Grant helps UCC raise vocation awareness, empower leaders

The University Catholic Center sits on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. (Photo courtesy UCC)

By Catholic Spirit Staff

The University Catholic Center at the University of Texas at Austin has been named a grant recipient of the 2015 round of the Campus Ministry Theological Exploration of Vocation Initiative sponsored by Lilly Endowment Inc. As a participant in this initiative, the University Catholic Center seeks to equip Catholic students at UT Austin with the tools to understand their baptismal call to holiness and to provide them with opportunities to discern their vocation.
The University Catholic Center’s most recent programming initiative is titled Empowered by the Spirit. It will focus on aiding students in vocation discernment and providing them with opportunities to develop as confident Christian leaders. Over the course of the next four years, students will be invited to participate in small vocation discernment groups, retreats and spiritual direction focused on identifying, cultivating and employing their gifts in service to their communities of faith. 
In addition, students will be provided with Christian leadership formation through professional networking and mentoring with Catholic faculty and staff at UT Austin, the greater-Austin Catholic community and Catholic alumni of the university. To accomplish these goals the University Catholic Center will focus on three areas:
• Called to Holiness: Through programs focused on vocation discernment students will be accompanied as they discern their vocation to a particular state of life, whether in marriage, the ordained or consecrated religious life or single life.
• Called to Mission: Through programs focused on discipleship formation students will be taught to listen for how God is calling them individually to serve the church by offering increased opportunities for spiritual direction and faith formation.
• Called to Service: Through programs focused on leadership development students will be encouraged to use what they learn from vocation discernment and discipleship formation to practice Christian leadership at the UCC and in the greater community.
With the help of the grant from the Lilly Endowment, which is $100,000 over a four-year period, the UCC has hired Marist Brother Robert Clark to implement the “Empowered by the Spirit” program.
Brother Clark said “Empowered by the Spirit” is designed to increase vocations to the priesthood and religious life and to form solid Christian leaders.
“In the very short time I’ve been part of the pastoral staff here at the University Catholic Center I’ve seen the strong desire from many students for direction, education and accompaniment in the discernment of their vocational call. Clearly a culture of vocations already exists here, and my focus is to help create new initiatives that meet our students’ needs and to sustain the programs that already exist,” he said.
This is the third round of grants under the Endowment’s Campus Ministry Theological Exploration of Vocation Initiative, which supports vocational discernment programs for college students attending public universities. The initiative is designed to encourage campus ministries to create programs and strengthen existing ones to help students make connections between their academic and career pursuits and their faith commitments.
“Campus ministries play a critical role in helping students explore their academic and career interests and their faith as they pursue their hopes and dreams,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at Lilly Endowment. “These ministries are creating spaces that give busy college students time to discover how God calls them to use their knowledge and talents to serve others.”
For more information on the University Catholic Center in Austin, visit www.utcatholic.org.