"My life is a gift given to me by God, and He has a plan for it"
By Deacon Greg Kandra
OCTOBER 5, 2007 (http://deacbench.blogspot.com) - Thinking about dedicating your life to God as a priest or nun?
The Columbus Dispatch, in Ohio, decided to profile a few people who are weighing that question, as part of a series. And the first installment was published Friday:
Adam Boyden was once a casual Catholic who loved to party. Now, his life is focused on God.
Not long ago, the Lancaster native was smitten with a girl he hung out with at Ohio University, where he was a physical-education major. Now, he's studying to be a priest.
Boyden, 23, is a senior philosophy major at the Pontifical College Josephinum on the Far North Side. In five years, if he chooses, he will devote his life to God.
It's no small decision. Boyden and other young people going through the process of discerning -- figuring out what God calls them to be -- say the journey is full of uncertainty.
They struggle with the difference between what they want and what God wants for them. They often face parents who don't understand why they'd give up high-paying jobs and children, and friends who can't believe they'd give up sex.
Still, these young Catholics have a fervent desire to figure out God's call and then answer it. Discernment is not a formal process, but a personal exploration of where they can best serve God. Young Catholics do this through prayer, researching the different choices and trying to stay open-minded.
"My life is not mine," Boyden said. "It is a gift given to me by God, and He has a plan for it."
The Catholic Church needs young people to enter the priesthood. The U.S. church has grown by nearly 19 million people since 1965, but there are 17,000 fewer priests, according to statistics collected by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
The numbers for religious sisters are even worse. There are about 64,000 now, compared with 180,000 four decades ago.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus needs 27 men ordained every eight years to keep the current number of active parish priests at 105, said the Rev. Jeff Coning, vocations director.
In the past eight years, the diocese has ordained only 16 new priests. It's a problem Coning attributes to myriad career options available to young Catholics and the lack of awareness many of them have about careers in the Catholic Church.
The diocese is trying to show teenagers the possibilities. Hundreds of high-school students meet monthly for Jesus Jams at St. Agatha Catholic Church in Upper Arlington, where they're told to seek out their call.
At gatherings dubbed "Andrew Dinners" and "Marian Dinners," young men and women who have shown an interest in religious careers dine with Bishop Frederick Campbell.
Despite ample encouragement from the church, young Catholics say it's a confusing and stressful process.
It's gotten to be too much for Teresa Kurth, 19, who is taking a break from trying to decide.
"It's confusing having people tell me, you'd be a great sister, you'd be a great mom," said Kurth, a freshman at Ohio Dominican University. Her youth minister is eager to find sisters, but her family would prefer that she marries, she said.
Kurth's mom, Katie, a preschool teacher, said she simply wants her daughter to become the person she's meant to be, whatever that is. But she doesn't want her making any decisions -- on a religious order or a husband -- at such a tender age.
"As a Catholic mother, I want my children to make their life decisions in a measured, long-term way," she said. "Those people who choose the religious life are very courageous. I don't think it's always an easy life."
For Kurth's roommate Maria DeMatte, 21, there is overwhelming beauty in being a religious sister and a Catholic wife and mother.
"I could see myself in both of them," she said.
Dating complicates things, said Barry Reinholz, 19, an Ohio Dominican sophomore from Hillsboro. He ended a four-year relationship last semester and is willing but hesitant to date again. He's been thinking about the priesthood for about three years but remains divided between that choice and marriage.
"I wouldn't want to hurt someone by having a really strong relationship and then saying, 'Now it's time for me to go'" to seminary, he said.
Reinholz isn't expecting "a voice to tell me -- ta-da! -- this is what you're going to do. Through my day-to-day life, God will show me."
There's much more at the link, so be sure and read the whole thing. And let's keep these kids in our prayers.
Photo: Adam Boyden, meditating with other seminarians at Pontifical College Josephinum. By Fred Squillante, Columbus Dispatch