I have a job interview tomorrow. I could certainly use all of your prayers and positive thoughts! You can scroll to the bottom for a career update, or keep reading for some additional reflections.
One of my first networking dates last summer was with my friend Andy. We ran into each other at a mutual friend’s ordination, and we agreed to meet sometime after graduation. Of course, neither of us knew that the week after graduation would find me searching for a new job!
It was quite fortuitous though, as Andy had recently made a significant and successful career transition. On top of that, Andy is a compassionate listener, we share interests in both business and ministry, and he was full of great advice.
Andy’s best advice that evening was this: “Callings are vocational and locational.”
I’ve thought about this many times as I discern what’s next, especially when well-meaning friends send me job postings that would require me to relocate half way across the country! I’ve received job postings from New York to Detroit to Southern California. I am so grateful to everyone for thinking of me!
The reality though is that I have no desire to leave Chicago. I’ve lived here for almost 20 years. All of my closest friends are here, my church community(ies) are here, and I have a strong professional network in this area. If I’m going to work regionally or nationally, Chicago is a great place to be located. God continues to do amazing work through my life and relationships in this place. It would take a pretty incredible opportunity for me to leave.
So, Andy’s little truism has been a great source of reflection as I’ve considered each opportunity that has crossed my path.
Callings are Vocational
The word vocation comes from the Latin ‘vocare’ to call – God calls upon our gifts, our skills, our passions. God knows our life experience and our personalities. God taps into our deepest desires, those things which bring us great joy and are life-giving to others.
My year at Amate House – teaching math at an all-girls’ high school in Chicago – was a vocational call. It answered my passion for service, my propensity for numbers, my knack for teaching, and my desire to make a difference in the lives of young women through education.
It also took place in a very specific location, and East Humboldt Park looks very different today than it did 20 summers ago!
Callings are Locational
Similarly, God invites us to use our gifts in a particular place, with a particular group of people, and within certain geographical boundaries. In other words, God is not random. God uses us where we are.
Each year when I travel with students to Nicaragua, we have dinner with Fabretto’s president Kevin Marinacci. Kevin spent a year in Nicaragua immediately following college. One year turned into two, then two into three, and the rest is history! Kevin has given his life to the people of Nicaragua for over 25 years. And yet Kevin is the first one to tell our students, “You can serve anywhere!” Whether it is Nicaragua or South Africa or the south side of Chicago. The location is not nearly as important as responding to the call. There will always be people in need, God simply asks us to respond wherever we are.
As I consider whether my next move is a vocational or locational call, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the things that give me life and spark renewed energy in me. What about my vocation and location have always been true? What “more” can I do for God either by staying here or risking something new? Freedom is essential – an openness to God’s invitation and the willingness to discern without placing limits on God.
Here are some of the many things that have caught my attention:
I have a pilgrim’s heart and missionary feet. Chicago has always been “mission territory” ever since I came here 20 years ago. And yet, I now own a home in the city, my friends are here, I’ve put down roots. In the midst of the job search, a colleague commented, “Beth, people around the Archdiocese know you.” Chicago is clearly a locational call.
Meanwhile, another professional acquaintance asked, “Have you thought about being a missionary?” I presume he meant becoming a missionary and moving to another country. I replied, “I should really pay attention to this.” On the one hand, I hear myself saying, “I could never leave Chicago.” And the next day, I find myself searching online for language immersion programs in Central America. Perhaps there is another locational calling that awaits.
I remember a conversation I had with a favorite Scripture professor, Barbara Bowe, who encouraged me to heed Jesus’ words, “Put out into deep waters!” (Luke 5:4) It was her way of saying, “Don’t be afraid to go far, let yourself be stretched, and keep learning!” My wonderful mentor Fr. Ken Simpson often reflects on that great line from the sending of the disciples “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.” (Luke 10:4) Fr. Ken’s advice was always, “Travel light so you can travel far.” This is true for geographical travel, as well as following our life’s call.
Last fall, I interviewed for a position at a local parish. It was both vocational (using my gifts) and locational (in a specific place), but for many reasons, it was not the right opportunity at the right time. It would have been a safe and easy assignment at a time when I knew God was calling me to something more. It was one of those very early moments of saying “no” in order to say a deeper “yes”.
Finally, one of my favorite prayer poems is Mario Benedetti’s “Te Quiero” – a love letter of sorts to those who commit their lives to serving God and God’s people. I am often moved to tears by this stanza:
and for your open face
and your wanderer’s footstep
and your weeping for the world
because you are of the people I love you
I have an interview tomorrow.
It is an incredible job opportunity and a great career move! I would be working for a Catholic organization for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration. It would allow me to stay based in Chicago while making an impact on a much wider scale, and it aligns perfectly with my desire to live in greater solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the globe.
Furthermore, it feels like a calling – an invitation to become more authentically who I am. It is both a vocational and a locational call. I’m pretty sure this is where God is inviting me next. Please pray for the clarity to hear the call and the courage to say yes.
I am so grateful for your prayers of support and presence on the journey!