One of the more curious strategies I’ve encountered over the years has been the “anonymous” vocation discernment group. Boston seems to be moving beyond that trend, in its “collaborative” (see cluster) plan.
Each collaborative will develop a plan for identifying candidates for the priesthood, praying with them and mentoring them to accept vocations.
I think it’s up to any individual to determine how “public” to make their discernment. When I was in such a group for a year, I told many people. I told the woman I was dating–it seemed only fair. We maintained a close friendship that, on the romance front, didn’t “go anywhere” because of my own being up-in-the-air. My friend was respectful of that. But by the time I had given the men’s group a year and assessed I was not seminary-bound, my friend discerned another path, too. The line from the Billy Joel song came to mind …
A girl like that won’t tell you what you should do.
I don’t think they have material in the psalms to cover those kinds of romance-lost experiences.
Once when I spoke with a young priest who was leading such a group a few years ago, I asked about the “secrecy” surrounding his guys. He said that some “girlfriends” might not appreciate the participation of some of the guys. Girlfriends? What’s that other song’s line? “Things that make you go, ‘hmm.'”
Anyway, it seems that there’s a potential loss either way you go. Do vocations flourish in support or secrecy? Does one approach fit all? Do we assume that young women are hostile to the possibilities for their boyfriends? Whatever candidates might avoid in terms of criticism or lack of support, they might gain in encouragement, as Boston seems to be aiming. I know there are a few clergy reading this. Is there a separate conservative and progressive approach? I’m curious if it falls along the lines of traditional/private/pessimistic and liberal/open/optimistic. Cardinal Mahony supporters, line it up, and hush.