This morning I paid my respects at the wake of one of the religious sisters who once taught at the Catholic high school where I now teach. She was there when the school opened and by all accounts was loved by students, alumni and faculty alike. I only knew her in retirement as the smiling sister on the elevator who always asked me how I was doing.
In the era when she taught, most of the faculty at any Catholic elementary or high school was composed of religious brothers and sisters. Now it is quite the opposite. Our faculty numbers close to one hundred and all but three of us are lay people. As I knelt by her casket to pray for a few moments I thought about her legacy. Though my life circumstances are quite different – I am married and have two children, a dog and a mortgage – our commitment was and is the same: To bring Christ to young people. Behind everything else we do, whatever subject we teach, that’s the mission 0f all of us in Catholic education.
I don’t know what to make of the vocation crisis in the United States. I’m not sure in fact that it is a crisis – it might just be the means by which the Holy Spirit will lead us to the kind of mature partnership between laity, clergy and religious that the Vatican II Council envisioned. Kneelling next to the earthly remains of this holy woman this morning, however, the feeling came upon me quite strongly that the differences between our vocations in life was so much less significant than our common call to ministry among Christ’s young people. I pray that I may be as faithful in my attempts to live out that calling as she was during her lifetime.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)