Psalm One Consecrated Laity Ordained Deacons Priests Bishops Married Dedicated Singles Monastic Life in East and West Diocesan Hermits Contempletive Institues Secular Institutes Apostolic Religious Life Consecrated Virgins Living In the World Entertainer Artist Builder Banker Doctor President Hunter Philosopher Baptism State In Life River Family Personal Avocations

What's the Vocation Tree all about?

The Vocation Tree artwork depicts the myriad of unique ways of life which, in accord with the plan of the Lord Jesus, make up the life of the Church. Rooted and grounded in the baptismal call to holiness, the Christian discerns a particular state of life vocation with its inherent mission: the lay - activity in the world; the clergy - ministry; consecrated men and women - special conformity to Christ, chaste, poor and obedient. Displayed by the array of branches on the tree, the Holy Spirit "establishes the Church as an organic communion in the diversity of vocations, charisms and ministries." (VC 31 § 2)

"These state of life vocations are at the service of one another, for the growth of the Body of Christ in history and for its mission in the world." (VC 31 § 3) The fruits of the Spirit are evident in the myriad of occupations and activities (i.e., personal avocations) pursued by the baptized and depicted by the fruit and leaves of the tree.

Each individual Christian is uniquely called by God, beginning at Baptism, to go into the world and to bear much fruit. The Vocation Tree helps to illustrate that this unique, individual vocation given to each Christian embodies many components, "not just the calling to make a single commitment - to marriage, consecrated life, or ordained ministry. As its elements are discerned and accepted, a personal vocation leads to a closely-knit pattern of integrated commitments that organize the whole of life in the light of faith through implementing choices." (Germain Grisez and Russell Shaw, Personal Vocation - God Calls Everyone by Name, pg 97)

How does Scripture support the ideas in the Vocation Tree?

The branches of the tree, ordained, lay, and consecrated, provide a network of supportive relationships ordered to build up the Body of Christ in love. "As all the members of the human body, though they are many, form one body, so also are the faithful in Christ (cf. 1 Cor.12:12). Also, in the building up of Christīs body there is engaged a diversity of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare of the Church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:1-11)." (LG 7 § 3)

Where do I fit in?

Look closely and you'll find yourself in this tree, the Church, which is rooted and grounded in Christ. Your faith life grows from the base of baptism, is given definition through commitment in one of the branches of lay, ordained, or consecrated vocations, and bears the distinct fruit and leaves of your particular gifts and talents in the occupations and activities you choose. And yet, the Vocation Tree illustration is not a comprehensive picture of the entire Church! Particularly within the laity, many other branches exist and bear fruit, including children, adolescents and young adults who have not yet discerned a state in life vocation, widows and widowers, those who are separated, and single persons open to marriage. The Vocation Tree is meant to illustrate vocations in life that are both discerned and chosen.

Do all of the particular state in life vocations involve lifelong commitments?

Those vocations which are entered into through a prayer of consecration (ordained and consecrated virgins living in the world), as well as those involving a vow (marriage and most forms of consecrated life) involve lifelong commitments. The "dedicated single" vocation does not necessarily involve a lifelong commitment, although it may be freely discerned and chosen for a lifetime.

The Vocation Tree uses the term avocation to refer to a personīs occupations. Is a person's profession also a true vocation?

The Vocation Tree uses the term "personal avocation" instead of "personal vocation" in order to illuminate the distinction between the active dimension of living out oneīs unique call from God from the mission dimension embraced by responding to one's state in life vocation. Most Catholics hear the word "vocation" and think of the call to be a priest or a nun, and in a secular context the word "vocation" commonly refers to training in a skilled trade, like woodworking or plumbing. In the Christian understanding, both dimensions flow from the baptismal call to holiness:

  • "State in Life" vocations involve lifelong choices made in response to God's call, having most to do with how a person will live his or her life - relationships, mission, commitments.
  • "Personal Avocations" include the activities through which God calls a person to bear fruit, always discerned and chosen in the context of oneīs state in life vocation.

In reality, do some of the state in life branches overlap?

Yes, the tree of the Church is very rich! For example, permanent deacons may also be married; and there are some circumstances of diocesan priests who are married; and some religious institutes of consecrated men include men ordained to the priesthood.

Christians are consecrated at baptism! Is the word "consecrated" being used in many different ways in the Vocation Tree?

The term consecrate means to set aside for a sacred use. The Vocation Tree reflects three distinctions of the term "consecrated" in reference to vocational calls:

  • A Christian is consecrated at his or her baptism - set aside for God alone.
  • The Church also refers to the state of consecrated life as a particular call stemming from the baptismal consecration, a call which involves the setting aside of a particular person as one who is to live as Christ himself, chaste, poor, and obedient.
  • Within the state of consecrated life, there is the particular vocation of Consecrated Virginity Lived in the World. In this particular vocation, the consecration sets the virgin aside as a sacred person in the Church, one who is given the title bride of Christ, a title she shares with the Church herself.

What about members of third orders; how do they fit into the Vocation Tree?

Members of third orders (sometimes called by other names) embrace the spirituality of a particular religious tradition, such as Carmelite, Franciscan, Benedictine, Ignatian, or Dominican.

Traditionally, "first order" refers to the masculine branch of a religious family; "second order" refers to the feminine monastic branch of a religious family; and "third order regular" refers to those in active religious communities. "Third orders secular," known commonly today simply as "third orders," are associations of laity, and sometimes diocesan priests, who embrace the spirituality of a particular religious tradition while remaining in the state of life in which they have been living. It might be pointed out that the Vocation Tree artist has signed her name, "Mrs. Jennifer Ward, O.P." indicating that she is a married woman following the Dominican spirituality in her married life.

Sometimes one hears reference made to the "lay consecrated" in a particular new movement in the Church; how do they fit into the Vocation Tree, which distinguishes "lay" and "consecrated" as separate branches?

The Vocation Tree distinguishes three states of life (ordained, lay, and consecrated) while earlier Church understanding has often distinguished only two states (ordained and lay.) The addition of consecrated life as a distinct, third, state in life stems from the teachings of the Second Vatican Council: "The state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness." (LG 44§ 4) The distinct state of consecrated life is further affirmed and clarified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata.

A reference to "lay consecrated" seems to be premised upon the earlier understanding of only two states in life, with recognition of the consecrated state as a category of the lay state. Another question may arise as to which particular form of consecrated life is lived by the "consecrated" members of particular movements. The groups may not fit precisely into the understanding of the traditional forms of consecrated life shown on the Vocation Tree. The Church in time defines the nature of membership in new movements.

What's the Background of the Vocation Tree?

The Vocation Tree concept - outlining the various ways in which Christians live out their baptismal vocation - developed as consecrated virgins began to explain the distinct vocation of consecrated virginity lived in the world. Profit from the sale of Vocation Tree products will be used for the purpose of promoting a fuller understanding of vocations in the Catholic Church.

Who is the artist?

"The artist has a special relationship to beauty. In a very true sense it can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator in the gift of 'artistic talent'. And, certainly, this too is a talent which ought to be made to bear fruit, in keeping with the sense of the Gospel parable of the talents (cf. Mt 25:14-30)." (John Paul II to Artists, 1999)

Artist Jennifer Ward lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and four children. She maintains an art studio in her home and focuses on preparing artistic representations of Catholic mysteries. In the Vocation Tree illustration, the child reaching into the water is the youngest child of the artist and her husband, and the family to the right of the tree are friends of the artist.