“Lord, what is it that you want me to do with my life?”

I can still vividly remember asking this question for the first time, one night in my dorm room as a freshman at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn. I had just returned from a meeting of a Catholic men’s group where we had talked about vocations. Back in my dorm room, it was the first time I had honestly asked that question to God, and I remember hearing him telling me: “Priesthood.”

My response? “Ok, that’s funny, but really, what do you actually want me to do with life?” His response was again: “Priesthood,” to which I said to myself: “Uh oh…”

This Sunday, May 7, the Catholic Church in the United States and throughout the world will observe the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We have the opportunity to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life.

Most people live this vocation to love through the vocation of marriage. However, God still calls men and women to love Him with an “undivided heart,”  to live out the vocation to love within the particular vocations of priesthood, diaconate and religious life. Though it was very much a surprise, God called me to the vocation of priesthood.

After high school, I attended the University of Saint Thomas primarily because I was interested in studying business, and thought I would marry and raise a family. It was in college where I experienced a conversion, and for the first time, began to make our Catholic faith my own. As I now approach ordination to the priesthood, I feel tremendously blessed.

Why do I write today? I wish to humbly ask the readers in the Archdiocese and beyond to pray for an increase of vocations.

Pray that a “culture of vocations” will continue to be fostered in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

For us as Catholics, it should be our prayer that, in a similar way, the idea of praying, reflecting and then responding to the vocation that God calls us to would be ingrained in our Catholic culture. As a seminarian, I have really enjoyed the opportunities to visit our Catholic grade schools and high schools to speak about vocations. I have been very edified by the great work of the teachers and the faith of so many families in our parishes. It is apparent that the idea of discerning God’s vocation in life is part of our Catholic culture, and is becoming part of what we do as Catholics. But, is there more that we could do?

Let us keep talking about vocations, so that a “culture of vocations” may continue to be fostered, so that a discernment of the Lord’s call – whether it be to marriage, priesthood or religious life – is something that young people grow up with. Please pray that a “culture of vocations” will continue to be fostered in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee! On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2017, may it be our prayer that young people be not afraid and respond with generous hearts to the call of Jesus in their lives.

Deacon John Baumgardner will be ordained in July. He is currently in his fourth year of theology studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.