This fall, Catholics from across the diocese are invited to attend Diocesan Ministry Day, a biannual event that celebrates the various ways people are called to live out their faith across the diocese. This event, which features a keynote speaker, workshops and opportunities for prayer and networking, is planned for Sept. 30 at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
Headlining the event is keynote speaker Laura Kelly Fanucci. Fanucci is a wife, mother, writer and director of the Communities of Calling Initiative at the Collegeville Institute at St. John’s University. She earned her master of divinity degree from St. John’s School of Theology and her bachelor of arts degree from the University of Notre Dame.
She writes about faith and family life on her blog, motheringspirit.com, and in her nationally syndicated column for Catholic News Service. She is the author of several books, including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting.”
The theme for the day is based on baptismal call. Fanucci was chosen to address attendees because of her work on vocation and calling. For the past decade, she has devoted herself to understanding and helping people in churches talk about vocation and how all are called by God.
“In the Catholic tradition, when people think of vocation, they often think ‘priest,’ ‘sister’ or ‘brother,’ or maybe we think of marriage as a vocation. We don’t always think to be a teacher, to be a journalist, to be a plumber can be a calling to live out your response to God’s call in your life,” Fanucci said.
“The idea of our baptismal call is such an important thing to remember as Catholics, especially at this moment in the Church. There is so much going on that is really hard and really broken. There is so much that we need to fix and atone for. There is real suffering in our Church and we all need to respond to it, but I also think there is a real call that gathers us all as Catholics, as the body of Christ, to say each one of us has a calling in this,” she said.
Diocesan Ministry Day will be divided into two parts: “Called to be,” which will focus on the interior life; and “Prepared to do,” which will center on how each person lives out his or her call.“We are all called in our workplaces, our homes and our schools to be people of faith in the world — and that all starts with our baptism,” Fanucci said. “It’s so beautiful this common call that we have. There is such strength and beautiful power in how the Spirit moves through that common calling that we share. [Diocesan Ministry Day] can be a time to return to that and to realize how much of our identity and callings in our own lives come from our baptism.”
Fanucci herself found God calling her down a different path than she expected. A self-proclaimed cradle Catholic, she grew up attending Catholic school in a small town outside of Flint, Michigan. She attended college at the University of Notre Dame, studying French and art history.
Toward the end of her college years, she found herself getting involved in campus ministry and social justice activities.
“I just felt like God was calling me to something more,” she recalled.
Fanucci spent a year after college in France as a volunteer, living in an intentional community with other young people. She worked in a L’Arche home for developmentally disabled people and also served in a homeless shelter for North African refugees.
When she returned after a year, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in ministry. But with no experience in that field, she accepted a position working with high school students in Minneapolis. At the same time, she was discerning marriage and also felt the tug to pursue a graduate degree in theology. She did both.
Just as she was finishing her master’s degree, she was also pregnant with their first child. She was offered a part-time, work-from-home position with the Collegeville Institute, where she has spent the last decade working on a project called the Collegeville Institute Seminars. The project focuses on vocation.
“Even after 10 years working on this topic, it is still so big that I can climb inside of it and find some new part of it,” Fanucci said.
She is excited about the prospect of talking with and learning from a new audience at Diocesan Ministry Day.
“Callings change and evolve,” she said. “There’s so much potential to rejuvenate the Church, to get people who are outside of the Church to realize that those big questions of life are what the Church cares about. There is power in it to bring people back into the conversation. It’s one of those things that I love talking about with people who are in the Church and with people who would never darken the doorstep of a Church because they don’t think it has anything to do with their lives — it’s not relevant or they’ve been hurt by the Church. You get into the heart of what they love, what they struggle with and where they find God. In those conversations, I have come to realize all of us are made for vocation.