Vocations Day
Vocations Day
By Alec Hufford


On November 5, the Feast of All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus, each of the four Jesuits who work at Canisius High School visited senior classes to discuss vocation and discernment of one's calling. The campus minister, Fr. Michael Corcoran, S.J. '76, said that they chose to speak in senior classes because fourth year students are currently making choices about their futures and discerning the best path forward.

In his visits to various classrooms, Fr. Corcoran first spoke about his own experience being a student at Canisius and discerning a vocation. While he didn't enter the Society until a few years after graduating, it was at Canisius that the seeds of his Jesuit vocation were planted. It was first a lay teacher, Ken Durkin, who asked if he had ever thought about being a Jesuit. With this question in mind, the example of the Jesuits at Canisius – who seemed to him to be very happy, very joyful people – helped steward his love of service and his desire to learn more about prayer; all of which contributed to his choice to enter religious life later on. Fr. Corcoran asked the students, "What's important when you are making a big decision?" That question led to a good discussion about paying attention to one's deepest desires and looking at one's strengths and weaknesses. Following the discussion was a question-and-answer session where many of the students' questions were about the vows and different ministries that Fr. Corcoran has been involved in as a Jesuit. In one class, the student who was most engaged and asked the deepest questions shared at the end that he's the least likely to become a Jesuit because he's a Muslim, but nonetheless he enjoyed the discussion and learned about discernment. That student's engagement was illuminating to all.

Regarding his own vocation, Fr. Adelmo Dunghe, S.J. said, "For me it was always like an adventure." Fr. Dunghe wanted the students to ask questions about this adventure — the religious vocation that brought him to New York, Toronto, and New Orleans in pursuit of higher education. Their primary question was about what drew him, what attracted him to the Jesuits. Fr. Dunghe did not go to Canisius, but rather a local public school. And yet, Canisius impacted him because his best friend attended and was well formed by Canisius High School. Because of this close relationship, he learned that the Jesuits were famous for education and eventually felt called to religious life because of his vocation to teach and publish. After attaining a bachelor's degree in English and an MFA in theater, he entered the Society. From there he secured philosophy and theology degrees and then continued on to get advanced theology degrees and a PhD in theology and cinema. Within the Society, Fr. Dunghe was able to integrate his interests and become a teacher of religion and film. For the students, Fr. Dunghe's story shows how being a Jesuit has allowed him to embrace all of his interests together and use them to serve the common good.

In his classroom visits, Fr. Richard Zanoni, S.J. focused on the theme of pursuing a vocation and not just a career. He told students that while a career will make one happy, living one's vocation – one's God-given purpose – brings abiding joy. On his fourth tour of duty serving Canisius High School, Fr. Zanoni emphasized the need to integrate one's career into one's vocation. And in all vocations, whether married or celibate, one has vows. The primary vocation for most of us, Fr. Zanoni said, is as a family person and we must integrate career into that; one's job must serve one's family for a person's primary vow is to his or her children and spouse. In addition, some are called to a vocation in the Church – as a priest, brother, or sister — and to illustrate the beauties of that life Fr. Zanoni shared stories from his own assignments all over the world. He explained that, as Jesuit, he is not called to any particular task, but is available to do anything to serve the people of God. In the end, Fr. Zanoni said: "I can't tell you how many people I meet who hate their jobs because they aren't living their vocation. Remember: Career makes a living; vocation makes a life."

Fr. Ciancimino began his classroom visit with a discussion on how people make choices and how one can discern his or her purpose. This conversation culminated in a fruitful exchange about how one's interior life and deepest desires can often indicate what God wants one to do; one's deepest holy desires — for love, service, a particular career, or path — are often suggestive of God's desires for him or her.

Fr. Ciancimino continued, encouraging the students to test their desires with what others, those who are closest to them, say about themselves and what their friends and family imagine they could do. Fr. Ciancimino then shared his own story of discernment from his time at a Jesuit high school and first year at a Jesuit college and how he was moved by the example of the Jesuits in those communities. He also shared about his various assignments as a Jesuit. Near the end of the visit, Fr. Ciancimino asked the students what they imagined to be hardest part of the Jesuit life. Initially, most students mentioned the vow of chastity, but deeper reflection led many to see how the vow of obedience is so difficult because eventually you may be called to leave those who you have grown to love and invest so much in. He also asked what the students found most nourishing and most attractive to them in the Jesuit life. For them, the ability to reinvent oneself in each new assignment was desirable and they found that they were moved by the idea of having a community to journey through life with. In the end, Fr. Ciancimino would say to pay attention to those fluctuations in the heart, to notice what repels oneself in imagining religious life and to consider what attracts oneself to that life; it is in these interior movements that God is often speaking.