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
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
Keynote: Lee Nagel, director of Total Catholic Education for the
Green Bay Diocese
Workshops: Sr. Mary Jo Kirt, Sr. Peg Gabik, Tim Noble, Kevin
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
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
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
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
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
"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
(Sources: Vatican II documents; Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes; and NCCB's "Jubilee Day for Single Persons.")