Family life can foster priestly vocations

Betty Hoffmann thought her eldest son, Christopher, might become a priest when at a very young age, he asked if he could baptize the dog.

The mother of three boys prayerfully waited for God to reveal his plan for her son. On Dec. 5, 1987, Father Christopher Hoffmann was ordained to the priesthood and now serves as pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Port Orange.

“You wait, you watch, and you listen and you pray,” she said.

Betty and Ken Hoffmann were two parents who spoke about parents’ role in a child’s discernment at the Diocese of Orlando’s fifth annual Parish Vocations Committee workshop April 27 at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Winter Park. The daylong event featured an opening Mass celebrated by Bishop John Noonan; a keynote address on the family’s role in promoting vocations presented by Father David Ruchinski, director of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of St. Augustine; and examples of best practices of parish vocations committees and diocesan vocations initiatives.

Lee and Mary Dorsey, parents of fifth-year seminarian Chris Dorsey, also spoke. Since their children were young, the Dorseys put the Church and their faith at the center of their family life. Yet, neither foresaw their youngest child entering the priesthood. “We raised our family in prayer,” Mary Dorsey said. “At an early age, we are forming our children into whatever God is calling them to be. As parents, we are nurturing that call and discovering that call. We did not push for a vocation. It was something that was revealed to Chris and he responded.”

“As a family, you are not laying the groundwork to raise a priest,” Lee Dorsey said. “You are laying the groundwork to build the best person you can and to let your children know that Jesus is part of your family, that God is the guy driving.”

The parish priests played an important role in the Hoffmann boys’ everyday lives. Ken Hoffmann said throughout the years, priests would often visit their home and share the evening meal with their family. Also, Betty Hoffmann’s brother was a priest. The boys got to know the priests as people and were comfortable around them. The parents tried to lead by their example.

“Our faith life was not only about going to Church on Sundays, but it is a way of life,” Ken Hoffmann said. “Our children need to see how we live our lives day in and day out both at home and away from home.”

“Family is very important in a call to vocation because that is where I first learned my faith,” Chris Dorsey said. “It is where I grew so that when I did hear that voice asking me what about the priesthood, I knew it was something I needed to pay attention to. My family is my foundation.”