Pat O'Keeffe

 

 

A brother's story: the Vocations Director

As a friar I've been engaged in all sorts of different ministries: youth worker, sports teacher, parish priest, retreat-giver, and prior of a community. For me the ministry of Vocations Director is a delight. It's a privilege to be alongside people like you who are asking big questions in their lives. It enables me to be in regular contact with other members of the Carmelite Province who welcome prospective novices into their communities for a short while.

Each of us through our own ministries and social lives interact with a large number of people. So through the members of each of our communities, I am able to reach out to a very large number of seriously committed Catholic Christians. Perhaps that last phrase needs to be enlarged upon. There are many Catholics who seriously, one way or another, wish to commit themselves to God, but perhaps do not know how to go about it. Am I called? To what am I called? Is God inviting me to follow Christ as a member of a religious order, as a priest or brother, as a single lay man or as a married person? The invitation "come follow me" was indeed given to everyone by Christ. But just as the disciples did not know what was in store for them, neither do we. Where is Christ leading us? I don't know. The future is not clear. It is however very clear that we are invited to bring about the reign of God on earth; to be other Christs. But how?

The radical call of the Gospel demands that by word and action we live firstly as the prophet Elijah did, in a manner brought to perfection in Christ, namely, in solidarity with the poor and the forgotten, defending those who endure violence and injustice. As the late Archbishop Oscar Romero put it in one of his homilies in April 1978: "it is not enough to wear the religious habit or to say that I am a Catholic to gain God's approval … our commitment obliges us to go out to meet the poor wounded person on the road." A month earlier he stated that religion is not praying a great deal but rather how do I act toward the poor?

If you are convinced that the Gospel - the Good News - is not about pious platitudes or uncommitted generalization but rather about living - as the early Carmelites did - as pilgrims, "people whose conversion took them to the periphery of society and the church" (John Welch, O.Carm.), then maybe God is calling you to be a Carmelite friar. It would be good to hear from you. Please feel free to make contact with me.