Q: If I’m feeling completely lost regarding my vocation, with no direction or even an idea, what’s the best place Ask Fr. Jerry Herdato start? Why/how did you decide to enter the seminary?

A: Pray, pray and pray some more — that is the place to start. That may sound like a canned answer, but when it comes to our vocation God already knows what he has in store for us. We just need to listen to where he is calling us.

If you think about it, the fact that God already knows our vocation is actually kind of reassuring – at least someone knows! Now you just need to listen to what God is telling you.

When I was trying to decide my vocation, I had so many questions and very few answers. I entered my freshman year of college thinking I might want to be an accountant. I wasn’t sure if someday I would want to be married and have kids. But I did know that faith was an important part of my life. So I began to talk to others, explore different possibilities and by my sophomore year of college I thought I might want to be a youth minister.

I also knew I needed to pray about what I should do with my life. I belonged to a prayer group and we prayed together. But probably the most powerful times of prayer and discernment were – ready for this – when I would mow the lawn at my parents’ house. Sitting on the riding lawn mower, it was a quiet time to reflect and listen to God.

Now, it wasn’t as if I heard this thunderous voice of God tell me I should be a priest, but I knew God was talking to me through my own thoughts when others confirmed what I was thinking.  

Your discernment of your vocation needs to simply start with deciding: What are some the most important things in your life? How do you like to spend your time? What do you really enjoy doing? Answering these questions can help you discern what career path you might want to follow.

But discerning a vocation is so much more than just a career decision; it is a life decision. How are you going to live your life? My hope is that no matter what vocation you are called to, no matter what career path you may choose, you will do it for Christ.

Just before my ordination, Bishop Richard J. Sklba recommended that we select a Scripture passage that we can use as a motto for our vocation. I chose Colossians 3:17 – “Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do it all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I try and live this each day of my life as a priest. I hope you do the same, no matter what your vocation may be.

Q: Robin Williams’ death Aug. 11 made me think about friends I may have who are depressed and find keeping the faith difficult as they are suffering. What should I do or say to help?

A: Robin Williams was such a great actor; I loved so many of his movies — “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Jumanji,” “Night at the Museum,” just to name a few. Like so many, I was shocked to hear of the news that he had been suffering with depression and that he had taken his own life.

There was a terrific article by Karen Osborne on the Catholic News Service shortly after the death of Williams. In the article she speaks of how our society thinks of depression as moodiness and does not consider depression as a real illness. Williams, as talented a man as he was in the acting field, was also a man who had a real illness called depression.

We have all experienced times of sadness, but when it moves into the area of depression, it is a very serious matter. So the very first thing you should tell your friends or anyone who is experiencing signs of depression is to go and see their doctor.

If they were experiencing signs of a physical ailment such as the flu or a rash or chest pains that wouldn’t go away, you wouldn’t hesitate to tell them to go and see their doctor. It should be the same when it comes to depression. They need to get help.

Sometimes what we describe to others as depression can be the feeling of sadness. Grieving is a part of life, sorrow is a part of life; these are feelings from which we should not run or hide.

When you are feeling sad, don’t allow someone to tell you “just get over it.” That is not what you need to hear. What you need to hear is the voice of someone who cares, someone who understands.

For your friends who are depressed, it is important to give them a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, and, if you observe that it is something deeper than sadness or grief, insist that they go and see their doctor. Empathy and offering hope can make a huge difference.

We also know that clinical depression has a lot to do with the way chemicals in our brain are working or not working. For someone who is clinically depressed, they may have every desire to “get over it” but the chemicals in their brain just won’t cooperate. That is why it is so important for anyone experiencing depression to seek professional help. It is not their fault and help can be found.

In our journey of life, we need God and we need others. So if your friends are finding it difficult to find the help they need, please help them to find the help they need. There are plenty of resources available including: Mental Health America of Wisconsin (mhawisconsin.org, (414) 276-3122) and National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org, (414) 344-0447). They are ready and willing to help.

(Fr. Herda, ordained in 1990, is pastor of St. Monica Parish, Whitefish Bay, and St. Eugene Parish, Fox Point. If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask a priest, email it to ruscht@archmil.org and place “Ask Fr. Jerry” in the subject line.)