Teachers, alumni share advice about vocations

By Isabella Daley

As the end of the 2017-2018 school year approaches at McNick, seniors finalize their college decisions and freshmen look forward to completing their first year of high school.  While many students may be seeking advice about summer jobs or where to travel for vacation, several McNick teachers and alumni offer advice about a topic that considers the future beyond this summer: How should one discern their vocation?

Each person has a unique vocation

The students at McNick learn about vocations like the priesthood, married life, and consecrated religious life as well as the smaller vocations they are called to live out in their everyday lives.  Tony Losekamp, who graduated from McNick in 2013 and is currently finishing his first year in the seminary, said the common vocation among all people is that “everyone is called to follow Jesus.”  Losekamp added that there are a variety of vocations, saying “not everyone is called to be a priest.”

During his 26 years in the priesthood, Father David Sunberg, a 1982 graduate of McNick, has filled a variety of roles in addition to his continuous role as a priest.  He is currently the Spiritual Director at the seminary, but he has also been a chaplain in the US Army and a pastor for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church.  Sunberg will soon become the Director of Formation of the Permanent Deaconate at the seminary, and he believes that each of his roles has been an important part of his vocation.

Sister Judi Keehnen, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph who graduated McNick in 1959, said that each person’s vocation will be different for them than it is for someone else.  She mentioned that God could be calling someone to be a teacher, mom, dancer, or actor, but that “[a vocation] has to be a decision that you and God make together as far as what you want to do.”

McNicholas math teacher Bill Losekamp said he considers a vocation to be “a way of life” rather than a single action or job that one does.  “I would say my vocation mostly is that I was called to be a husband and a father,” Losekamp said.  He said that teaching is also part of his vocation but that it is how he teaches and guides his students that completes his vocation.  “I hope besides just teaching, I hope I’m kind of raising my students,” he said.

Business and Technology Department Chair Barb Gilming agreed with Losekamp’s idea that a vocation is a way of life.  “You can have a job, and you can have a vocation.  A vocation is how you do your job,” Gilming said.  Gilming said she believes her calling is “to love the students; to help them on their journey in a time that is not necessarily easy.”

“You never know when the Lord’s going to call you.”

There is no one specific moment in life at which each individual will recognize his or her vocation.  Some people will consider multiple different vocations before they realize what they are truly meant to do.  While some may know what God is calling them to do before they start high school, others may be searching for their purpose even after they have graduated from college.  “You never know when the Lord’s going to call you,” Sunberg said.

Sunberg said that he first “felt a calling to become a priest” when he was in kindergarten, but it was not until his junior year of high school at McNick that he was sure he wanted to become a priest.  He went on a visit to the seminary and fully recognized his calling because “it felt like home.”

Like Sunberg, many people feel a nudge to consider a certain vocation but wait several years to pursue it.  Sister Keehnen said that she first started thinking about becoming a sister when a nun visited her seventh grade class to talk about her missions, but she did not think much about it again until her senior year at McNick.  “I kind of put it out of my mind during high school,” Sister Keehnen said.  She reconsidered a vocation as a sister when one of the sisters at McNick asked her, “Why don’t you join us?”

Similar to Sister Keehnen, Gilming began pondering the idea of her vocation when a group of missionaries came to speak about their work in Africa at her high school.  She told her dad that she wanted to become a missionary when she graduated, but her dad challenged her to earn a college degree first.  Gilming studied education because she thought it would help her as a missionary.  However, once she began teaching, she understood that she was meant to be in the classroom.

Tony Losekamp’s plans for his life also changed after he started college.  He had taken many AP science courses at McNick and pursued a degree in environmental sciences at The Ohio State University because he wanted to help the planet.  “I thought I was going to save the world.  I wanted to be a good person.  I wanted to help,” Losekamp said.

Losekamp started attending Bible studies at the Newman Center in college and said he began thinking about becoming a priest as he “met other men my age trying to be holy.”  He said that he is working toward the priesthood now, but entering seminary is still a process of discernment.  “It’s not one hundred percent I’m going to be a priest.  It’s one hundred percent I’m going to pray more about being a priest,” Losekamp said.

Bill Losekamp’s journey to his vocation was more gradual.  He said that he thought about his vocation as a specific action he would have to go out and do when he was younger, but growing up with seven siblings eventually led him toward married life.  “I saw what it meant to have a family and the way my family members were living their lives,” Losekamp said.

It is important to pray, reflect, and consult others

Discerning vocation can be stressful or confusing, but praying or talking with others can help ease the weight of some of the decisions necessary.  Bill Losekamp said that, “as long as you keep praying about [your vocation], things will work out.”  He added that it is not only important to pray, but it is important to listen to your heart and to “make sure you’re open to where the spirit might be leading you.”

Tony Losekamp said that God may speak to people through some of the events they experience in their lives, just as events like going on Kairos, attending Friday morning Masses, and meeting Father Jan Schmidt helped him in his discernment process.  He said that it is also important to make prayer a continuous part of one’s life, “not just when you need a job or help on a test.”

Sometimes bringing one’s concerns to God in prayer can help people more fully understand why God has called them to their particular vocations.  “If you’re looking for true fulfillment, pray,” Gilming said.  Gilming said that she asked God for guidance once when she was “in a rough place” and unsure how to recognize her purpose in what she was doing.  She covered her eyes after receiving communion at Mass and prayed, “I want to do your will.  I’ll do what you say.”  Gilming said that somewhere inside her she heard the words, “you’re looking in the wrong place,” and that God helped guide her toward what was important.  She was able to see her students and the classroom in a renewed light when she returned to school the next day.

“God will reveal to you what He really wants you to do in your life,” Sister Keehnen said.  Although it is an individual choice for each person to decide what to do with their life, Sister Keehnen added that students can always talk with others about their decisions.  “Don’t be afraid to go talk with a priest or a nun you might know,” she said.

There are many wise people in each individual’s life who can share their wisdom and help guide others on the right path.  Sunberg said students can benefit from “being open to listening to God in a variety of ways.”  He said that when people ask God what He wants from them, they should make sure to listen to what others say because God can talk through other people.

You will find peace

While the process of discerning a vocation may be nerve wracking for some, following God’s call will ultimately lead to a sense of peace in one’s life.  There will likely be many doubts and fears on the road to finding one’s purpose, but the end result will be one of gratitude and understanding.

Tony Losekamp said that people may be afraid that they are not holy enough to do what God is calling them to do, but that God will help each person to fulfill their callings because He loves them.  “God doesn’t call us because we deserve it; God calls us because He loves us,” Losekamp said.  “Don’t be afraid to accept God’s love for [you].”

Others said that accepting God’s love and call will be rewarding in the end if one is first willing to trust in God.  Sunberg said that being a priest has “been a real blessing” and that he is glad he followed God’s call.  “I think being a priest is the very best thing I’ve done in my life,” he said.  Sister Keehnen advised students to “trust God more,” because they “are not making this decision by [themselves].”

Gilming agreed that trusting God and following his plan will bring peace to one’s life.  “You’re never going to be more fulfilled in doing something than what God is calling you to do,” she said.  Gilming said that, even if it sounds dumb or scary, “you’re going to be prepared for what God wants you to do.  All you have to do is take a step in His direction.”

Not every difficulty in life will disappear when people take the step to pursue their vocations, but they will recognize in their heart that they are doing what is right.  Bill Losekamp said that, “if you can say you made a difference in someone’s life each day, you know you’re in the right place.”

vocations 1
Business and Technology Department Chair Barb Gilming films the freshmen during the Class of 2021 orientation in August. Gilming welcomed the students and recorded their first day on campus. Photo courtesy of McNicholas Archives.
vocations 2
Math teacher Bill Losekamp blows a whistle during the powder puff game between the juniors and the seniors. Losekamp served as the referee as part of the festivites for Homecoming Spirit Week. Photo courtesy of McNicholas Archives.
vocations 3
Sister Judi Keehnen volunteers at Matthew 25 Ministries during a day of service in 2016. McNicholas students joined the Sisters of St. Joseph to serve the poor and form community bonds. Photo courtesy of McNicholas Archives.

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