Mothers play key role: In their children’s response to a Church vocation Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, May. 05, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. UhlerMothers observe their children from an early age. They watch how they grow and develop, seeing what gifts and talents each child possesses.

How many times does a mom say to a son or daughter, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Children start to think about their future careers at an early age. Of course, those plans to become a fireman, baseball player, ballerina, or rock star may change as the years go by and reality settles in.

Mother’s influence plays key role

A mother’s influence, however, continues to play a key role in a child’s choice of career. A mother can make or break a career choice for a child.

That’s especially been proven true in the development of Church vocations, especially vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Mothers (and fathers to a lesser extent) are very influential in either encouraging or discouraging their children's response to a call to the priesthood or religious life.

This fact was revealed in a survey of members of the 2011 priesthood ordination class in the Catholic Church, released April 25. Of the men being ordained as priests this year,  66 percent of the respondents said it was their parish priest who encouraged them. After that, 42 percent identified their mothers as having a major influence on their decision, reported a Catholic News Service article.

The annual national survey is conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations.

While many mothers have helped their sons respond positively to a call to the priesthood, the survey also showed that 52 percent of those being ordained were discouraged by a parent or family member.

Discerning a vocation at home

Another interesting fact from the CARA survey  is that on average, respondents report that they were about 16 when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood. Since most people of that age live at home, parents would indeed play a part in encouraging or discouraging a Church vocation — if they knew that their child was considering one.

The CARA survey also reports that with the men being ordained to the priesthood, 82 percent have parents who are both Catholic. In addition to the predominantly Catholic background of their parents, 34 percent of those being ordained also report having a relative who is a priest or a religious. The influence of parents and family members does indeed make a big difference!

These survey results underline the importance of parents in the development of any career choice, but especially the response to a call to the priesthood or religious life. It is vital that parents encourage their children's practice of the faith, talk about the possibility of serving the Church in the priesthood and religious life, and support a child’s decision to explore and answer that calling.

Thank all mothers for gifts to us and the Church

As we celebrate Mother’s Day on May 8, we should thank all mothers for giving us life and nurturing us. Motherhood never stops, as we mothers know!

We especially thank mothers who have been generous to the Church in supporting their sons who are priests and deacons and their daughters who are consecrated women. This is a gift to all of us in the Church.

I encourage all mothers to be open to the possibility of Church vocations for their children. The parents of priests and Sisters I know have found great satisfaction and joy in their children's service in the Church.

So when a mom asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and her child says priest or Sister, I suggest she give her child a hug and say, “How wonderful!”