I’m often asked by inquirers if their career– either the one they’re currently working, or the one they’re in school for– can fit into religious life and the Paulist Mission. It’s a complicated question, and one that really has to be answered on an individual basis. For someone who has a career and skills that the community needs (or might need), then the answer is “maybe.” For example, a man with a JD (a law degree) might find that the Paulists, like any large organization, could use his knowledge and experience when dealing with a whole range of legal issues: real estate, financial development, liability, contracts, etc. But that doesn’t mean he’d be practicing law as a Paulist. As priests our primary works are preaching, administering the sacraments, reconciling, teaching the faith, and doing all the administrative tasks that go along with pastoral ministry. Someone with a law degree could be a great asset, but he’d serve as a priest, not a lawyer.
That doesn’t mean that the Paulists aren’t interested in men with degrees in biochemistry, computer science, Spanish literature, or petroleum engineering. We’re looking at prospective vocations as whole people, not as skill-sets or academic degrees. We need men with a wide range of life experiences and knowledge. Even if you’re not working as a pharmacist, physician or philosopher, the Paulists need men who can relate to scientists, engineers, artists and chefs.
I started my college career in Computer Science. When I realized I was headed to the Paulists and the seminary, I switched to a liberal arts degree that would supply the philosophy prerequisites I’d need to study theology. But throughout my Paulist career I’ve worked in communications- especially computer-based communications. Those interests and skills have served me well, whether I was working as a radio producer, a pastor, in administration, or as vocations director.
And this is the amazing thing about responding to a vocational call: nothing goes to waste. When God calls someone to ministry, he calls the whole person, along with all their interests, experiences, education, and skills. Nothing goes to waste.