Written by Keith Strohm
No, I'm not talking about a Public-Works-type charity job! Nor am I talking about spending more time within the walls of the parish in a paid position (do those exist?). If, as members of the Body of Christ, we really are stewards of each others' vocations, then our communities should focus a great deal of their efforts on not only forming laypeople for our mission in the world, but also helping us discover our specific vocation and providing opportunities for us to connect with jobs in the secular world that allow us to live out that vocation.
Imagine, if you will, a multi-disciplinary formation program that includes gifts discernment, linked to a vocational discernment process, which in turn connects to a comprehensive Vocation Placement Center--all located within the parish community. What do I mean?
As a lay member of the Body of Christ, I should receive formation regarding the dignity, juridiction, power, and authority of the Lay Office in the mission of the Church. My home community should be a place whereby I can, in conjunction with the community, discern and discover my own giftedness, as well as discover a better sense of the personal call God has given me to labor in the world on His behalf. Let's say I belong to a parish that provides me with such things--what happens next? How can I utilize what I have discerned and discovered in a practical way so that I can actually undertake my mission in the world?
The parish consists of hundreds (if not thousands) of lay people with varying degrees and types of secular competence. With the exception of maybe a handful of priests, deacons, and pastoral staff, our primary call is to live and work in the world. It's what we do. Therefore, as good stewards of the mission of the Church and the vocation of its members, we should 'deploy' our secular competence to help connect lay people with work consistent with the call God has given us to be in the world.
One such form that this 'deployment' could take is a Vocational Placement Center--which could include an up-to-date database listing open jobs in the local community, a resume and gifts database of parish members, interview skills and resume writing workshops, referral services, mentors for young adults beginning their preparations for secular service in the world, and a fairly comprehensive web of networking, just to name a few things off the top of my head. The goal of these Centers wouldn't simply be to find jobs for those who desparately need one. Rather, they would be holistic services designed to connect the gifts, talents, competence, and call of individuals to secular positions within the world in an effort to help those individuals respond to Christ's call of evangelization and transformation of the world!
We are the business owners and business leaders, the non-profit employees and directors, the welders and plumbers, and workers within our secular communities. If we pooled our experience, talent, and contacts together at the parish level, there is no telling what could happen. Imagine a cadre of fully formed, Spirit-led and Sacrament-nourished lay apostles connected to the jobs that best utilize their gifts and best express the vocation that God has called them to. How much more would we as parishes, as the Church inserted into the neighborhood, be fruitfully living out our call to "transform society's structures . . .(and) restore to creation all of its original dignity? (Christifideles Laici)
What would it take to make such a thing happen?
Keith et all:
One of our Called & Gifted teachers, Mary Sharon Moore, is actually starting an interesting parish-based initiative in this area called Awakening Vocations. Her website is http://www.awakeningvocations.com/. Check it out!.