The connection between the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and religious vocations is very real, partly because the connection between education and the priesthood is very real.
We’ve seen the ACE connection a lot recently. During Lent, it was my privilege to talk with Tony Hollowell, an ACE graudate who is studying in Rome to be a priest for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He eloquently discussed how the embrace of vocational discernment in ACE supported him on his path toward a priestly vocation. His journey allowed him to be present in St. Peter’s Square when Pope Francis emerged on the balcony for the first time, and Tony was interviewed on national Catholic radio the next morning describing that memorable experience.
More recently, our ACE newsblog carried the report of two new ordinations of men who had served as ACE teachers. Congratulations to Fr. Luke Marquard and Fr. Andrew Nelson!
Then there’s the example of Father Timothy Klosterman, a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He was ordained in 2008, and he’s joining ACE’s Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program now to prepare to serve as a principal or other leader in Catholic schools. You can read his story in a May 31 posting from the archdiocesan newspaper, The Tidings. (Scroll down to see his story as part two of the article.) Father Timothy served first as a lay teacher. Now a priest, serving as a chaplain in a Catholic high school, he continues to find joy in the call to teach and to reach young people with the message that God is calling all of them into service.
Of course, most of those striving to sustain, strengthen and transform Catholic schools through ACE are laypeople throughout their whole lives. But the amazing experience of service through teaching obviously prompts some men and women to consider the even higher levels of commitment called priesthood or consecrated life . A new report from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, titled “The Class of 2013: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” reports that fully 18% of the men ordained as priests in 2013 previously held full-time jobs as educators.
How does one explain this connection? In the case of ACE, I see a zeal for service and an atmosphere of discernment, nourished by intentional faith communities. There’s also the inherent kinship between education and the Church’s even broader call to evangelize. Teachers and priests are called to make the Lord present to people, in perpetuity. The resurrected Jesus issues the mandate in Matthew 28:19-20, often summed up as the call to “go forth and teach.” He missions his followers: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”