As I work through my third-grade religion curriculum each year, I always try to add something extra to help make class memorable for my students. For the past two years, during Vocation Awareness Week, I’ve added a Skype session to our class time. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has chosen the first full week of November as Vocation Awareness Week. This year it falls on November 2–8. I found that introducing my students to others living a religious vocation makes a fun and lasting impression on my students.
Two years ago we were able to Skype with Fr. Andy Roza. He is a graduate of the school where I teach, and he currently teaches religion at Scotus Central Catholic High School in Columbus, Nebraska. My goal was to introduce Fr. Roza to my students and allow them the opportunity to ask him any questions they had about the life of a priest. The questions we asked him varied from “What was your favorite memory when you were a student at our school?” to “Do you miss not having a wife and children?”
I believe the most important takeaway my students had was his closing words. He reminded my students that God has a plan for them, that he made them, and that they are good. I’m sure my students have heard this many times from me, other teachers, and their parents, but to hear it from a priest who went to their school must have been especially meaningful.
This past January we Skyped with a seminarian named Andy Boyd. I’m involved in the Institute for Priestly Formations, which is held every summer at Creighton University. Each summer, Creighton is filled with seminarians from across the country who learn and pray together. Andy and I worked together on a computer project and became friends. When it was time for Vocation Awareness Week, I knew we would Skype with him at his seminary in Pennsylvania.
The children enjoyed asking him questions and hearing his responses. We asked him what he enjoys doing in his free time. His response caused my class to cheer: He plays Minecraft! His answer showed them that having a priestly vocation doesn’t prevent you from having fun.
Andy also ended his call with the same message as Fr. Roza’s. He reminded them to never give up on learning what their vocation is and that God has a special call just for them.
My students write the questions beforehand and I always e-mail them ahead of time to my Skype participants. They take notes as we listen to the answers during the call, and they share the notes with their families. By sharing their notes with their parents, the children begin a conversation about vocations at home.
The final part of the call is the “thank-you” note. I always have my students send cards thanking the participants for taking time out of their day to Skype with us. When Andy got our cards, he took a picture of them and sent it out on Instagram, which also spreads the message of vocations!
When I learned that Andy called them “Vocation Encouragement Cards,” I realized that our activity was a positive experience on both sides.