July 1, 2020 was a big day for me – it was the beginning of more than one beginning.

On that day, after a two-week trek from northern California to northeast Ohio, my family moved into our new home. We were excited about the new adventure of living near family and in a place where we would get to experience the four seasons.

I started my work as Director of the High Calling Program that same day. After meeting with several team members, I set out to make some phone calls and build relationships with Vocation Directors across the country.

Among those conversations, one stood out. A vocation director told me that he desires three things for the guys he sends us:

1)    That they would have a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit.
2)    That they would be challenged to love God more.
3)    That discernment becomes a lived reality.

I had thought about this conversation when I recently came across a reflection from a discerner in the High Calling Program. Cody wrote:

“I believe the most important reality that the Holy Spirit has introduced to me in this course is that God really loves me. I don’t mean this in a sappy way; I mean that through this course…the Holy Spirit has made the reality of God’s love for me more present. So present, in fact, that I have found it is the Holy Spirit that is the one moving me to pray.

“I didn’t think that I was holding back from God, giving to Him only what I was comfortable giving, but as I began to be more intentional about centering my day around prayer, God revealed to me that I had in fact been stingy. Then after class one night, I was reflecting upon something you said: ‘God wants all of you all the time.’ I was moved to the point of tears, because perhaps for the first time I did not hear this as a mere exhortation, but as a statement of love.

“It’s difficult to find words, but in that moment I began to understand in a more profound way that there is nothing I have which I did not receive from Him; nothing I can give to Him which I do not owe Him…He is asking for all of me all the time, and with His constant help, I intend to give myself over entirely to Him and His will for my life.

“Professor, this class has been a tremendous blessing to me as was your witness. I ask that you continue to pray for me and my discernment. Be assured of my prayers for you and your various ministries.”

Wow! The Holy Spirit is moving!

As I reflect upon these words, I am humbled to be a part of something so beautiful, so transformative. As you can imagine, these words have prompted me to reflect more deeply on my move to Ohio and my role as Director of the High Calling Program.

I have come to appreciate that I have a vocation inside another vocation. On the surface, I have the work of overseeing a program that forms and informs men’s discernment to the priesthood (and all the logistics and details that go with it). Underneath the surface – where the Holy Spirit abides – I have come to discover that my work is about inviting the Holy Spirit into every conversation I have with every person I meet: whether it be with a man discerning the priesthood or a vocation director who is helping him along the way. God is always more, and under the power of the Holy Spirit, God desires more for the High Calling Program.


Cody has told us.

Will you transform the lives of men like Cody?  Will you help them to encounter the living Christ?  Please give to our High Calling Program (https://raisedonors.com/avila-foundation/donate2020-2) and help me bring the Holy Spirit into many more conversations—to make the “more” happen, and happen now.

As I muse over my two beginnings, I am reminded that July 1 is the feast day of Junipero Serra: patron saint of California and vocations. I have lived much of my life in California. Many of the touchstone moments in my faith journey took place in the state of California. Moving into my new home on July 1 will always be caught up with memories of California. In my memory, July 1 will also be about my other beginning, the startup day for my role as Director of the High Calling Program. The presence of Junipero Serra will always overshadow my two beginnings, and I am more than ok with that!

Saint Junipero Serra pray for the success of the High Calling Program!

Please join us in praying for these young men, and if you can, please join us in the mission of forming them for the future of the Church.

Donate here.

Whatever you contribute, large or small, will go directly to scholarships for these young men, towards a year-long program of prayer, discernment, education, fellowship, and formation.

Will you please give today? https://raisedonors.com/avila-foundation/donate2020-2

We need to raise $49,000 before the end of the year to meet our goal of $105,000.   With your help, this will happen!  We will serve many men on the way to the Catholic priesthood.

On behalf of all of these men you are helping to form, on behalf of the thousands and thousands of souls who will be touched by their “yes”— thank you.

Yours in Christ,

Dr. Joseph Hollcraft
Director, High Calling Program
Avila Institute

Image (modifed) courtesy of Unsplash

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