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Contuining the theme of the previous post, vocations, a piece from Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-Saint Joseph. A few key phrases in bold.
In my first months as bishop of the diocese I said Vocations were a “Super Priority.” While we have had a meaningful increase in vocations to priesthood, the diaconate, and some new vocations to consecrated life, I still offer this intention for more vocations to priesthood and Consecrated Life with fervor in my daily prayer. I hope you do also.
We are reaching the midpoint of the Year for Priests, inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI last June. How proud I am of our priests who do so much for you, God’s people. Still, they need more help, particularly as the pastoral needs seem always to increase. This year, please God, we will ordain four new priests; and it remains possible that in 2012 we could celebrate the ordination of eight or nine new priests at once. I haven’t figured out how we will get everyone in the Cathedral; a pleasing dilemma!
Am I greedy to suggest that we need more priests? I believe that God is calling more men to this wonderful vocation, and we have to listen carefully and prepare well so that your sons can hear and answer that call.
What kind of life awaits the priest? To be sure, there are many joys, and also challenges. The priest is helped by God to give himself to many people. He shares in the greatest joys of people’s lives and is with them in times of hardship and sorrow. He is a pastor, a shepherd, a teacher, and spiritual father. He stands in the place of Jesus Christ, particularly in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
How does a man discern a possible vocation to priesthood? The healthy man (healthy in body, mind and soul), as he matures, wants to give himself in an honest and generous way. It is important and normal that he sees the beauty of marriage, and its central meaning and purpose in society. At the same time, he realizes he has a spiritual dimension to his life and he wants to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and follow God’s call wherever it may take him. He works hard at every task before him, and finds joy in generously reaching out to others. He studies with zeal. He prays. He establishes caring friendships, and determines to live a moral life, growing in the frequent reception of the sacraments, particularly of Confession and Holy Eucharist.
As a man experiences this spiritual depth to his life, he does not seek a vocation that makes him materially rich or famous. Instead, having realized something of the cost and demands of authentic human love, he is ready to trust God and give himself to others out of love for God. He realizes that the Father in heaven has loved him a lot, and the awareness of this love and mercy makes him want to follow God’s plan in his life. Our seminarians are responding to this vocation to the priesthood. Our priests are living this out with dedication. Keep praying for them to persevere.
The role and support of parents is very important to those who are discerning God’s call. Your sons (and daughters) look up to you for approval. They should. Your love for them is unconditional and unselfish. I do not suggest that you should urge your sons to go to seminary, but pray for them, that they do whatever God wants for them. Support them in their search. I pledge once again to our parents that if we receive their sons as our seminarians we will do all in our power to see they get good formation.
Over the course of my priesthood, I have also had occasion to meet many outstanding men and women Religious. I was taught by and have worked closely with several Orders of Religious Women. There is a real renewal taking place in these vocations today. I have established an office for Consecrated Life, and we stand ready to direct young women and men who may be drawn to Religious life as priests, sisters or brothers.
Our Vocation Director, Fr. Richard Rocha, and the Director of our Office of Consecrated Life, Sr. Connie Boulch, will be pleased to receive your call (816-756-1850) or go to our diocesan website http://www.diocese-kcsj.org and look for the Vocations tab. Let us never cease to do as Jesus urged us: “Beg the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers for His harvest.” (Lk 10:2)
Don’t forget the Support Our Seminarians (S.O.S.) Dinner Auction coming up Friday, January 29, 2010. Your participation and/or donations are greatly appreciated. For information, call the vocation office at 816-756-1850.
On 23 January 2010 Bishop van den Hende will ordain Steven de Koning to the priesthood. Steven de Koning looks back at his vocation as a late answer to an early vocation.
As priest he wants to be a mediator of faith and faith experiences and be near to people with questions on their path through life. He clarifies: “In our time many people have lost their awe for Holiness. Throughs, through sacraments, conversation and also silence I want to give room to the Holy in their life, let it speak. In silence we can experience that questions are not always answered and that can hurt. The pain and the unanswered questions invite us to be part of life.” Steven de Koning also experienced that pain and those questions in his own life. “My youngest brother has become a widower twice. Both his first and second wife died young. That makes you ask why.”
My work as a lawyer for the government assumed a makeable world, but in moments like that you find that we don’t know so much, that life is a mystery. I see life more as a gift from God. Life is filled with God’s presence and He invites us to enter into a relationship with Him. That awreness has become more profound throughout my life and has led to my late answer. I have long wondered if I had a vocation. Wasn’t it just a psychological urge? At a certain point I dared to trust that presence of God and His calling.”
Steven comes from a Catholic family from Breda. He ws born in 1953. At twelve years of age he had his first experience of a vocation. “My father’s family included several religious, among them a Marist father. At twelve I had a certain interest for the priesthood. An ‘ambassador’ from the Marists came to visit, and it turned out I was to go to the seminary in Lievelde. That scared me away.” In that time too, society had many questions about mandatory celibacy and the future of the priesthood. That made the choice for priesthood more difficult. He postponed the decision and postponement turned into cancellation. Steven de Koning went to studt law and had a good career as a lawyer with the Departments of Culture, Recreation and Social Work, as well as Justice.
Steven de Koning always felt close to the Church. He freely admits that, as a student, he didn’t go to Church weekly. In The Hague, the self-evidence of the Catholic faith was broken. “I came in contact with Protestants and andere religions. The urge for development in my own faith grew because of that. I became a volunteer in my own parish, took part in catechetical groups, first as participant, later as group leader. In the mid-1990s my employer gave me a chance to reorient myself, because of internal reorganisations. That awake the dormant desire to be a priest. Around 2000 I had various indications that God really did call me.
God still calls
A Protestant friend gave me a novena candle. I lit it at Ascension. In my parish at Pentecost that year, I picked up a copy of the diocesan magazine of Rotterdam, which had an article entitled God still calls. It was about men who were called to be priests at a later age. That deeply touched me. I went to find out the origins of the novena candle and ended up in the Vredeskerk in Amsterdam. The priest of that parish invited me to take part in a discussion group about vocations, which he had just created. That was for me a safe place, far away from The Hague, to think about my answer,” Steven smiles. “After a year I decided to study theology at the Catholic Theological University in Utrecht. I had a great time studying there and still have many friends from there.”
Coming to Breda
In 2002 Steven de Koning left The Hague and moved to Nijmegen. His youngest brother had become a widower and Steven would be taking care for his three young children. Steven continued his studies and became actief in the Heilig Landstichting parish. The priest there heard of his vocation and encouraged him to get in touch with Bishop Muskens. A meeting with the bishop led to a “heartfelt welcome as seminarian for the diocese”. Steven contacts then-recot Ham. He was admitted to the seminary Bovendonk where he continued his studies in 2005.
Steven felt at home at Bovendonk and speaks with much appreciation about Rector Ham and the other teachers. “They and Rector Ham especially made it clear to me that studying theology is not the some as becoming a priest. A re-experienced my vocation and strengthened my answer. I increasignyl experience it as a surrender and want to witness more to my faith.”
Steven de Koning works in the region of Oost-Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. After his ordination he’ll continue to the first responsible for Clinge, Graauw and Nieuw-Namen. On 24 January 2010, at 10:30, he will celebrate his first Holy Mass in the basilica of St. Willibrord in Hulst.