Who Mentored You?

Mentors are a valuable asset in any line of work but, quite often people don’t find mentors in their lives, preferring to go it alone. Oftentimes, however, mentors aren’t offered or given encouragement to take someone under their wing.

A colleague and I were talking about a wonderful young campus minister who we both respect very highly. My colleague has been in ministry for years and this young woman sought her out and asked her if she would mentor her. I wonder how many young people do that? More importantly, I wonder how many veteran workers say “yes” to the invitation to mentor another.

When I was in college, Veteran broadcaster Marty Glickman mentored all of us once a week or so during activity period. He was wonderful and he valued the time spent with us almost as much as we did. It meant a lot to me to be mentored by a legend. I was never able to find as good of a mentor again in radio, although many colleagues were good to me and gave me a lot of opportunities. The business of radio was tough and I was young and inexperienced. In New York there is rarely time to allow for these kind of relationships to flourish because there is a good deal of money at stake and executives have to be focused on that. But I wonder how many mid-level managers would have had the foresight to see the value of mentoring and leading an employee to a better job without fear that the younger person would in fact be a more valuable asset to the corporation by the end of that process than they are.

In my ministry life, Fr. Brett Hoover, C.S.P. was a great mentor who was able to really teach me a lot of good values that I still hold as a minister. Many of my professors at Fordham were able to make me a better listener and a better spiritual director and Fr. Michael Hunt, C.S.P. and Fr Michael Kerrigan, C.S.P. at Paulist Press held my hand through the book-writing process. Most importantly, I think we all learned from one another in a non-competitive way. We focused on making the projects as good as our gifts allowed and were able to bring others along to maximize our efforts. I cherish all of these people and hope that I have been able to express that well to them and that these words are not just in hindsight.

Regardless, mentors, it seems are hard to come by, and in ministry, they may be the lynchpin to everything. In Campus Ministry research shows that trusted professors and other responsible adults as well as peers are the primary sources in the decision making process. Campus ministers didn’t even make the list. So I know that we have to connect with those who are seen as mentors so that we might be able to become another trusted source of mentoring for the students.

Do you have a trusted mentor? Tell us about him or her and what made them special. We’ll give a free copy of Fr. Michael Sparough’s new book, What’s Your Decision? to the person with the best mentoring story.

Does Vocation Equal Happiness?

At the Collegeville institute this question took center stage for some time. I think many young people often think that living out one’s vocation means that they are happy in doing what they are doing, or worse, perhaps it means that their lives are EASY because they have found a vocation that suits them.

Both thoughts are complete hogwash.

One colleague at the table offered the following nugget that I’ll paraphrase here:

“My dad was a manual labor worker and I had the great fortune of working in the summers alongside him. It was there that I’d hear the words ‘Your Dad is a great guy and is always so helpful to everyone.’ Or ‘Your dad doesn’t treat me any differently because I’m black.’ Or, ‘Your dad always goes the extra mile for all of us.’ Or even, ‘Your dad works really hard for his family.’

Now going to work was not a day at the beach for my Dad. But it was there that I know he truly lived out his vocation. He was the best version of himself and lived each day according to the way that he felt God was calling him.

Beautiful. I could say a lot of the same things about my father, a school custodian, who worked so hard to give me just about all that I have.

Vocation, you see, is not the easy way out or a magic happy pill. Vocation is much more. Vocation is living in a way that allows us to be all that we are, all that God calls us into being. We cannot fight our vocation and when thrust into situations that are less than ideal, can we follow that same call that allows us to express the best version of ourselves.

So while we may not have the best job, or even the one that we hoped for, there is much to do and even more to become. Vocation is all about living the present moment and asking ourselves where is God calling me to be? Is there a Word from the Lord to be spoken here? How can God lead me to be the person I am called to be–nothing more–but more importantly, nothing less.

Where did God call you today?

How Do You Make Decisions?

I just returned from the Collegeville Institute in Minnesota where we discussed “vocation” in reference to college students. We’re not merely, talking about religious vocations to the priesthood, religious life or ministry fields. Instead we are talking about a common vocational call, or an awareness of that discerning voice within all of ourselves.

We discussed the issues that face college students and a thought came to us. How DO college students make decisions? Is there a person or institution they turn to first when it comes to making a life decision? Such questions could include: Where should I work? Does this job sound good to you? How can I develop skills and be more in touch with my own gifts and desires? Is there a place you go to sort things out and try to gain clarity? Each one of these questions carries much weight in making life’s decisions. So what do you do?

I’d like to start a discussion on this and carry it out over the course of this week. Asking different kinds of vocational questions, especially of those of you who are presently on campus: studying and ministering to those who do study. What do you experience?

Many have weighed in on this on facebook already so I place their posts below.