Discerning a vocation? What to do when our vocation finds us first.

Blog Published: October 27, 2020
By Sister Maxine
Vocation finds us first

Ever have the experience of looking for something, like car keys or a cell phone, just to find that it’s right before your eyes? Sometimes vocations are like that.

Case in point—my friend, Nancy Lee Smith, IHM.  Sister Nancy began working full-time as an iconographer several years ago at St. Joseph Studio. Even as she began creating wonderful icons, when people asked about her ministry, she tended to reply, “I do artwork.”

She vividly recalls the day that changed. It was at a local gallery showing, and her works were among those displayed. “I looked around and suddenly realized that I don’t just do artwork, I am an artist.” It was a moment when “doing” and “being” came together. She clearly understood that she was already living her vocation as an artist.

Sister Nancy’s story reminds me that a vocation isn’t just “what we do,” it’s also who we are. Her story reminds me that God is always at work in our lives, and sometimes it just takes awhile for us to see it clearly.

Have you had an “ah-ha” vocational moment, and how did you respond? I’d love to hear your story! Please share it by writing in the comment box below.

Archived Comments

KCMayrie January 12, 2011 at 11:46 am

(Ok…I’ll try not to write a book this time…)

I am a teacher. I have always been a teacher. I don’t simply mean that I educate children, that is part of it. But I seem to have a natural ability to work with children – of any age. I can relate with them and in some ways, react instinctively to them. In a large group of people, if there are kids around, I will most likely be with them, laughing and playing right along with them. It is as natural to me as breathing…it is what I was made to do..it is who I am…

Sister Maxine January 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm

KC, Your words remind me that our vocations are not for us alone. They are also a gift to the communities we are a part of, like your school community!

KCMayrie January 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm

That being said, the more I discern, the more I am also certain I am called to religious life. That is something that has also always been with me, pulling at my heart and calling me to follow. It is only recently that I have had the courage and resolve to begin to follow that path…so now, in addition to doing what I’ve been made to do, I am now journeying to do what I have been called to do…

Cameron Smith January 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Mine is similar to KC’s!! I found out working as a nurse is one of my vocations for life… I got my CNA license October of 2009 and graduated top of my class. I found out I love caring for the elderly and nursing them. It is truly a gift to see Jesus Christ Our Beloved in all of my residents.. My residents sometimes make comments that are kind of crazy and then I think ” Christ is talking to me through my residents” I learn something new from them everyday… I am continuely my educate towards my LPN and then my RN. I love my job 

Sister Maxine January 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm

That’s a great story, Cam, and your ministry is a wonderful service!

Another Sister Julie, CSSF January 12, 2011 at 3:12 pm

This doesn’t really answer your question, but I’m so very excited today. I entered the Felician Franciscan Sisters postulancy program 33 YEARS ago today! Whoo-HOO!! Ahem. Just wanted to share. So excited that my anniversary always falls on or near National Vocation Week. Cue the Snoopy music, Sisters. I’m doing the happy dance today!

Sister Maxine January 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Congratulations, Another Sr Julie! May your entrance anniversary be joyous!!

Suze January 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Congratulations (another) Sister Julie!!!

Joyce January 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Congrats, Another Sister Julie!

marla January 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm

i realized in my 30s i was given a gift i consider a curse: i am good with those who are dying. it was only in subsequent years that i realized that cleaning up vomit, changing soiled linens, taking people to daily chemo appointments, talking about death and beyond, helping people plan their funerals, etc., was all a part of my vocation to help the dying prepare for what is to come. i never shrank from talk about death (i similarly answered high school and college students’ questions about sex–no fear, complete candor). many people (even priests) have asked me for help in helping others on their final journey on earth. i hated it at first. everyone died… it was hard to always say goodbye. but i quickly learned the great gift it was, and i realized god was using me in a very special way. after that, i was happy to be a vessel.

add my congrats to the pot, asj.

Jerri January 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I’ve read all the posts and comments so far about vocations.

I still don’t know what to do “when I grow up” and I’m in my 40′s.
What I have discovered is that I follow what I’m good at, do what comes naturally to me, like Marla has. You put your trust in God in the small steps; don’t think of it as “taking the big leap”.

God will lead you where he wants to one small step at a time. Put your trust in Him, yourself, what you know of yourself, what you are good at / things that come naturally to you, and before you know it, you’ve made a decision or gotten to the right path without a lot of stress and agony.

I myself have felt called to Sisterhood off and on over my life (I too wrapped a towel around my head and pretended to be a nun). As I start the process things get bumpy and it is difficult to continue. From what I can gather of God’s desire for me is to add the spirituality, prayer, and adoration that Sisters do, not to join the convent.

A priest friend of mine says that in regards to doing God’s will depends on: does it follow Scripture, do you understand it to be “right”, do you keep falling over stumbling blocks? If any of the answers is no, or I don’t know, then don’t do it, and bring it back to God in prayer.

I hope this helps someone. Glad to read everyone’s story.

PS – Happy anniversary ASJ!

Betsy Bauer January 13, 2011 at 1:02 am

I am a Registered Nurse who has always worked on Oncology and Hospice units. I am also by nature an extreme extrovert and very funny. I used to hate telling people what kind of nursing I practiced because frequently they would assume a very serious demeanor and I would then hear variations on the theme “Oh that must be so depressing. How sad for you and them. I could never do something like that; how do you do this?” I felt I had to apologize because I didn’t practice nursing in some happy department like the new babies or a techno department like the ICU. I also didn’t want to be portrayed as some kind of angel or martyr or Florence Nightingale type – I was just doing work I loved using the skills I have! I finally started telling people “Really – if you have cancer or are actively dying do you want a serious somber person by your bedside or someone who can offer you not only compassion but humor?” For me, I want to die laughing! I offer my patients, and their families, compassion, emotional support and yes, humor to lighten their load, along with all my other skills as an RN. Aha – it’s ok to be funny and extroverted around people who are dying.

Joyce January 13, 2011 at 11:49 am

I’ve had many aha moments, but the very first was on an eventful trip I took out of state. To say the least, after a long day and a screaming match in my head with God Himself, I broke down the wall I had up and said “Whatever you want from me, I’ll do it. Just let me sleep!” I’ve come full circle from that moment to a more serious look at my vocation and realized it’s not going to be perfect, and something else may even come along, but I am right where God wants me, so I need to focus on the presence of God that is there and move forward.

Another Sister Julie, CSSF January 13, 2011 at 11:56 am

Thanks for all the well wishes! It was a very busy day, and I smiled through all of it.

Betsy Bauer–What a special vocation you have. My cousin is a Pediatrics Oncology RN. I can’t imagine having the strength to see so many suffering children all the time.

One of the calls within my call is helping to prepare funeral liturgies. I am a cantor and have sung for many a funeral. Sometimes I get “booked” for my next funeral by someone one of these funerals. I remember seeing one lady at a funeral. I knew she had liver cancer at the time. There was a beam of sunlight on her head as we sang one of the hymns, as if she was already nearing the gates of Heaven. Sure enough, she “booked” me for her funeral, which occurred 3 months later!

Eileen Bellamy January 13, 2011 at 8:17 pm

I have found my callings just recently. Being a catechist and a web designer/developer. I remember going to a Lenten Retreat last year hosted by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose in Northern California. The sister mentioned that she has many vocations: being a musician, an artist, and a teacher. When I am discerning, I realized that there is more to being a religious sister, you see Christ in others when you teach, give them communion, or when you are listening to their rants about their stressful life. I have become more patient after being a caregiver to the elderly for about 3 years. With that being said, I enjoy being called to teach and to design. God is teaching me a lot about how I can use my gifts and talents to glorify Him daily! Oh and, congrats to the Felician Franciscan Sister, ASJ, celebrating her anniversary of entering religious life. That is so amazing!

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