‘Do you want to be … a priest or a sister?’
“Do you want to be a doctor or a firefighter when you grow up?” It’s a common question that parents ask a child about his or her future.
But what if your parents added “… a priest or a sister” to the question? Maybe you’d consider more seriously all your options for vocations.
The children of Michael and Kathleen Chovanes, parishioners of St. John Fisher, Catasauqua, do hear the “priest or sister” part of the question. While a career is not the same as a vocation, the Chovanes believe that “our vocations are the primary lens through which we should view our lives and how we interact with God.”
Michael grew up in rural Berks County, a parishioner of Most Blessed Sacrament, Bally. He attended Swain School followed by Allentown Central Catholic High School.
Kathleen (nee Corrigan) is from Easton, a parishioner of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Easton. She attended St. Jane School and Notre Dame High School, Easton, followed by a performing arts charter school for dance.
They met playing paintball when they were 19 in 2007 and eventually ended up at college together, DeSales University, Center Valley. They were married Sept. 29, 2012 at Most Blessed Sacrament. Michael is now director of facilities at Allentown Central Catholic.
While they had many Catholic influences, they didn’t pursue religious vocations, but chose the vocation of marriage.
When the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a Christian vocation, it is saying that the couple’s relationship is more than simply their choice to enter a union which is a social and legal institution. In addition, marriage involves a call from God and a response from two people who promise to build, with the help of divine grace, a lifelong, intimate and sacramental partnership of love and life.
“Discerning my vocation was a long and often tumultuous process,” said Kathleen. Her parents were divorced, and she had doubts about marriage. “It took a lot of prayer and conversations with Michael and other trusted friends over many years to feel confident that I could even ‘pull off’ married life remotely successfully.”
Now the father of four, Michael prays for their vocations daily, “which is one of the primary responsibilities of a father,” he said. The couple also talk about vocations to the children: Magdalene 7, Gabriel 5, Lucy 3, Levi 1.
“We talk about their ‘Capital ‘V’ Vocation,’ how God has a plan for their lives, and how through their vocation God will use them to serve others and ultimately achieve heaven,” said Kathleen.
“We are very blessed with many friends who are pursuing their own religious vocations, so having them interact with our family regularly is important for us to show our kids vocations in action.
“When our oldest was 4, she came with me to attend a good friend’s first vows as a Salesian sister. They have come with us to other friends’ priestly ordinations. And we often have priest or seminarian friends over for dinner.”
To create a Culture of Vocations in their home, they help their children “see the beauty and fun of our Catholic faith. We do this by celebrating feast days with special activities or foods (with extra effort being made on our kids’ patrons feasts); consuming Catholic media like ‘Brother Francis’ shows, the “Jesus Storybook” Bible DVDs and the ‘Little Saint Adventures’ game app; and by purchasing Catholic toys. Some favorite toys over here are the Shining Light Saint Dolls, a cut-out Mass set, stickers and always a large variety of books.”
What would the Chovanes like young men and women to know about their vocations?
“They’re incredibly important,” said Michael. “Pray for your vocations if you’re in the process of discerning.”
Kathleen tells her children “to never feel afraid of where God might be calling them, especially in regard to their vocations. As our Creator, God knows our hearts more than anyone else (even ourselves) and He only ever calls us to where we will experience the most joy and fulfillment.
“Also, for those actively discerning, the most helpful piece of advice that a friend gave me was ‘Follow the peace. God never takes anyone kicking and screaming.’ I pass those words onto others all the time and still reflect on them in my own life when it comes to smaller daily discernments.”