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Vocation reflections -- Part V

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On Priesthood Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, dozens of seminarians of the Archdiocese of Boston went out two-by-two to share the vocation stories at parishes and campus ministries throughout the archdiocese. In collaboration with the Office for Vocations, The Pilot is reprinting the text of a number of their talks.

The following are excerpts from the talk delivered by seminarian J. Thomas Gignac to students at Boston College.

Vocations are like bellybuttons in two ways: Everybody has one and they are given to us by God. We all have a vocation in life. A vocation is simply a calling from God to be what he wants us to be. For most, their vocation is to marriage and to raising children -- to be a mother or father. For some, their vocation is to religious life as a brother or sister. For others, their vocation is to be a father to all -- and that's the vocation of a priest.

We have 85 seminarians studying at St. John's, and every single one of us has a unique vocation story. Allow me to tell you just a little bit about my own. When I was very young, about seven or eight, I wanted to be a priest, but I was also really interested in both business and architecture. When I was applying to college, I was asked by one of my parish priests if I had considered going to seminary, but I replied, "No, Father, I'm going to be an architect." Then, as a freshman I discovered something really important about myself: I simply can't draw, which is kind of a problem for someone planning to be an architect.

So, I fell back on my second great interest, business, and I knew that this was the right path for me. In fact, I knew even in college that after a few years in a job I wanted to go back to business school for my MBA. Coming out of college I took a job with IBM, and while I was there I read about an older guy who retired from IBM, went to seminary, and became a priest. I thought the decision point of priesthood had come and gone for me way back in high school, yet the idea of priesthood was still intriguing. Nevertheless, I was confident that I was already on the right path, doing what I was meant to do.

I went to business school as planned, and joined a consulting firm that was the perfect fit for my skills and interests. After working in management consulting for a few years, I rejoined IBM in their business consulting group, and again knew that was exactly where I was meant to be and that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do. I was fairly successful and I loved what I was doing.

However, something in the back of my head kept telling me that there was something more important. At the end of every consulting project the team would write a report that detailed all the good work we had done for the client -- increased revenue, cost savings, productivity gains. These were all good things, but it would always occur to me, so what? As good as these things are, what do they mean in the realm of God's eternity? Does God really care about cost savings and productivity gains? Nevertheless, I continued in my career.

Everything was going according to my plans, but it turns out God had another plan for me. I consulted mainly for insurance companies and banks, and during the financial crisis I lost my job, along with a lot of other financial services consultants. At this point, God's call started nagging me more and more. I started going to daily Mass and spending time before the Blessed Sacrament. In prayer I realized that although I was successful, my career was actually a liability instead of an asset because it kept me from seriously considering God's call to the priesthood. I realized that God wanted more from me, and that he certainly wanted more for me. Without my career in front of me, I had no more excuses.

Realizing that I just might actually have a calling to the priesthood, I finally decided I needed to talk to somebody. The very next morning a guest priest introduced himself at Mass: "Good morning, my name is Father Dan Hennessey, vocation director for the Archdiocese of Boston." A year later I was in seminary. I was not 100 percent sure that God was calling me to the priesthood, but I was 100 percent sure that God was calling me to seminary to discern whether he is calling me to the priesthood. Seminary has provided the best possible environment to discern that call.

I told you that vocations are like bellybuttons because everyone has one and they come from God. That may be silly, but true. Vocations are like bellybuttons in another way, however. When a child discovers his bellybutton, it is a realization that he came from somewhere -- from someone else. The child begins to develop a sense of otherness, that life is not just about himself.

The same thing happens with discerning your vocation, because vocation is all about the other; it is not just about you anymore. If your vocation is marriage, that other is your spouse. If you have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, that other is Christ and his Church. Vocation is all about the other because it is a total and complete gift of self to another. Think about what vocation -- what gift of self -- God might be calling you to fulfill.

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