Posted by: L. E. Barnes | October 14, 2009

Seeking and Teaching

The community college where I teach just had its fall break. Taking advantage of the few days off, I arranged to fly to Chicago to visit the headquarters of the Society of the Divine Word, a Catholic order dedicated primarily to missionary work. I’ve been “discerning a vocation” (i.e., considering the priesthood) since entering the Catholic Church. The diocesan priesthood has never appealed to me, so I have looked into several religious orders, the Society of the Divine Word being one of them. Reading information in a brochure or on a website, while useful as a starting point for checking out a religious order, is never as good as actually meeting with priests, brothers, and seminary students to learn about their life and work.

The weather forecast that I read online for Chicago said that it would be in the 50’s on Saturday and in the upper 40’s on Sunday. Well, Mother Nature had other plans. It dropped into the 30’s, and I had only brought a light jacket. Fortunately, the only time I had to spend outside was to walk between buildings, so the cold turned out not to be much of an issue.

I had communicated with an SVD (the initials for the Society) vocations director via email and phone over the last couple of months, and he made the arrangements for me to travel to Chicago. And SVD paid for the trip, by the way. I’ll admit that in the days just before my trip, I was thinking I had perhaps made a mistake by agreeing to go up there. Was missionary work really right for me? Would it be better for me to pursue a vocation that would let me stay here in the US? However, my visit turned out to be enjoyable; furthermore, after learning more about SVD and the broad range of places and types of work I could become involved in, I have decided to give them serious consideration. The vocations director, a priest originally from Vietnam, showed me and another fellow, a high school English teacher from South Dakota, around the SVD headquarters on Saturday. They have a beautiful complex, with a large church, retreat/conference center, novitiate building, and a residency for the retired priests, all in a picturesque, parklike campus with a pond, picnic areas, and tennis and basketball courts. On Sunday we drove over to SVD’s student house near Chicago Theological Union. I got a quick tour of the seminary and had dinner with some of the students. Afterward the vocations director interviewed me privately and gave me applications to SVD and the seminary. I told him I planned to make a decision by spring.

I had to be up at 5 AM on Friday to give us enough time for the drive to the airport and then for me to check in once I got there. Aside from a little turbulence on the return flights, the trip home went smoothly.

In the meanwhile, I’ll just keep seeking God’s guidance, as well as teaching English.

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