The Pulse of Vocations: Six questions with Father Brett Metzler, diocesan director of vocations

North Texas Catholic
(Jun 24, 2024) Local

Fr. Brett Metzler speaks to attendees on “How to Get The Most Out of This Weekend” during the Vocation Awareness Program’s weekend of discernment on Friday, June 14, 2024 at the University of Dallas in Irving. (NTC/Ben Torres)

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The Serra Clubs of Fort Worth and Dallas organized and hosted its annual Vocation Awareness Program on June 14 – 16 at University of Dallas in Irving. The discernment weekend, launched in 1990, helps single Catholic men and women learn about life as a priest, sister, brother, or consecrated lay woman.

After the weekend, the North Texas Catholic asked Father Brett Metzler, director of vocations for the Diocese of Fort Worth and a speaker at VAP, for an assessment on the weekend as well as the general state of vocations in the diocese.


In a nutshell, how did the Vocations Awareness Program weekend go?

Fr. Metzler: Very well. We had 56 participants, men and women. We had lots of different religious sisters, different religious orders there. I got a lot of good feedback from the attendees that it was very helpful for their discernment — not only getting information, but also giving them some more courage to start their vocation discernment.

In what ways are events like the Vocation Awareness Program, Quo Vadis, and other discernment events helpful for young people discerning a vocation?

Fr. Metzler: First of all, they’re a concrete step. Discernment is about feeling pulled in a direction and taking steps towards in that direction.

Because they usually get to be around people who have gone down that path, taken those steps before, it breaks some of the isolation of discernment. It gives them a sense of community, sense of belonging to a group of people who have been this way before. To meet other young people who are discerning the same thing, struggling with the same kind of questions, is very, very helpful, very stress-relieving, very comforting.

Also, they receive helpful advice because they hear different angles from diocesan priests and religious priests and sisters. Plus, there’s time for silence and prayer, a retreat away from the busyness so they can actually look at, “What is God saying to me?”

A young woman kneels for prayer during Adoration at the Vocation Awareness Program’s weekend of discernment on June 14, 2024 at the University of Dallas in Irving. (NTC/Ben Torres)

What nugget of encouragement or helpful advice would you give to a young person who's discerning their vocation?

Fr. Metzler: Start taking concrete steps. You can’t go from discerning and living your life straight to the priesthood or straight to religious [life]. You’ve got to take small steps. A small step towards the life of prayer; small step to asking a priest about what his life is like; small step to a retreat. Definitely start taking steps to explore it, to see if it’s real. See if it’s from God.

As long as you put the sails up, the Holy Spirit can guide you, like the wind. But if the sails are down, you’re not moving — it’s hard to see where God is leading you. You’ve got to take baby steps towards Him.

What role do parents, friends, and parishioners have in helping young people discern a vocation?

Fr. Metzler: The obvious role is Jesus told us to ask the master of the harvest to send more laborers into harvest, so pray intentionally, specifically, and consistently.

It’s important to believe that God is real, He does actually call people, and it’s a supernatural call. Oftentimes, we fall into thinking about these things as if it’s just another life choice or just another job choice. That can lead to parents being discouraging instead of really believing that God does specifically call people by name to do this.

Also, if you meet a young man who seems like a good, mature young man, just encourage him. Ask if he’s thought about it. There’s tons and tons and tons of vocation stories that start with a young man or a young woman at a church, and somebody asks that question. That can sometimes be the voice of God speaking to people.

What is a common misconception you encounter when working with young people discerning their vocation?

Fr. Metzler: There are a lot of common misconceptions. One, you have to be perfect to do this. Or you have to already be formed before you enter seminary. It’s not true. Everybody enters with their own strengths and weaknesses, and formation helps strengthen your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses.

Another misconception is that seminary is just about the spiritual life. Spiritual life is a pretty significant aspect of formation, but seminary really helps a young man to mature on multiple levels: the spiritual level, the human level, the intellectual level. It helps them become more pastoral and compassionate. For any guy going into seminary, he’s going to be formed into a better man, which is another reason why, if you even feel a little bit of the call, it’s a good reason to just go try it out.

How is the Diocese of Fort Worth doing with regards to men in formation to the priesthood?

A group of catholic women walk with Sisters into the Church of the Incarnation for Adoration during the Vocation Awareness Program’s weekend of discernment on June 14, 2024 at the University of Dallas in Irving. (NTC/Ben Torres)

Fr. Metzler: Fort Worth is doing very well. We have 27 men in formation, all of whom are very good candidates for the priesthood, who could all be priests and pastors one day.

Parishes are taking this subject more seriously. Some have vocations committees. Bishop [Michael] Olson has done a lot to promote vocations in our diocese and has equipped the priests to promote it more often.

As the vocations director, I cannot do all these things by myself. The vocation director does 10 percent of the work; 90 percent comes from pastors promoting vocations and talking to young men, and from lay people helping with events like this, talking to young people, and praying, which a lot of people have dedicated their time and lives to do.

I want to thank the Serra Club, who put in countless hours of work throughout the year to help vocations and plan the Vocation Awareness Program.

And thanks also to the [St. John Paul II] Shepherd’s Guild. Without the Shepherd’s Guild and other people that have donated finances to be able to pay for seminary, it would be extremely difficult for a young man to join seminary. The Diocese of Fort Worth basically provides a full scholarship, which helps the young man be more free to discern.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

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