In light of National Vocation Awareness Week last week, we wanted to share a little bit about the daily activities of our MSC brothers and priests and offer some insight into our own MSC Formation program. Br. Jim Miller, M.S.C., works with young men pursuing a vocation with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Chicago and answered some frequently asked questions about the MSC and vocations in general.
What is a vocation?
To put it simply, a vocation is a calling from God where you have a longing to live your life in service to others and in prayer to God.
How do I know if I have a vocation?
You feel a deep desire within your heart to go out of yourself so that you can connect with those who have no hope in their lives. You know that God is the source of your strength and hope and you want to share that with those in need.
What should I say if my child or friend tells me that they are thinking about a vocation to religious life?
Encourage them in the life choice that they want to make, for it is their decision that should be supported by those who love them. This is not necessarily an easy time for a parent as they might think they are losing their son or daughter. In reality, the family gains an entrance into a larger family.
What’s the difference between being a parish priest and an MSC?
A parish priest serves the people of God under a bishop in a particular diocese. An MSC is first of all a missionary and thereby able to go out and be of service to the whole world.
How long does it take to become a priest or a brother?
After high school, both priests and brothers would complete a degree program in a college or university. After that would be a one-year program in a Novitiate where they learn more about the charism and spirituality of the society. Then the priest candidate would do four years of theology before being ordained as a deacon. After anywhere from six months to a year as a deacon, the member would be ordained. For the brother candidate after the Novitiate, the time spent in temporary vows is from 3 to 6 years where he would continue to study in a field that he would like to do pursuie in relation to the needs of the Province, be it teaching, social work, or a missionary endeavor overseas.
Are priests and brothers lonely since they have to be celibate and don’t live near family?
We either live within a community or belong to a community near the place where we live and work and so we interact with one another on a daily basis. This normally takes care of our loneliness. We also are encouraged to have a spiritual director who can help us in whatever problem or challenge we face.
I’m afraid it will be too hard to be priest or brother in an non-religious culture.
We are seldom sent out by ourselves and so have another member for support. It might be difficult but one has to remember that Jesus told us He would always be with us. This especially gives us strength and courage in an non-religious culture.
What do the MSC do on a daily basis?
We live and work within a community which means that we support one another in the work that we are assigned to do. We take care of the work within our house by being in charge of different areas. We recreate together by going to see movies or sports. We have fun and laugh together. MSC priests also often work at parishes or travel and direct parish retreats or in different community programs.
What is the MSC formation program like?
The initial formation period, which normally lasts two years, is where we get to know a candidate and they get to start the process of learning who the MSC are. You would normally go to a local college and start to get the needed education. You would have a formation director and would meet with him normally once a week, but would also live in a community with him so any concerns can be addressed on a daily basis.
What are the requirements for entering into discernment with the MSC?
Although we would like to see that you come to formation with some college, we will take candidates out of high school. We want to see the desire that a person has in wanting to live a religious life.
Do the MSC have vows?
Yes, we take the vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Poverty is where we pledge to live a simple life and will all we have to the Society. Consecrated celibacy is our pledge to live a chaste life and do not marry. Obedience is giving our will to God and to those who are in charge of us.
Who pays for the candidates during their discernment?
The candidate is responsible for his education up to the time that he takes his first vows. We do give assistance in the form of loans to the candidate if they are unable to afford the tuition. The order takes on all the person’s loans once he has professed his final vows.
What if candidates change their minds or have doubts?
The time of formation is a time of discernment and so it is in the hands of the candidate and God to figure out what is best for his life. The person would take on payment for any loan given to him if he would decide to leave the formation program.
How can I become an MSC?
The first step is to contact our Vocation Director, Fr. Joseph Kanimea, M.S.C., who has more information on the MSC Society and can help you to find out about us and get you information. You can also learn more about how to become an MSC on this website as well. If you are ready to take this step, we are happy that you have chosen the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and we will keep you in our prayers during your discernment process. May God bless you abundantly!