Here I Am, Lord.

By Luis Enrique Jacquez, El Paso, Texas, August 31, 2011
September 16, 2011

I Come To Do Your Will: A Reflection on Catholics on Call

Flying into Chicago to attend the Catholics on Call conference at CTU, I was enchanted by the beauty of this vast city and the immenseness of Lake Michigan.  Coming from the desert city of El Paso, just being close to such a large body of water was enough to make the visit a success!  However there were even greater things in store; the beauty of being among strangers who quickly became friends, and the comforting notion that though I may not know where I am going, if there are other people searching then maybe I am not as lost as I think.

This annual gathering targets young adults from the ages of 18-30 that are pondering a life of service in the church and to all of Gods people.  There was an emphasis on vocations to the priesthood, religious life, or professional lay ministry.  To view “vocation” simply through these three options, though, felt somewhat limiting.  For most of us attending the conference—myself  included—we are still trying to understand who we are and searching for where we need to be.  All we know for sure is that, like Samuel, we hear that voice in the night calling out our name and our response is, “Here I Am, Lord.”  The conference created an atmosphere of longing for God and knowing that whatever path I may take will be my vocation.  Finding joy in the ministries I am doing now will lead me to be closer to God.

The conference began with the topic of the call throughout history.  At the heart of every vocation is God’s first call to us, to believe in and trust God.  It was a moving experience to revisit how God has called people throughout the ages.  People who may not have been saintly but in their own brokenness—which I related to—responded to Gods call and helped change the world.  Abraham and Sarah, called to be the parents of countless children as numerous as the stars.   Moses who answered his call to lead the Jewish people to freedom.  The Apostles who heard the call of Jesus to drop their nets and become fisher’s of people.  Called, again, after the Resurrection to be the salt of the earth and light to all the nations.  This is how God works in our own lives.   Calling us to a mission we may not understand but still we continue to walk the path of our destiny.

Catholics on Call was a great example of the whole church in the United States.  As a Hispanic and coming from a mostly Hispanic city, it was a bit of culture shock to be in Chicago.  One of the leaders commented to me that this was the first time almost half of the attendees were Latino.  In reality there was no sense of separation due to culture or ethnicity.  The beauty of this conference is that although we were all different and our call to service is different, we were not defined buy our differences.  Even though in the same conference room there was equal amount of folks one might call conservative and others liberal minded.  During our free time we had discussions with people whose opinions were different.  We came together in our similarity as young adults in our society and in our church. We prayed, worshiped, listened, and laughed together which helped build a sense of community.  This gave me great hope.  Our country is increasingly divided along political, economical, and moral lines so that even our dialogue seems to bring deeper separation.  The hope I sensed at Catholics on Call was that young adult Catholics as present and future leaders would able to get it right.

We often speak of young people as the “future” church.  They are the leaders of tomorrow who are never given an actual start date for the symbolic passing of the torch to the next generation.  I was encouraged, however, as I listened, again, to the call stories of Samuel, Jeremiah, and Mary and realized that young people are leaders today.  My new friends that I met at this conference, fellow disciples of Christ, are all in some way, leaders of their own lives, of their destinies, and of our church.  Our response to God’s call in some way is shaping us even as we are shaping the world.

I went into this conference with many questions and a decision that needed to be made.  Although I cannot say that the conference provided me with the answer, it did reaffirm that God calls us and how much God loves us.  In hearing other people stories I realized that as young adults we are all in a kind of desert place in our lives.  Recognizing that what worked for us spiritually as children no longer works, we are seeking more. Balancing a service-filled life with our prayer amidst the noise that exists in our culture.  Remembering together that it was in the desert that the prophets and Jesus heard their calling.  To come out of the desert with a message that changed the world.  I am certain now that God is calling me to the priesthood and although I still have many questions I sing the song from the conference, “Take me take me as I am.”  For those who are interested in a life of service, to serve the people of God I strongly recommend Catholics on Call.  You may not receive answers but only more questions.  You will be immersed in the grace of God’s love in meeting other young adults with the same questions.  And perhaps, like me, you will enter the conference saying, “Here I am” and leave praying, “Let your will be done.”