Cultivating Vocations to the Priesthood during Children’s Faith Formation

Sometime early in 2009, I stumbled upon the video Fishers of Men, created by the USCCB and produced by Grassroots Films in Brooklyn, NY. It was the first vocations video I’d ever seen in my life, and it was darn impressive. Sleek, full of rich messages, good music–the people who made it clearly took their message seriously.

I was a catechist for a 3-5th grade faith formation class at the time, and I immediately thought–wow, I ought to download it (there were free downloads available at the time, not sure if that is still true) and show it to my class! [This was the first time I’d ever used a video in class]. The impact went way beyond what I’d imagined! Within the first 90 seconds I discovered this was going to be all about discussion–why this music? why the ocean? why did they trace a fish outline in the sand?–the kids were instinctively curious about every aspect. And yes, I doubt the producers’ intended audience was a coed 3-5th grade faith formation class…but that’s why the discussion part was so key. I told my kids to raise a hand anytime they had a question or thought, and I immediately hit “pause” to continue the discussion.

And what did I learn? In short, I’d forgotten how interesting fascinating the world can be through the eyes of elementary school kids! Blessed John Paul II, Pope Benedict, a monstrance, the prostrations during an ordination liturgy, sacred artwork, liturgical colors…these were all things my kids were excited to stop and see for the first time–not simply hear about.

Okay, so this was turned out to be a lesson on more than priestly vocations. But, back to the vocations part…

At one point, one of my “top contributing” students (you know, the ones who are always enthusiastic and jumping out of their seats to give (usually insightful) answers?) shouts with shock and delight, It’s a black priest!!! Now “Maddie” (not her real name) was the only African-American student in my class. Living in a military town, our area was very ethnically and racially diverse, and socially integrated (at least, that’s been my perception of the military base towns I’ve lived in, compared to typical cities). I suddenly realized that in her short life, she’d never seen a black priest–and, it had never occurred to her that such a person existed!

Now, am I expecting Maddie to have a vocation to the priesthood? No. However, seeing matters. And for elementary school kids, simply seeing a video with LOTS of images of the priesthood is in and of itself an opening experience, that maybe, just maybe, plants a seed for the future…

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