In pandemic, vocations discernment moves online

In pandemic, vocations discernment moves online

The Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Boston has created a one-of-a-kind video series called Scivias: Know the Ways of the Lord as a vocational discernment guide for men considering the priesthood. The first two episodes are available now on the Vocations Boston YouTube channel (Credit: Vocations Boston).

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the nation into lockdown restrictions last spring, Father Michael Zimmerman, like many people, took advantage of the extra time to work on a project that otherwise wouldn’t fit into his schedule. The goal was to create a resource, or guide, for men discerning the priesthood.

NEW YORK – When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the nation into lockdown restrictions last spring, Father Michael Zimmerman, like many people, took advantage of the extra time to work on a project that otherwise wouldn’t fit into his schedule.

The goal was to create a resource, or guide, for men discerning the priesthood. Given the new widespread virtual lifestyle of the pandemic, he did so in the form of a three part, 27-episode vocational discernment series, the first two of which are now available for public consumption.

All current and future episodes of Scivias: Know the Ways of the Lord, are or will be available on the Vocations Boston YouTube channel. The title was inspired by a book written by writer, poet and composer Saint Hildegard of Bingen, who lived in Germany in the 12th century.

“Our greatest ambition in Vocations Boston, our office here, is to inspire people to sainthood. To be great, to aspire to greatness and that does come through living a relationship with God,” Zimmerman, the assistant director of Vocations Boston, part of the archdiocese, told Crux.

“I want to promote the priesthood for men, but even on a more foundational level is really just to desire to pursue greatness in a relationship with God and I think discerning a vocation to the priesthood, or marriage, or whatever, that’s part of it and I’m hopeful this will help awaken those desires to be a saint and that’s the biggest thing of all,” he continued.

The three parts of the series are Knowing Yourself; Your Life As A Sacramental Gift; and Understanding the Life and Ministry of an Ordained Priest. That’s the order the videos will be released, and there’s a purpose to that. As Zimmerman notes, “how can we possibly know what we’re supposed to do with our lives if we don’t know who we are?”

To kick off the Knowing Yourself part of the series, Zimmerman narrates the vocation story of Saint Peter – one of the twelve apostles who is considered the first Pope – in the pilot episode to highlight the moment Saint Peter received his vocation.

“(Peter) receives a specific vocation when he gets to a point where he knows Jesus and he trusts him, which I think is kind of the essential aspect of a vocation,” Zimmerman said. “It’s do I hear God’s voice calling me, and do I trust him? We all have to grow in that relationship before we’re ready to hear and respond to our vocation.”

The pilot episode was published on April 6. This past Tuesday, the first episode was posted where Zimmerman speaks on the importance of the desire for God’s will. With the clear water of Wollaston Beach in Quincy, Massachusetts, as a backdrop, he identifies tips to growing that desire. Such as, living a Christian moral life, prayer, and consulting someone in vocations.

A native of the Boston suburb Needham, the backdrop of the episodes are often notable Boston locations that oftentimes have a personal significance to Zimmerman. He does so to “paint a picture,” of his own discernment for the viewer.

“It’s trying to show that a vocation, a calling, is incarnational, in the flesh, in the reality. Like I’m a real person. This happened to me,” Zimmerman said. “I think that’ll be a very helpful part of it. And in my telling I’m kind of walking you through my discernment and I’m giving you the concrete practical advice that I received and that I’m passing on and that I find helpful.”

“Everyone has a unique vocation. Everyone is called in a different way,” he continued. “Maybe not everything I said will jive or fit perfectly with everyone, but I think there will be a lot of connection to people and it will help them kind of see how God is working in their lives.”

Speaking with Crux, Zimmerman also noted that the videos can help people that have reflected on bigger questions in life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What’s my purpose? Why am I here? What am I really doing? A lot of people have had time to think about these things and at times it’s been hard for a lot of people, so it’s to try and provide some guidance and context for them,” he said.

A new video will be posted every week. People can also sign up for early access on the Archdiocese of Boston Office of Vocations website that includes more episodes and a guidebook. Each video in the series runs about five minutes.

“The goal is let’s make it beautiful, let’s make it short and sweet, and let’s pack a lot into each episode,” Zimmerman said.

Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg

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