Who am I? What am I doing here?
By Walter Pruchnik, Guest Commentary
You may have seen me sitting in the Pilot House Campus Ministry office and asked these questions. Thank you to all who have come in and said, "Hi" and welcomed me to the UP community. Since I haven't met everyone yet, please let me introduce myself. I'm Walter, and I'm a novice in the Congregation of Holy Cross. Being a novice is one of the early steps toward becoming a Holy Cross priest. For the past six months, I have been living a simple, quiet life focused on deepening my relationship with God, growing in knowledge of myself, and apprenticing in religious life in Holy Cross. To help us better know whether God is calling us to take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Holy Cross novices spend a month of our year-long novitiate program living and working in a Holy Cross community engaged in active ministry, and I've been sent here to UP. In short, I'm trying to discern whether I have a vocation to religious life as a priest in Holy Cross.
Vocation comes from the Latin verb vocare "to call." When most people hear the word "vocation" they think of a vocation as the call from God to be a priest, brother or sister. That's not the whole story though. Everyone has a vocation: "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you...plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope" (Jer 29:11). Vocation, properly understood, is expansive and all-encompassing in our lives. It is not limited merely to questions of major, career or relationship, as though they are separate entities. It is the deepest level answer to the questions: "Who am I?" and "What am I doing here?" or "What is my life all about?" When each of us finds the unique answer to these questions, we find ourselves most fully alive, joyful, and hope-filled.
Discernment is how we can find this joyous fulfillment for which God has created us. Discernment comes from the Latin verb discernere "to separate, distinguish." Thus, discernment is not so much making a decision as it is separating the weeds from the wheat to recognize the truth of our lives. Our entire lives are a process of discernment and growth in the vocation God has given us, and it is often very challenging, especially during times of growth, preparation, or transition-like college. As students, you face choices every day about your major; relationships; and internship, service, and job opportunities. While all these questions are important, they do not define you. Rather, they reflect your discernment of your true vocation.
Even once you discern your vocation, life will not be easy; just think about the challenges the apostles faced. The motto of the Congregation of Holy Cross, "Hail the Cross, our only hope," tells us that we must persevere through the crosses of our vocation in order to have the hope which follows. Here on the Bluff, there are many resources to help you discern and face those challenges, whether you are Catholic, practice another faith tradition or are of no faith at all. Campus Ministry, your dorm's pastoral resident and all the Holy Cross priests and brothers are available to help you discern your vocation. Fr. Jeff Cooper, CSC even periodically teaches a class on discernment. Finally, the Health Center and Freshman Resource Center have professionals who can help you grow in healthy and holistic knowledge of yourself. Take advantage of these opportunities to find out who you are and to build a future of hope.
Walter Pruchnik III, CSC, is a Novice with the Congregation of Holy Cross and can be reached at Pruchnik@up.edu.