When a school brings in a priest or sister to talk to students about vocations, powerful results can happen.
As with any situation involving an adult making a presentation to children, keeping the presentation age-appropriate is critical to its success. Each successive level of school brings with it an audience that’s more able to digest increasingly complex topics. It’s important for any presenter to keep in mind that the Internet age has ushered in a new cohort of students who, at all levels, have access to far more information than their peers of a generation ago.
There are sample vocations talks available for elementary, middle, and high school classes; they will be presented in the ‘additional resources’ section of this summary.
Please note: the vocations talks material in the Additional Resources section of this chapter is cross-referenced to the vocations videos in the Additional Resources section of the preceding chapter, ‘Video Resources on Religious Vocations for Different Ages.’ Familiarizing yourself with both chapters before using the materials in the Additional Resources sections is recommended.
The following are samples of vocations talks that could be given to students in elementary, middle, and high school. Talks are grouped by academic level. Please note: you will see in these talks a series of notations in brackets and all capital letters; these notations are not a part of the words spoken in the script – but serve as ‘stage directions’ for the speaker. For example, these will prompt the speaker to ask questions of the class to ensure understanding…or will prompt the speaker to hold up an item that they will have brought to the presentation with them. Please note that along with each talk comes a listing of vocations videos that can, at your option, be used alongside the talk in order to bolster your presentation. (For example, you might want to show a video before or after your talk.) The links for these videos can be found in the companion chapter, called Video Resources on Religious Vocations for Different Ages. The talks themselves begin below:
PLEASE NOTE: the presenter does not have to memorize or read from this script; they should feel free to put it in their own words, and, if desired, to add their own personal examples and stories. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: to go along with this talk, the following videos from the chapter, ‘Video Resources on Religious Vocations for Different Ages,’ may be used: Do You Wanna Be a Sister? and Why Become a Priest?
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: YOU WILL NEED A TELEPHONE (A CELL WILL WORK) AND A BIBLE FOR THIS TALK]
[AS YOU BEGIN, HOLD UP THE PHONE AND ASK THE STUDENTS:] Can anyone tell me what this is?
[WAIT FOR THE STUDENTS TO ANSWER; WHEN SOMEONE GETS IT RIGHT, PROCEED:] Good! It’s a phone. Now, let me ask you this: what does a person do with a phone? What do you do with it?
[WAIT FOR STUDENTS TO ANSWER; WHEN SOMEONE ANSWERS CORRECTLY WITH ‘CALL,’ THEN PROCEED FURTHER:] Right! People use phones to call other people. Now, think about this. Who might call you on the phone? And—what would they say to you?
[LISTEN FOR ANSWERS AGAIN FOR A MINUTE OR SO – THEN PROCEED:] Good. Now—do you ever call anyone? And if you do call them, what do you say?
[AGAIN INTERACT WITH THE STUDENTS AS THEY ANSWER; AFTER A MINUTE OR TWO OF THIS, PROCEED TO THE NEXT PART OF THE TALK:] Excellent answers, everyone. Thank you!
Now, you might not have thought of this before…but you know what? God calls us, too. He calls each of us, actually.
How does he get through to us, though? Does God call us on the phone?
[AGAIN INTERACT WITH STUDENTS AS THEY PROVIDE ANSWERS; THEN:] Okay…well, if God doesn’t call us on the phone, then how can we hear Him when he calls?
[FIELD THEIR ANSWERS FOR A MINUTE, AND THEN:] You know, God calls us in a lot of ways. He calls us through the sacraments—like Holy Communion and Reconciliation, which you guys all have all experienced—or will experience very soon.
He also calls us through other things. When we pray, sometimes God calls to us. He can truly ‘talk’ to us when we pray!
[HOLD UP THE BIBLE NOW]
God calls us through the Bible, too. He calls us through the scriptures—the things we read inside the Bible when we are at Mass…or in the classroom…or at home…or other places.
But that’s not all the ways He can call us. God can call to us through other people. Think of the Bible again, and the stories about the prophets. Think of how the prophets deliver God’s message to other people. Prophets speak God’s message. Sometimes, it’s a warning. Sometimes, it’s advice. Sometimes, it’s encouragement. But no matter what it is, it’s an example of God calling to someone.
Think of this, though. [HOLD UP THE PHONE AGAIN] God calls us to live certain kinds of lives. He calls us to live good lives. Holy lives. What does that mean—to live a good, holy life? [FIELD ANSWERS]
OK! You gave different answers to that question. That’s all right. We are all called to live our holiness in different ways. What does that mean?
I’m going to read from the Bible now. Please listen to this. It is from the first letter of Peter:
But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’
God calls everyone to be holy. But He calls them to live their holiness in different ways.
He calls some people to be holy by being married. A woman and a man who love each other very, very much—they become wife and husband. Maybe they’ll have a family. They help one another and their whole family to grow closer to God.
But that’s not the only way He calls people to be holy.
He calls other people to be holy by living a single life. They are not married, but they still help others to grown closer to God. Some of them do that by volunteering or other work.
There are a few more ways, too. Can you think of one of the ways I haven’t talked about yet? [FIELD THEIR QUESTIONS FOR A MINUTE; THEN:]
Great! Yes. God calls other people to be holy by becoming a priest. Priests serve and love all of God’s people. They say Mass, they visit people in hospitals, they help families…they do a lot of good things for the world. We call them “father.”
Now, still other people may be called by God to be holy by becoming what we call religious. That’s a noun—it refers to a person. Religious also is an adjective, as you’re learning in class. But this is another use of that word. So…God calls some people to be religious. That means they’re a brother or a sister or a nun or a priest in a religious order. [GIVE EXAMPLES OF RELIGIOUS ORDERS OR ASK THE STUDENTS IF THEY KNOW OF ANY RELIGIOUS ORDERS] We call these people ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ or ‘father.’
Now, there’s one more way God calls people to live out their holiness. Does anyone know what that is? Here’s a hint—these guys (they’re men) work closely with priests during the Mass. They can proclaim the Gospel, for example. [WAIT FOR ANSWERS] They are called deacons. These men serve the Church and families. We will group this one together with priests. I’ll show you this is a minute.
So…let’s go over that again: God calls us to live our holiness in different ways: married life, single life, religious, priest or deacon.
All of those ways of life are ways for people to grow in holiness and help each other on their way to God. Let me show you on the chalkboard:
[GO TO THE WHITEBOARD AND DRAW THE FOLLOWING SKETCH ON IT:]
Now, no matter which life God calls you to, this part is really important: you have to listen very closely and carefully to what God is saying to you. That’s how you find out which life he wants you to live.
There are a few ways you can do that. You can do that by praying. You can do that by listening to what you hear at Mass. You can do that by receiving the sacraments like Holy Communion and Reconciliation.
Let’s hear one more story from the Bible. I think it will help show you what I mean.
This is a reading from the First Book of Samuel (1 Sam 3:1-10). [READ PASSAGE; THEN:]
OK. Think about Samuel for just a minute. He’s a young boy. He hears a call. He thinks it’s Eli that’s talking to him. But it’s not. It’s actually the voice of God that’s talking. So he goes to Eli two times. Each time, Eli says that he did not call him. Now, Samuel, we read in this passage, doesn’t yet know God. But he will soon. The third time God calls, and Samuel goes to Eli, Eli understands what is happening. It’s god calling to Samuel. So, he tells Samuel, If He calls you again, just say ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ So, the next time God called Samuel, Samuel answered by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” You see, even though Samuel is just a boy—maybe not too much older than you guys are—he really wants to follow God. He wants to follow God.
So, I invite you to be like Samuel. God calls to all of us. Respond to Him. When you pray, talk to God about hearing and answering His call.
I’m going to show you one way you can do that in just a second. Before that, though—does anyone have any questions? [FIELD QUESTIONS AS THEY ARISE]
OK. Let’s pray. Please repeat after me:
“God, our Father [STUDENTS REPEAT]
You call us to be holy [STUDENTS REPEAT]
Help us to know your will [STUDENTS REPEAT]
Help us to listen to your call [STUDENTS REPEAT]
Help us to say ‘Yes’ to you. Amen.” [STUDENTS REPEAT]
*Materials used in this talk for early grade school vocations were adapted in part from ‘Lessons and Activities for Vocational Awareness’ by the Office of Priestly Vocations of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
PLEASE NOTE: the presenter does not have to memorize or read from this script; they should feel free to put it in their own words, and, if desired, to add their own personal examples and stories. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: to go along with this talk, the following videos from the preceding chapter, ‘Video Resources on Religious Vocations for Different Ages,’ may be used: From Pro Soccer to the Priesthood: The Witness of Fr. Chase Hilgenbrinck; How to Start Discerning the Priesthood; A Vocation Story from CMSWR; Do You Wanna Be a Sister?; Top Ten Friar Questions; Why Become a Priest?
Let me ask you a couple of questions—and please raise your hand when you hear something you agree with: when you think about the job you want to have when you grow up…why do you want to have that job?
Is it because it’s considered a ‘cool’ job? [PAUSE]
Is it because it will make you a lot of money? [PAUSE]
Is it because it’s a family business type of job and there might be an expectation that you will take over the family business one day? [PAUSE]
OK. Hold that thought for a moment. How many of you want to have the job you’re thinking about having when you grow up…because it’s a job where you get to help other people? [PAUSE]
If you raised your hand and said ‘yes’ to that last question, know this: you might very well have the foundation for a religious vocation.
Helping other people is something that sisters, nuns, priests, brothers, and deacons get to do every single day. They make a difference in other people’s lives every single day. And they often get to see the fruits of their labor. They can often see—very directly—that they’re making a difference by helping people.
Let me expand my question: who in this classroom does not like helping others? Who in this classroom does not like to help people? [INDICATE THAT KIDS SHOULD RAISE THEIR HANDS – OR NOT – IN RESPONSE TO THIS]
I’m glad to see that nobody raised their hand to that one.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’d mean everyone in this classroom likes to help others.
And that’s one of the main things that it takes, my friends, to build up the Kingdom of God on Earth. A desire to help others. To do the greater good. To represent, as we say at Church, the Risen Christ present on Earth. We are all called to do that—to help each other.
But some of us are called to go an extra mile or two. To help others in a special way. To serve the Church in a unique way. When people are called in such a way, they’re being called to a religious vocation – to be a sister or nun or priest or brother or deacon…to serve a diocese or to serve a religious order. It’s not everyone’s call. But if, in your heart, you know that you like to help others, then you have one of the most important things you need—one of the most important ingredients.
So many young people these days, it seems, look at the idea of having a religious vocation and say to themselves, “Me?!?” As in, “I can’t imagine being a priest or sister or deacon or nun or brother.” But I’m telling you today: if the idea of helping other people on a daily basis is attractive to you, then you should examine the idea of applying that desire to help others in a religious context. Investigate it. Think about it. And, most important, pray about it.
What I just told you is actually a pretty good reflection of my own vocation story. [SPEAKER NOW WEAVES HIS/HER VOCATION STORY—WITH THE PIVOT-POINT OF HELPING OTHERS—INTO THE TALK. FEEL FREE TO MAKE THIS A GOOD MINUTE-AND-A-HALF IF NEEDED.]
Let’s review what the four vocations are. Does anyone remember what they are? You might have learned these in grade school. [ENCOURAGE KIDS TO RAISE HANDS AND TRY TO REMEMBER WHAT THE FOUR VOCATIONS ARE]
OK. Thank you! The four vocations are: single life…married life…religious life…and priesthood.
And—just to be clear—you also remember the difference between a vocation and a career, right? [WAIT FOR ANSWERS, THEN:]
OK. A vocation is a call; it’s a call from God to a specific path or way of life. It comes from God. We receive it at baptism. It’s not the same as a job or a career. A career deals with how each of us uses our talents (which God gives us and we then develop) and our gifts (gifts of grace which come from God) within our vocation to make a living for ourselves—and our family, if we have a family. So, there are a number of careers within our vocation.
So—that leads us to…how do we discover our vocation? How do we know what God is calling us to do?
There’s a lot out there you can read that will help you on your vocation path. But, in the interest of time today, I’d suggest three big things to start with: prayer…finding quiet time to be with God and just listen…and sharing your thoughts with a trusted adult, like your parents or a priest or a sister or nun.
PRAYER: you really need to ask God to help you find your way. You need to regularly ask Him for his help. It can be something as simple as this:
OK. Let’s pray. Please repeat after me:
“God, our Father [STUDENTS REPEAT]
You call us to be holy [STUDENTS REPEAT]
Help us to know your will [STUDENTS REPEAT]
Help us to listen to your call [STUDENTS REPEAT]
Help us to say ‘Yes’ to you. Amen.” [STUDENTS REPEAT]
Good! Now, the second step…take time to listen. Do you know what the adoration chapel is at your church? It’s a great place to go for a little bit every week…even just a few minutes…to sit quietly and listen. The Bible tells us that God speaks to us in the silence. Seek that silence. Find it. Sit in it. Just be. That’s one of the times when God will speak to you.
Finally…the third step: talk to a trusted adult. Tell them what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what’s happening to you when you pray and when you’re taking a few minutes to sit quietly with God. Ask them for their thoughts on what you’re telling them. Now, keep in mind – this is someone you should feel comfortable with…you’re going to be sharing some private information with them, and the last thing you want is to have something you feel like you should share, but not being comfortable enough with that person to where you actually will share it with them. Make sure you know and trust this person deeply.
Now, before I finish—are there any questions you have? [PAUSE TO FIELD QUESTIONS]
OK. Thank you for your time and attention today.
A great Jesuit priest once said, “Vocation is really about becoming the person who God really wants you to become.” Think about your vocation in that way. If you have a true desire to help others, then doing so as a priest or deacon or sister or nun or brother could very well be your path—that could very well be the person who God wants you to become.
Pray about it. Spend time in silence considering it. Talk to someone about it. Be open to what you hear in those times of prayer and silent reflection. It’s one of the most important things you’ll do while you’re growing up.
High School (Grades 9-12) / PLEASE NOTE: you do not have to memorize or read from this script; you should feel free to put it in your own words, and, if desired, to add your own personal examples and stories. The latter might best be accomplished by reflecting on the Top Ten List that is included near the end of this talk and taking two or three of the items listed therein and connecting them to events or experiences in your life. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: to go along with this talk, the following videos from the preceding chapter, ‘Video Resources on Religious Vocations for Different Ages,’ may be used: From Pro Soccer to the Priesthood: The Witness of Fr. Chase Hilgenbrinck OR World Youth Day Talk: Discovering Your Vocation.
Let’s talk a little bit about discerning God’s will in our lives. Easy topic, right? After all, we’re only talking about the rest of our lives…our mission in life…nothing too important, right?
Well, in all seriousness, it actually IS a really important topic. And it’s not necessarily an easy topic, either. But I want to give you some tips that I think can make discerning His will a little less challenging, perhaps.
OK. Before we begin, let’s quickly review what a vocation actually is. You started learning about this back in grade school. Remember?
So, what is a vocation? God created each of us for a particular purpose. He gave each one of us a unique mission for our lives. We believe that God wants us to be happy—and, by following His will for our individual lives, we will experience real happiness. Think of your vocation as an invitation from God to take the best path for your life. Your vocation comes from God. You receive it at baptism.
And—you’ll also remember that there are four vocations: single life…married life…religious life…and priesthood.
There’s your 30,000-foot-level review. Before I go on, I want to make sure—does anyone have any questions about what we’ve just reviewed about vocations? [WAIT FOR QUESTIONS; THEN:]
So…how many of you know what a Top Ten List is? Raise your hand if you know. [WAIT; INTERACT WITH THE STUDENTS FOR A MINUTE OR SO…THEN:] Right! You see these lists all over the Internet. ‘Top Ten NBA Point Guards of All Time.’ ‘Top Ten Dumb Things Boys Say On First Dates.’ ‘Top Ten Apps for the iPhone.’ All that—and more. They’re familiar to all of us.
Well, with the help of some friends of the diocese, I decided to make my own list. I’m going to call it my ‘Top Ten List for Young Adult Discernment.’ Now, I don’t need a drum-roll for this. (Sorry.) It’s not intended to be humorous—but it is intended to make it easier for you to discern your vocation. Don’t worry about writing this down; I will hand out copies when I’m done. For now, please listen closely.
OK. I know that was a lot of information to digest in one sitting. I’m going to give you the handout now that I was mentioning a little bit ago. It has the entire Top Ten List on it. Keep it with you. Make copies of it so you don’t lose it. Consult it often as you go down the path of discerning your vocation. And remember that God is always with you as you walk that path.
Thank you so much for your attention today. Before we conclude—are there any questions? [FIELD QUESTIONS AS THEY ARISE] Also, I want to leave you with this: if you ever have any questions about vocations or want to talk to someone about where you think God might be calling you, please feel free to talk to me or any priest or deacon or religious.
Now, if you’d please bow your heads and join me in a closing prayer:
“Lord, my God and my loving Father, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things, and that every path can lead me to you.
But of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me: into my mind, to show me what you want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength right to the end. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.”
*Materials used in this talk for high school vocations were adapted in part from ‘Lessons and Activities for Vocational Awareness’ by the Office of Priestly Vocations of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
High School (Grades 9-12) / PLEASE NOTE: you do not have to memorize or read from this script; you should feel free to put it in your own words, and, if desired, to add your own personal examples and stories. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: this vocations talk requires the use of a video (described below), so you will need to use a classroom that is equipped with both a video screen and a computer that is connected to the Internet. The video is brief—only about five minutes—so you can still plan to allow your talk to take up the majority of the time that’s been allotted for you by the teacher or the group that is hosting you.
[YOU WILL NEED TO COPY THE PRAYER THAT APPEARS AT THE END OF THIS TALK AND HAVE A SUFFICIENT NUMBER OF COPIES TO GIVE TO THE STUDENTS IN THE CLASS TO WHICH YOU’RE SPEAKING]
[BEGIN BY PRESENTING TO THE CLASS THE FIVE-MINUTE-LONG ‘DISCOVERING YOUR VOCATION’ VIDEO HOSTED BY FR. JAMES MARTIN, S.J. THE VIDEO CAN BE FOUND AT:
THEN, AFTER THE VIDEO IS OVER, BEGIN WITH THE FOLLOWING:]
OK—I want to start right off with this. Fr. Martin says—and I’m quoting him here: “Vocation is really about becoming the person who God wants you to become…and what that person is meant to do in God’s eyes.” Does anyone have any questions about that statement? Does everyone understand what he’s talking about? [FIELD QUESTIONS AS THEY ARISE]
Now, Fr. Martin talks about how God calls to us through our desires—the things we are attracted to: serving others, for example. And he has words of caution: when we’re talking about our desires, we’re NOT talking about our ‘surface wants’—as he mentions, those are things like “I want a new iPad” or “I want a new car.”
So, let’s practice making this distinction. Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Take a minute to think. Write down five things that would be considered surface wants. It can be anything—I want a new pair of Nike basketball shoes. Or…I want a new pair of jeans. Things that would be considered surface wants. Go ahead and take a minute to think about that—and then write down five things. [PAUSE AND LET THEM DO THEIR THING]
OK. It’s been a few minutes now. Let’s share some of what we wrote down. Who would like to start us off? What did you write down as a surface want? [INTERACT WITH STUDENTS]
So, how do you tell those surface wants apart from your deepest desires? Fr. Martin says that first of all, you should pray to understand them…pray to understand your desires. He adds that it may take some time and reflection. A little later on, I’m going to introduce you to a prayer that’s been written specifically for this kind of purpose…asking God to help you discern your vocation.
Right now, though, let’s keep moving into the other part that Fr. Martin talks about here.
He says that questions can help a lot. The questions he mentions are these: What do I like to do? What gives me joy? What makes me energetic?
Let’s take another minute to think. Go back to your paper where you’ve written down your surface wants. Turn the paper over to the other side. Now, take a couple of minutes to think about the questions Fr. Martin suggested that you ask yourself. Let’s focus on two of them specifically: What gives me joy? What makes me energetic? Write down both of those questions now.
All right. Now, I’m going to give you another couple of minutes to just sit and think. Please take time to think about your answers to those questions: What gives me joy? What makes me energetic? I’m going to give you a couple of examples to help you get started. Maybe helping others with their homework—like being a tutor, for example…is something that gives you joy. Maybe lifting someone out of a bad mood—cheering someone up who’s having a bad day—makes you feel energized. Maybe it’s building things—say you’re on the school robotics team and you like to build robots—maybe that gives you joy. Those are just a few examples. The possibilities are endless.
Take time to think about it…and write down two or three answers to each of those questions. Again—What gives me joy? What makes me energetic?
[PAUSE FOR A LENGTH OF TIME BASED ON THE ACTIVITY YOU SEE IN THE CLASSROOM; RESUME WHEN IT APPEARS AS THOUGH MOST STUDENTS HAVE WRITTEN DOWN TWO OR THREE ANSWERS TO EACH QUESTION]
All right. It looks as though most of you are finished writing. I know these are maybe a little more personal than the surface wants we just wrote down and shared before—but if you’d feel comfortable sharing, please do. Would anyone like to share one or two of their responses? [INTERACT WITH STUDENTS]
What you’ve just written down are the types of things that will be very helpful to you in the future. They’re not necessarily the answers to the question of ‘What is my vocation?’ But they are doors to another part of you—a part that lives deep within you. They’re what Fr. Martin calls your deepest desires. THOSE are the things that connect to your vocation. It’s a good idea to, every now and then, take a moment to answer those questions and really think about them.
Those are the things that will lead you to answer the specific vocations questions of Am I being called to the sacramental life of a priest? Am I being called to religious life? Am I being called to married life?
As Father Martin says in the video: “The more you listen to these holy desires, the more you become the person whom God wants you to be…whom God calls you to be…whom God created…happy and holy and yourself.”
Are there any questions? [FIELD QUESTIONS AS THEY ARISE]
Thanks so much for your attention today. Now, a moment ago, I told you that I was going to introduce you to a prayer that’s been written specifically for this kind of purpose…the purpose of asking God to help you discern your vocation. So, I’m going to hand out copies of this prayer now. [HAND OUT COPIES]
Let’s please bow our heads in prayer.
Lord, my God and my loving Father, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things, and that every path can lead me to you.
But of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me: into my mind, to show me what you want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength right to the end. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen!
From the Archdiocese of Detroit (MI):
From Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church (Houston, TX):
SPARK: Built by Serrans for Vocation Directors.
A service of Serra International, United States Council, in collaboration with the NCDVD.