Editor’s note: This article is the first in an ongoing series looking at how the offices in the Anchorage Archdiocese’s Pastoral Center serve the wider needs of the archdiocese.
When a young man begins to feel a draw in his heart toward the priesthood, he may not know where to turn for further help in discerning whether it is God’s will for him to pursue seminary studies and eventually ordination.
To help foster and discern vocations, every diocese has a vocation director — typically a priest who helps guide men through the process, discerning with them throughout their formation whether or not they have a priestly vocation.
Recently, Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne appointed Father Arthur Roraff to be the new vocation director for the archdiocese. He has an office at the archdiocese’s Pastoral Center in downtown Anchorage.
When the Catholic Anchor spoke with Father Roraff, he offered some insights into his new responsibility.
He sees his role as being “responsible for creating an environment in the archdiocese where vocations are considered, and to help facilitate discernment among those who are taking the call to religious or priesthood seriously.” Not only does he help the man discern his vocation, he also discerns on behalf of the wider church whether or not a man ought to be ordained a priest.
If a man were to call Father Roraff with a vocation inquiry, he could expect first and foremost “somebody to talk to about discernment and the priesthood,” Father Roraff explained.
“I think oftentimes that’s what a man calls me looking for,” he added. “Sometimes they’ve done a certain amount of discerning on their own, and they need to talk to somebody else about where they go next.”
Along the way, he will examine all aspects of a man’s life to help him discern his vocation.
“Each man is called personally,” Father Roraff observed. “So that means that God uses and speaks to what is unique about the man, whether that’s through his spiritual life, his family life, professional life, through particular challenges or joys he’s had in his life, or through his relationships. All of those things need to be looked at in their totality and how they may be pointing the man in a particular direction toward priesthood.”
After exploring where the man is in his life, Father Roraff will help him acquire more information that he can then take to prayer and discern more deeply. This could include reading suggestions or helping him to find a spiritual director. Throughout the process of deeper discernment, Father Roraff stays in touch with the man.
“Eventually, if he still feels called, then it’s a matter of helping him through the application process of the archdiocese,” Father Roraff said.
This entails the man writing an autobiography and undergoing a psychological evaluation and interviews.
Father Roraff was ordained a priest just two summers ago.
“Going through the process yourself helps you understand what men are going through,” he said.
Keeping his own discernment in mind is helpful because although everyone’s vocational call is unique, he believes that everyone’s discernment has similarities as well.
When asked what advice he’d give to men who may be considering the priesthood, Father Roraff said he would remind them that “their first call is to holiness. In seeking God’s will, that’s how they’ll find if they’re called to the priesthood.”
“You don’t discern your call to the priesthood before you discern your call to holiness,” he added. “As you continue to become the saint that God calls you to be, it’s in the context of that that your vocation becomes clear.”
Father Roraff noted that the process of discerning holiness and vocation is both challenging and joy-filled.
“You tap into a part of yourself that becomes fully alive,” he said. “If God is calling you to the priesthood, it’s very frightening, but it’s also extremely exhilarating. So, in that regard, you really do tap into an enthusiasm that you don’t experience any other way. You recognize that it’s life changing what God has called you to do — the path he created for you — and you realize it’s where you can throw yourself into being fully alive because it’s what he created you to do.”
For those discerning their vocation, Father Roraff may be reached at St. Andrew Church (907-694-2170), the Archdiocese of Anchorage’s Vocations Office (907-297-7704), or through the online contact form on the Archdiocese of Anchorage’s vocation webpage (archdioceseofanchorage.org/being-catholic/vocations).