God Has Given Us So Many Signs of Hope — This Is One of Them

The keys to renewal are stronger marriages and authentically Catholic schools.

Students fill a perpetual adoration chapel in Louisiana
Students fill a perpetual adoration chapel in Louisiana (photo: Ryan Verret)

National Vocations Awareness Week is drawing to a close. It is true that in most dioceses there is a vocation crisis, but that crisis starts as a crisis within the family. Marriage and family are the real vocation crisis, and when we realize the root of the problem and do something about it, we will see a surge of vocations. This new springtime will not happen overnight or even in the next 10 years.

How and when will things change? The keys to renewal are stronger marriages and authentically Catholic schools. When couples are prepared to live out their sacramental marriages in the church community and when they realize that the formation of their children, at home or at school, is how they are prepared to live out their vocations, things will begin to change. Ultimately, every child is a precious gift given from God and offered back to God in how they choose to live their lives. The strength of a parent’s marriage and the Catholicity of a child’s school have everything to do with that child’s ability to discern God’s plan for their lives and be successful in living it out faithfully. There are many holy vocations who come from divorced homes and who did not go to Catholic schools, but they will tell you that it was harder to hear God’s call. (This includes vocations to the sacrament of marriage.)

An early-morning photo that my husband Ryan took in the perpetual adoration chapel at our church is moving in so many ways. Every morning on a typical school day, this is what it looks like long before school starts. These teenagers don’t have to get up early and go to adoration, but they go. Day after day and year after year. They are giving their best time to God. They are bringing him their hopes and dreams, their fears and their failures. They are forming the friendship that will change the course of their lives, the friendship that is the foundation of all other friendships — their friendship with Jesus Christ.

Friendship with Jesus — this is how vocation awareness starts. Vocations to holy marriages and new families. Vocations to the priesthood. Vocations to consecrated life. Vocations that will change the world!

I have so much hope. While their numbers may be small, they are growing. These families know that the latest and greatest in technology is not as important as a relationship with Jesus Christ. These are the parents who know that extracurriculars are exactly that — extra. The core of everything at our humble school is friendship with Jesus Christ.

At John Paul the Great Academy, we believe that there is greatness in every child, and that greatness is God’s. Everything we do is aimed at helping that child discover, cultivate, and return that greatness to God by living life for Him, fully alive. We share our faith in all of its joy and mystery as something known and something lived.

Our little school started in 2007 with a few like-minded families, and this year two of the seminarians who were accepted by the Diocese of Lafayette graduated from John Paul the Great Academy. There are already beautiful marriages, beautiful sisters and beautiful priests who have come from the school. The school has a circle of families who put Christ at the center of every decision. At the end of our life, it won’t matter if we had private tennis lessons, the latest technology or got into the best colleges — although many of these kids do! At the end of our life, we will be judged on our love.

There is nothing that I want more for our children but that they live their lives as a gift from God and that they give their lives as a gift back to God. These high-schoolers in adoration every morning give reason for hope!

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Mississippi River are seen from East St. Louis, Illinois, on June 27. Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on June 24, abortion is now banned in Missouri. The nearest clinics to St. Louis are across the river in Illinois, including a Planned Parenthood in Fairview Heights that was opened in 2019 in anticipation of the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Welcome to Post-Roe America

Every year on the anniversary of Dobbs, Catholics will be able to deepen their understanding of God’s role in the conception of every child, his care for the child’s growth, his knowing each by name, and the future for which he has given each child life.