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.”

Prayer for Parents

Dear Heavenly Father,

You have blessed us with children. We sometimes forget that they are not ours but Yours, and that You have asked us to bring them up in Your ways.

O gracious and loving God, we pray that our children will discover and respond enthusiastically to Your desire for them, whether it be to the vocation of single, married, ordained or religious life.

Please help our children to have open hearts and minds to hear Your call. Help us to support and encourage our children to seek Your will in choosing a vocation.

We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.


FAQ for Parents

Why should I encourage my child to embrace a religious vocation?

We depend upon the presence of medical doctors to be responsive to the needs of our sick relatives, friends and neighbors because they provide critical service to others who would otherwise physically suffer or perhaps die. Doctors are physicians of the body; priests and religious are physicians of the soul. Just at the body experiences ailments and physical challenges through a lifetime, so will a person’s soul encounter spiritual illness and religious challenges. We need physicians of the body for the well-being of our physical lives on earth. We need physicians of the soul for the well-being of our souls destined for eternal life.

Is it fair that I should have to lose my child?

Rather than “losing” your son or daughter when they begin their lives as priests or religious, you in fact, gain many more sons and daughters. Your child’s classmates and community members will welcome you into their company and become a part of your life, just as your family becomes part of the lives of your child’s new community members.

What about financial security?

St. Paul tells us, “If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” Romans 14:18). Your child’s commitment to the Lord in religious life may entail challenge for you as you think about retirement, professional aspirations you may harbor for them, hopes for grandchildren, and a financial safety net. Encouraging your child to think prudently about his/her choice is one thing, but to resist it because it is not your will could reflect selfishness. This attitude goes against the trusting faith in God’s will we espouse when we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, OP).