Seminarians for the Diocese of Charleston said parental support is crucial to their calling. Some don’t think they would have made it through seminary at all, while others said it would have been much more difficult.
The Office of Vocations devotes an entire webpage to helping parents respond in a positive way to their son’s call to the priesthood.
It isn’t always easy to do; especially if the news is a surprise.
Marsha Beach said they had moved her son Stephen into his dorm room at Winthrop University, where he was signed to play tennis. On the morning of her departure, Stephen told her he believed secular college was the wrong decision and God was calling him to something else.
“I was mildly surprised at his timing,” she said, laughing at the understatement. At first, she encouraged him to remain at Winthrop for a semester, but by then, Stephen was convinced of his path.
“I guess it took an enormous amount of courage to spring that on me at the last moment,” Mrs. Beach said, adding that Stephen had prayed intensely the night before and God gave him strength.
Stephen, now in his first year of theology at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, said the ideal of marriage and children made him hesitant to tell his family.
“In some cultures it’s a big honor for your son to be a priest, but our country doesn’t seem to be that way,” he said.
In the end, Mrs. Beach said what mattered most was Stephen’s conviction that he was doing what God wanted.
“My job as a parent is to help my children grow and let them know God has a plan for each of them,” she said. “Doing what God wants them to, that will make them happy.”
Kathleen Fryml agreed that the pressure to have children and carry on the family name can be an obstacle for young men. She said Andrew was a little nervous about telling his dad, but the senior Fryml surprised them.
“He was so excited that Andrew would give his life to God in such an honorable and meaningful way,” she said. “We were both overjoyed.”
Andrew Fryml is in his fourth year of seminary at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. He said his parents’ support was important, noting that God calls us to respect our parents, and going against their will would be unnatural.
“I believe the decision would have been tougher and more stress would have been caused within the family, but ultimately, answering the Lord’s call would have been the Lord’s will,” he wrote in an email to The Miscellany.
Christopher Crabb is in his second year of pretheology at Seton Hall University. At 30, he was a grown man who knew his own mind, but said family encouragement is still crucial to success.
“You may want friends’ support, but you don’t need it,” he explained. “But I don’t think I would have been able to pursue [the priesthood] if I didn’t have family support.”