A Vocation Story
“It can be confusing”, is usually my go-to response whenever I’m asked what it’s like to discern if God is calling you to the priesthood or religious life. It can be a difficult feeling to describe – and often one can feel a great uneasiness and uncertainty – but there is a small feeling of knowing that this discernment of God’s call is something that you are not doing alone. It requires a journey, with God, to figure out where God is calling you.
I initially felt the desire to become a priest at the age of 14, and of course when I shared this news with people, the response varied. Some will support you, others may mock you, and others will question the certainty of your decision. I got the best advice from a young priest who simply told me that I was too young and should take my time in discerning God’s call in my life. And that is exactly what I did throughout my High School career.
After High School, I went on to peruse further studies at the University of the Western Cape. I studied nursing, and graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. All this time on campus I was still taking my time discerning my call to the priesthood, but also becoming involved in various ministries in my parish. I was a youth leader for some time, and co-ordinator for the Altar Servers. I was also immensely fortunate to have Fr Michael van Heerden as my parish priest during this time. He has been, and still is, a constant presence within my vocation.
After varsity, I did my compulsory service at Groote Schuur Hospital, where I worked in the Emergency Department as well as the Intensive Care Department. I remember leaving the hospital one day with the thought, “I wonder what my day would be like if I was a priest”. It was then that I started attending the discernment classes offered by the Archdiocese. I also recall working the night shift and driving home to shower, eat some breakfast and drive back to town to attend the classes. These sessions had some good coffee and were interesting enough that I didn’t fall asleep during them.
After many years of discernment, attending discernment classes, and many conversations with various priests and religious – and also a new job at a private hospital – I applied for the seminary. And as the saying goes, the rest is history.
My advice to anyone discerning whether God is calling them to the priesthood or religious life is simply to allow God to work in you and through you. This is done by developing a deep prayer life, becoming involved in your parish, joining a ministry, but also finding a priest or religious that you can talk to. I’ve spoken to many priests and religious, and if I were to name them all it would take up most of this article. I still talk to these priests and religious today, because they have and still are providing invaluable support on my vocation journey.
My final piece of advice is not to panic. Yes, it can be confusing, but we have all been there. You need to develop trust in God and you need to say (and deeply believe) “Lord, your will be done and not mine”. You don’t have to know everything – what fun will there be if you know which way God is going to take you? Trust God.
I am still discerning my call to the priesthood, but I have an excellent support system – from my family, who have been there at the highest times but also the lowest, from my parish family, friends, brother seminarians, priests and religious, and of course my Archdiocese. The people of the Archdiocese have been the greatest support in my journey thus far.
So there you have it, a vocation story. So, to anyone who is discerning God’s call to the priesthood or religious life I have one question: “What will be your vocation story?”