Inscape Center Launches Mission Program, Discovering Personal Vocation

A Catholic nonprofit helps young adults discover how best to use their God-given gifts.

Joshua Miller, Ph.D., helps young adults discover how best to use their God-given gifts through courses and hands-on volunteer work.
Joshua Miller, Ph.D., helps young adults discover how best to use their God-given gifts through courses and hands-on volunteer work. (photo: Courtesy photos / Joshua Miller)

“The heart cry of our youth is to be known by name,” said Joshua Miller, executive director and co-founder of the Inscape Center for Personal Vocation. 

A Catholic nonprofit organization, the Inscape Center helps young adults discover their personal vocation. Inscape just announced the launch of its “Missions Experience” program in Steubenville, Ohio.

Young adults ages 18-23 can serve for a four-month, seven-month, or 12-month period. They will begin that time with a formation program, including an assessment of their unique gifts, one-on-one coaching, and missionary training. 

“There’s a glorious teaching of a personal vocation given to us by the Second Vatican Council, championed by St. John Paul II, and also significantly noted by Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, but it’s neglected,” Miller said. “We want [youth] to know that vocation is not simply a state of life that they are supposed to be discerning for later on, but that it’s right now.”

To aid this neglect, Miller and Luke Burgis founded Inscape, an organization “devoted to the vision of each person knowing, embracing, and living to the full, their unique personal vocation.”

“One hurdle is the way we talk about vocation,” Miller said. “It undermines the glory and truth of our baptism and prevents people from thinking about their vocation as a present daily reality.”

Rather than solely focusing on vocations to the marriage, the priesthood or religious life, Miller emphasized the importance of discovering personal vocation. When we understand our God-given gifts, we can learn exactly where we can use those gifts, and how to better live out a daily, personal vocation within our lifelong vocation, he explained.

Miller said that many organizations pose the questions, “Are you called?” or “Do you have a vocation?” But rather than ask a question, Miller said we should be saying, “You are called!”

“It’s not a question. We were created and then called when we were baptized,” Miller said. 

Brooke Miller, mission program coordinator and wife of Joshua, said that many people simply don’t give themselves the time to seek out their vocation. 

“Our youth are lacking the tools for discernment,” she said. 

“Oftentimes, there’s this false piety of wanting to do God’s will and sitting back waiting. Not to say God won’t speak to us then, but he also speaks to us in action.”

Our culture trains us to be passive receivers, she continued, but, really, our personal vocation is meant to be a co-creative reality.

“The whole point is so that kids … have a deep understanding of how they’re known by name and what they’re called to do,” Brooke said. 

Once missionaries finish the formation program, they will serve with one or two after-school programs with Sycamore Youth Center. The center offers 40 programs, including Bible studies, arts and crafts, cooking classes, and Tae Kwon Do. They also will work with volunteer projects in the area, such as The Harmonium Project and the Steubenville Cultural Trust

Missionaries will live in apartments right next to St. Peter’s Catholic Church, with women on the second floor with their house mother, Anna Frye, and men on the third floor with their house father, Robbie Corner. 

Inscape also has a partnership with Franciscan University of Steubenville, and all missionaries will have access to the chapel, library, fitness center, student center and campus events. 

“They’re going to be living a sacramental life in community, which is so beautiful,” Brooke said. 

Answering the Call to Personal Vocation 

Both Joshua and Brooke agreed that social media has disrupted our ability to discern in silence and listen to God’s voice — and silence was exactly what helped Braden Johnson discern his decision to become a missionary with Inscape. 

In October of 2018, Johnson went to the adoration chapel by his home in Wichita, Kansas, and experienced his reversion. 

“It was silent, and I really hated silence. Instead of running from the discomfort of being in that silence, I really allowed whatever was there to be brought up and brought in front of Jesus.”

Johnson said it was hard for him to physically let go and become aware of the dissatisfaction and insecurity in his own heart, but after letting Jesus in, he felt true peace for the first time.

“The digital world in which many, many people live pulls us significantly away from self-awareness and prayerful engagement with the Lord,” Joshua said. “There’s not a context of silent listening and an awareness of the Lord’s call.”

Johnson started working with the Newman Center at his college campus, Wichita State University, and then decided to take Joshua’s online vocation class through Franciscan. 

“It was the best class I’ve taken in my whole life,” Johnson said. “It helped me to understand how God was calling me, and it really brought a lot of clarity to my life.” 

Joshua then reached out to Johnson about joining the missionary program. 

“I had thought about moving out of Wichita, but it didn’t ever seem like there was a lot of peace,” Johnson said. “But there was so much peace with this decision. I’m very excited for the program.”

Currently, there are seven missionaries committed, four of whom are friends of Johnson that he told about the program. 

“A lot of my friends have this love for God and passion for serving him, but they're just wrestling to really understand how God’s calling them to live and who God’s calling them to be,” Johnson said.

Joshua has trained more than 55 vocation coaches who work with Franciscan students and will work with the Inscape missionaries.

“I’m excited to see young people awaken to their own unique calling as they pour themselves out in service to the community of students,” Joshua said. 

Joshua said that this mission is not just for the renewal of the youth in the program, but for priests, religious, parents and ultimately, the Church. 

“St. John Paul II says that the way the Church is renewed is through personal vocation,” Joshua explained. “This [mission is] an effort to bring renewal through personal vocation.”

Joshua recalled a quote by Frederick Buechner that summarizes the importance of personal vocation: 

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

“Jesus is beckoning daily by name,” Joshua said. “And that beckoning includes the universal call to holiness. It includes the state of life to which the person may need to discern. But if we’re alive and well and living in the state of grace, we remember the Body of Christ and that we have a mission today.”