, and I’m really looking forward to what he has to say.  He’s a much more experienced speaker than I, so part of me is also hoping to get my notes down here in a slightly more “polished” way so that I will be slightly more “polished” than normal for me.

I’d love to hear your book suggestions on this topic, as well as any other ideas you have on this.  The survey I reference very briefly below (I hope to do a longer post about it when time permits) reflects many perspectives, and I was so grateful for all those voices.  If you are interested in taking the survey I reference, let me know in the comments and I will send you the link.


Quite a few months ago, a religious sister we know well asked my husband Joseph & I to give a talk at a vocations conference.  We were honored, but also felt un-equipped to speak on the official topic, “Promoting Vocations in the Family.”  After all, we only have two teens and a tween at our house. But Sister Sarah reassured me, (and I quote), “I have full faith and confidence in you.” So I’m hanging my hat on that.

We are each going to take different elements of “promoting vocations within the family.” We heartily believe that each of our children has a vocation—it may be to the priesthood, or religious life, or marriage. Helping them understand and discover that vocation, and being open themselves and being open to their journey, is a chief goal of parenting.

Here’s what I plan to cover:

*FAMILY AFFAIR:  how forming your family in faith, as individuals and as a family, is super unique, and there’s no formula to.  Related to that is that no family is perfect, and bickering and differences are  completely normal.  At least I hope so. 🙂

*BOOKS, BOOKS, and more BOOKS.  How books, and individual stories, can help anyone, young person, adult, or others, understand a little of how someone experiences a vocation to consecrated life, and how families and faith communities can be open and supportive of those journeys, wherever they lead.

*FINALLY, the MYSTERY of VOCATION.  I’ll share some thoughts from those who live out a vocation in religious life or the priesthood, and a survey I sent out to them and how it reflects on this mystery. We’ll also reflect on how we are ALL called to VOCATION, and how that will look for each person is very different.

I hope to expand on my notes for each category in either future posts or updating the posts, but right now here are just the highlights and chiefly, book links to my prior reviews, of the books mentioned.


*forming children in the faith

*looks different for every family: “Prayer is as individual as a fingerprint.”

*what works best for your family? Is it family Rosary? Night Prayer? Mass together? Separate?

*do what works best for your family.

*don’t be afraid to abandon what doesn’t work, or no longer works in this season, or to try new things.

Scripture from Night Prayer, Saturday night:

from Deuteronomy 6:4-7

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

2.  BOOKS, BOOKS, and more BOOKS

Yes, God!: What Ordinary Families Can Learn about Parenting from Today’s Vocation Stories by Susie Lloyd.

Here is my review. A quote from that:

“Each chapter of Yes, God! Susie Lloyd profiles one of ten priests and religious from families, large, small and in-between; broken, barely intact and robustly healthy. The book shares how each family shaped in some way each person’s vocation path, and what makes it unique.

Is there any similarity between the families, a formula that guarantees kids who grow up happy and whole, much less following a vocation? No, and that’s what makes Yes, God! so fascinating. The stories of five men and five women who followed religious vocations is fingerprint-personal to each of those featured.

Tolstoy (yes, in Anna Karenina) famously wrote that “all happy families are alike, and each unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.”  But as I wrote in a college paper way back, I think he got it backwards. There are myriad ways to be happy and therefore holy.

Look at the saints. Aren’t you grateful there isn’t just one kind of saint or path to holiness? Most of us would be doomed, and I am grateful to hold dear the saints who most speak to my life and spiritual gifts. Yes, God! offers that kind of variety.

At the end of each biographical sketch/chapter, Lloyd offers a reflection of “Saying Yes,” to different virtues that informed the person’s path. For instance, “saying yes to patience,” “saying yes to strength,” and her own thoughts on how this quality helped the person say yes to God’s invitation, and how readers might adopt that virtue. She offers some interesting and quirky reflections from her own family, and offers a peek into the mystery of a vocation.”

Reflections from Rome: Practical Thoughts on Faith and Family by (local author) Monsignor Richard Soseman.

Here is my review: “Tapas for the Soul.” A quote from it:

“The reflections in the book are both realistic (as fits a rural Illinois native) and intelligent (as Monsignor’s many degrees attest, including canon law and Spanish, which is why I know Monsignor won’t mind me comparing his book to tapas).

The reflections are not written to talk “down” to people, but rather build them up. He offers such a wide variety of teaching, Catholic varia about the saints or some point of doctrine, and simple wisdom that he makes it look easy.”

And here is a Q&A with Monsignor Soseman, an old friend of our family.

The Grace to Race: The Wisdom and Inspiration of the 80-Year-Old World Champion Triathlete Known as the Iron Nun by Sister Madonna Buder.

Here is my review,  and here is a Q&A with Sister Madonna.  The book is really strongest talking about how she came to know her vocation, as well as out she lived it out over the years. A quote from my review:

“Sister Madonna’s book is part fine spiritual autobiography, part triathlete war stories, and throughout, true inspiration to the rest of us to really “reach” for more in our spiritual and physical lives.

Born to a life of privilege in St. Louis, Sister Madonna Buder considers a vocation from her early years, but still dates and immerses herself in an active, happy family life. Her decision time approaches as she reflects during a summer trip to Europe:

“Once safely on the train coursing along the scenic Rhine, I began to collect my thoughts. My Irishman! Monsignor Doheny! My European adventures! The past, the present, the future! What was God really asking of me? Then, from the depths of my soul, came an interior voice, ‘Can any one man satisfy you when I alone dwell in the deepest recesses of your heart?’ The message was seeping in just as surely as the waters flowed along the banks of the Rhine. My true longing was becoming clear.”

He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.

Here’s a review from the Lent Book Series, “A Lesson in Letting Go.”

The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows by Mother Dolores Hart.

Here is my review (where I said she was much more interesting than another top book from that time, Lean In).  An excerpt from that review:

The Ear of the Heart offers space for pondering and reflection, no matter your age or life path, on living life fully and intentionally, on spiritual friendship, and on maturity.

Like all good spiritual autobiographies, The Ear of the Heart really takes off once the vocation begins. Struggles with early doubts, times of desolation, community struggles and more, make for fascinating reading.”

Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen

A Priest Forever: The Life of Eugene Hamilton

The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, Soldier and Korean War Hero

I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You: My Life and Pastimes

What other books do you recommend for learning about how vocation to religious life or the priesthood happens?


*my survey of several dozen: priest, religious, or lay people who had spent time in seminary or a convent, discerning a vocation.  Inspired by Susie Lloyd’s book, but more focused on how to foster an openness to vocation, whatever that means.

*questions included how supportive/surprised/ unsupportive was their family and/ or faith community, how the family can foster and support young people discerning what God wants from them, and how lay people can support those in consecrated life and priesthood. So many of the survey respondents were generous with their time and sharing their vocation stories and thoughts about this.  I hope to do a longer posts with more of their beautiful words.

*some common themes:


-family members varied in their support, surprise (maybe parents supported, but siblings did not, or everyone surprised, except the dad)

-pursue holiness as individuals, as families

-be comfortable with religious and priests–invite into your home, visit their monasteries, etc. natural relationships

-pray for religious and priests

-recognize “the consecration of the baptized” & the universal call to holiness

-ongoing dialogue about vocation, whether religious life, priesthood, marriage

-openness to whatever God wants

-everyone in a community can be a support to vocation, not just the parents or siblings

-an active, dynamic relationship with Jesus

One thought on “Promoting Vocations Within the Family {Talk Notes}”

  1. I can also recommend the book “A Priest in the Family” by Fr. Mark Brennan. We received this after Matt was accepted to the seminary, but it would be most helpful as soon as one’s son mentioned a potential calling toward the vocation. Excellent tips for situations, discussions, the entire process, etc…It was very helpful.

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