The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 20, 2001 Issue
Foundations of Faith

Does the Lord call some to live as singles?

Single life calls for as much commitment as any other vocation

Part one of two

By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor

Singles Day

What: "Let Your Life Speak" -- a morning of enrichment for singles

When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 21

Where: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, 2771 Oakwood Drive, Green Bay

Keynote: Lee Nagel, director of Total Catholic Education for the Green Bay Diocese

Workshops: Sr. Mary Jo Kirt, Sr. Peg Gabik, Tim Noble, Kevin Miller

Cost: $17 at the door

For: All singles: never-married, separated, widowed, divorced.

What is the vocation to single life?

Do single people wonder what it means when we hear prayers for vocations to priesthood, religious life, married life and single life?

In the years before Vatican II, vocations meant only religious vocations - priesthood or religious life. Not everyone had a vocation, only those who received a special call from God.

The Council changed that notion, reminding us that everyone has a vocation - a special calling - from God. In Lumen Gentium, the document on the church, the Council said that "all the disciples of Christ. should everywhere on earth bear witness to Christ and give answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope of an eternal life.(no. 10).

By our baptism into Christ, we are called to share in his mission - proclaim the Good News, the Gospel of salvation, through our lives, to the world.

We all know at least a little bit what vocations to priesthood or religious life are. And, as the years have passed, people have more and more recognized that married life and family life have a sacred quality as well, and require dedication and commitment in the same way a religious vocation does.

Msgr. Jim Dillenburg, pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Green Bay and a former vocations director for the diocese says that marriage - like any vocation - requires devotion of energy. People cannot, he warns, just "fall into marriage. Maybe that's why so many marriage fail - there's not that commitment."

But while all vocations require energy and commitment, the vocation of single people seems the least clearly defined of all vocations.

First of all, single life is often viewed as a form of failure. Traditional attitudes have been: "If you're single, you just haven't discovered your true calling." Worse yet, if you approached middle life still single, then you were "left behind."

Sr. Peg Gabik, diocesan consultant for adult/young adult catechesis, says the attitudes are still there: "Singles are often defined by what they are not" - not married, not engaged, not a priest, not a nun, not a parent.

As Helen Scieszka, pastoral associate at Chilton Area Catholic and a life-long single agrees, saying the perception of single people has historically been "you were either an old maid or a rabid feminist if you were a woman, or gay or a playboy bachelor if you were a man." She, like many singles, feels that perception is changing, but slowly, as young people begin to see single people, committed to their careers, as professional role models.

Second, single life can be a more transitory stage - on your way to somewhere else. People can be single for any number of reasons: death, divorce, abandonment, care given other family members.

But sometimes single people are exactly where they choose to be. One of those who made the choice to live a single life is Lee Nagel, director of Total Catholic Education for the Green Bay Diocese. (Nagel will be the keynote speaker at both the diocesan morning of enrichment for singles on April 21 and a day for singles at Chilton Area Catholic on May 12.)

"Part of what the call to single life says to me," said Nagel, "is that you believe that a sense of completeness can occur because of your relationship with God and with the community of the faithful."

Like all members of Christ's body, single people have a vocation received in baptism. "Reborn as children of God, they must profess before people the faith they have received from God through the Church" (LG, no. 11). Single people do this in a specific way.

"Single life is a radical baptismal commitment," said Sr. Laura Zelten, vocations director for the Bay Settlement Franciscan Sisters, "Just like us in religious live, single people. dedicate their time, talent and treasure for the Church's good."

According to Sr. Mary Jo Kirt, former co-director of vocations for the diocese and now director of Mount Tabor Retreat Center in Menasha, single people find themselves committed to many people - family, friends, church communities and groups. They give their energies to several people - instead of a specific person as a spouse does - and should be supported by many people as well. Being single, say Sr. Kirt, whose work specializes in young adults, is a gift to the community and needs to be recognized as such by the community.

"Being single isn't something that you dreamt up," she says, "it's a gift from God. It might not be your choice, but you have to realize it is a gift and what part God plays in it. Jesus was single. What did it allow him to do? To be for everybody."

(Next: How singles live out their baptismal commitment "for everybody.")

(Sources: Vatican II documents; Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes; and NCCB's "Jubilee Day for Single Persons.")

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