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Mary Pedersen, mother of a newly ordained priest, encourages parents to help their children discern their vocations and purpose in life.

After baths, stories, and prayers, I would bless our children while tracing the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite, and God bless you.” And now and then, I would lean over and whisper, “Remember, God created you for a very special purpose.”

As the years passed, I would question quietly, “Why did God make you?”

And they would respond, “For a very special purpose.” God creates each child — each person — for a very special purpose, and the only tragedy in life lies in never discovering and living God’s purpose.

Since childhood, our son, Joe, bore a contemplative spirit and exhibited considerable kindness and concern for others. In college, Joe took part in campus ministry and majored in theology. Therefore, we were not the least bit surprised the day he called with some news: “I want you to know I’m flying to South Bend to meet with the Congregation of Holy Cross about entering the seminary.”

I listened and said, “What led to your decision?”

Joe responded, “It’s just time.” Yes, it was just time for Joe to live out his very special purpose.

Several years later, while in the seminary, Joe called: “Mom, I’ve been thinking a lot about how you always said God created me for a very special purpose.” I just smiled.

My husband and I are parents of two daughters and four sons. We never said to Joe, “You are to be a priest.” Rather, we said to all our boys: “You can be anything God is calling you to: husband, father, priest, religious, single.” And we also encouraged our daughters to discover their vocations and purpose. They, like us, will spend a lifetime discerning how to live out this purpose during different stages of life: each in his or her vocation — each with unique temperaments, gifts, talents, and charisms.

After seven years of prayer, study, and discernment, it was time for Joe’s ordination on September 5, 2020, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame. It was a crystal-clear, glorious day, filled with excitement and thanksgiving. Yet it was the next morning, though cloudy and rainy, at Fr. Joe’s First Mass, that stirred my heart. Witnessing our son celebrate Mass, preach the homily, and consecrate the Body of Jesus and Blood of Jesus, moved us deeply. But it was after Communion, when Fr. Joe invited us forward to bless him, that brought tears as I recalled tucking Joe into bed — all those years ago — and whispering, “Why did God create you, Joe?”

And then Father Joe knelt before us, and as my husband placed his hand on Father Joe’s shoulder, I spoke our blessing:

Fr. Joe, God created you for a very special purpose and has led you to this, the priesthood.

And we bless you:

May your mind be filled with all that is good, and holy, and pure.

May your eyes see Christ in each person you meet.

May your ears hear the voice of God speaking, ‘You are my beloved son.’

May the words of your mouth rouse the weary, heal the wounded, and comfort the brokenhearted. May they inspire and instruct.

May your heart — through His Sacred Heart — overflow with love, compassion, mercy, and joy.

May your hands bring Christ’s saving presence through the waters of Baptism, the sign of absolution, the oil of anointing and His precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

May your feet bring the Good News to the poor and poor in spirit.

May you remain faithful to your sacred vows and embrace His Holy Cross — our only hope.

May God protect you from all evil and keep you strong in temptation.

May the Lord bless you and keep you all the days of your life.


Or as Dad says, “God bless, dude.” We love you.

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How will you awaken your child to his or her very special purpose? #catholicmom

How will you awaken your child to his or her very special purpose?

Copyright 2020 Mary Pedersen
Image copyright 2020 Mary Pedersen. All rights reserved.