by Steve Veneman | March 16, 2017
I was recently asked the question, what was your call like?
Even though I am still in formation as a candidate for the permanent diaconate, it is a question that I have had the joy of answering a number of times. Before I share my response with you, I thought it might be helpful to share what a call is, for those who might not know. This excerpt from a brochure titled “Is God Calling You to Be a Permanent Deacon,” by the Diocese of Yakima, provides a good description.
As Catholics, we believe that the call to religious life is a call from God. In the case of the diaconate, the call is both a call from God to serve and a call from the community of faith, which is to be served.
This call does not come to the individual alone, nor for his own sake. It is not a right but rather a call affirmed and recognized by his community of faith. Anyone who hears such a call must have the gift validated by the Church.
The call to religious life is a deeply personal and spiritual encounter. Therefore, this is my own personal experience. I share it, hoping that it will help you understand what it is like to discern a call and perhaps to help you discern your own calling.
It was toward the end of the summer and we had attended Mass on a warm, sunny, Sunday morning. I picked up a bulletin on the way out of church, as I often did. On this particular Sunday, there was a brochure in the bulletin. Our diocese was announcing a new Permanent Deacon Formation Program.
As I read the brochure, I had a sense that this was something I needed to do. However, what made it intriguing is that I had a limited understanding of the ministry of the deacon and the formation process to become one.
I brought the brochure home and put it on my desk. This wasn’t the first time the diaconate had crossed my mind. I first thought about the diaconate as I settled into my thirties. I had looked for information on our diocesan website, but there wasn’t much there. I had put the thought aside and forgot about it, until now.
As I continued to think about it, I knew this wasn’t just my decision. The choice to accept a call to the diaconate is something that a married couple does together. While I don’t remember the exact time or place that Sherri and I first discussed the diaconate, I remember her response. You would have thought that I had asked her to marry me again. Her response was reassuring and affirming.
I then met with our parish priest. My pastor and I discussed the diaconate, the application process, and the importance of discernment. He suggested that I print out the application, put it on my nightstand, but not to read it or go through it. He encouraged me to pray about it each night before going to bed and each morning before I woke up.
Since I entered the formation program, I have also been asked if this was something I wanted to do. For me, it has never felt like a want or strong desire, at least not in the sense of wanting a new bike, wanting to be captain of the swim team, wanting to do well on a test, or wanting to be promoted at work. In contrast, this felt different from the typical feelings associated with want or desire. As I continued to discern my call, I would suggest that it felt more like something that I was compelled to do. Yes, like someone (God) was calling me to do.
That doesn’t mean that I haven’t looked forward with anticipation to being a deacon. I certainly have. I have also experienced great joy throughout the formation program and have felt joyful about the idea of being Ordained. However, these feelings are always balanced with the understanding that this is a call, not a right. Most importantly, I am humbled by an understanding that I am not doing this for me, I am doing this for Him.
I was called to the permanent diaconate program in September of 2012, and I have been discerning my call ever since. While I still don’t know if I am called to be a deacon, my life has been forever changed, and the journey which began with me picking up a bulletin after Mass on a warm, sunny, Sunday morning, has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
This blog post was contributed by Steven Veneman, Parish of the Resurrection, Nashua, NH