The priesthood is often misunderstood to be the only vocation within the Church. There are so many different realities, says Fr. Matthew McCarthy, director of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s vocations office. Register file photo

Church vocations go beyond the priesthood

  • May 4, 2024

Last month’s ShareLife Speaker Series shed light on the significance of vocations and how they can be better understood and nurtured. 

Presented in collaboration with the Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Toronto, “Sowing Seeds of Hope: Investing in our Future Priests” was delivered April 25 by Fr. Matthew McCarthy, director of the vocations office. McCarthy, who has been with the Office of Vocations since 2020 following his ordination three years prior, was tasked with breaking down some of the confusion surrounding vocations and how they are viewed by the public. 

“It was a good thing for our attendees to hear about what goes on in the world of vocations, the different realities, whether cultural, personal or even societal that are influencing a person’s tendency to think of the priesthood or religious life,” he said. 

To most lay people, the first thing that comes to mind when vocation is mentioned is the call to priesthood. As McCarthy discussed, the range of vocations within the Church is something often misunderstood and more complex than it seems. 

“Vocations include the priesthood for sure, but it also includes religious life, consecrated virginity and holy matrimony. Our goal in the office is to put those commitments on the radar of everyone in the public and help them to realize that they are all valid options and all valid possibilities for fulfilling and life-giving service in the Church,” he said. 

The office has been drawing attention to these possibilities through various programs including online discernment groups for both men and women. Young men who are more intentionally thinking of the seminary can access the associate’s program, which is run every two weeks at the vocations office, as well as through attending retreats at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto. 

The hour-long seminar also saw McCarthy attempt to broaden the horizons of what “being called” individually means and how it is often overlooked due to external factors. 

“I would like to put the priesthood and religious vocation on that ballot of opportunities when people are discovering what to do with their life. If you have a calling to be a doctor, you better embrace that call or else the world is going to be a lot poorer and you’re going to be a lot less happy if you don’t follow that call… But by that same token, God is calling people to the priesthood right here in this (Arch)diocese of Toronto and we want people to know that it is a real possibility,” he said. 

The question then shifted toward how these vocations can be pursued effectively. While they often remain complicated and confusing, McCarthy still believes that the oldest method of accepting vocations is still the best. 

“I joke that it was like my mic-drop moment during the webinar,” he said. “The number one method that I gave to the listeners when it comes to supporting vocations is the same method that’s been used for the past 2,000 years, and it is the one method Christ Himself mandated the early Church and that is simply to pray. It cannot be understated, a person can be supported financially and materially but it is an act of obedience to Christ Himself to pray for vocations that I encourage.” 

The ShareLife Speaker Series comprises regular webinars, serving as a platform for ShareLife-funded agencies to showcase their work, engage supporters and connect with current and potential donors. This most recent webinar was put on by the office in conjunction with the commemoration of the 61st World Day of Prayer for Vocations on April 21 as well as the recent ShareLife Sunday collection. 

Perfect timing, as May 11 marks the day that five men will be ordained into the priesthood at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. This event was on McCarthy’s mind as he spoke about the importance of nurturing one’s calling from God. 

“I want people to be genuinely happy, and a person will only be genuinely happy when they are following God’s call and when they’re following God’s vocation for their life,” he said. “They know that it is not going to be easy, there are going to be tons of sacrifices and crosses along the way, but there is nothing better, there is no other trade-off. I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than the will of the Lord and that is my joy.” 

The webinar and past ShareLife Speaker Series events can be found at

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