Father Timothy Monahan is in his ninth year of priesthood and seventh month as vocation director for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In that amount of time he has noticed that many young people aren’t happy or don’t feel fulfilled. They have done what families, teachers and society have told them to do — go to college, get a “good” job, live on your own — but there is something missing.
“I have this conversation over and over and over again,” Monahan said.
Young people tell him they have the jobs they always wanted but are asking themselves, “Is this it?”
“For me it’s also a mark in a particular way for a call to priesthood because what I notice is even when guys say, ‘Oh, is this it?’ if they are interested in supporting a family and constructing a whole life project with their wife and their children, they can see great meaning in that even if their job isn’t the best job ever,” Monahan said.
A call to religious life or priesthood leaves life unsettled, he said, because if you were called by God to work in the world you wouldn’t feel that same dissatisfaction. It is about searching for meaning, not merely not liking a job.
“Everything’s there and they are saying, ‘Isn’t there more?’ And I’m saying, ‘Yes, there is.’”
Invitation is key to helping young people discern what God is calling them to.
“Our Protestant brothers and sisters seem to be so much better about that. For Catholics, we’ve depended so much on culture. It doesn’t work that way anymore so we have to change how we do things,” Monahan said. “One of the simplest ways is invitation. ‘Do you want to come to Mass with me?’ ‘Do you want to come to Bible study with me?’ ‘Do you want to come to dinner with me?’” Invitation is non-threatening, encouraging and applies to any vocation — priesthood, religious life, marriage, single life.
“That’s something that all of us have to understand: there’s a power to a mom, a grandma, a godmother, a friend saying something to somebody like, ‘I think you’d be a great priest. Have you ever thought of that?’”
Monahan started out in monastic life before transferring to diocesan priesthood. He grew up in central Illinois. Wanting to follow in the footsteps of his father, a banker, Monahan majored in finance in college. After trying out that life, he still felt called to something more, so he entered the Little Brothers of the Eucharist. He was ordained a priest and spent time ministering in France.
After that community closed, he reached out to Cardinal George about being incardinated (the process officially attaching a priest to the archdiocese) in the Archdiocese of Chicago, because much of his family had moved to the Chicago area from central Illinois.
Going forward in his ministry looking through the lens of Renew My Church, Monahan finds inspiration in the words of Pope Francis.
“Pope Francis challenged vocation directors from all over the world. He said you had to waste time with people. For anybody who considers himself or herself a disciple of Jesus, you have to be willing to just waste time with somebody so that they have evidence in front of their eyes that this person is joyful, they’re living it and that there is a different way to live,” Monahan said. “As our society goes further and further into the realm of appearances and show, that personal contact increases in value. That’s the way Jesus did it. He invited people to spend time with him and he was not in a rush.”
To learn more about vocations to the priesthood visit www.chicagopriest.com.
People who have a strong attraction to the charism of a particular religious community but feel that religious life is not for them might want to investigate whether belonging to a “third order secular” is part of their vocation.
Young adults who are trying to figure out what they are called to can get some help from a discernment program of the Vocations Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Children react as Totus Tuus team members sing songs with children attending the program at St. Hubert Church in Hoffman Estates on July 2, 2021.