Paths of Discipleship: Vocational Discernment

Just as all disciples study and follow Jesus Christ, discernment and formation for both lay leadership and ordained ministry involve both study and disciplined practice. Every step of the journey of discernment involves ministry and service to the church and the world.

The Diocese of Virginia provides a specialized, supported discernment pathway for those under age 30 who are exploring a call to the priesthood.  Click here to learn more about the Young Priest Initiative.

There are three important phases of our diocesan discernment model, for all those who are seeking deeper ministry in their lives.

The Diocesan Discernment Retreat

A weekend in spiritual community with other seekers, during which the seeker begins to develop and hone tools for discernment with the support of clergy and spiritual guidance.

Retreats are held three times each year in March, July, and October.  For 2024, the retreats will be held at Roslyn Retreat Center on the following dates:

  • March 8-10, 2024
  • July 26-28, 2024
  • October 25-27, 2024

Those wishing to attend a Diocesan Discernment Retreat should have their presenting priest email the Vocations Minister with a request to attend.  The cost of the retreat is $250 which includes lodging and meals. This may be paid by parish, individual, or scholarship support upon request.

Exploring the Church

Following the retreat, we encourage intentional expansion of the seeker’s perspective on the Church and the Diocese, and what it means to serve the church.  All those discerning deeper ministry in their lives are called to Explore the Church.

For Those Discerning Deeper Lay Ministry

The informal process involves speaking with others involved in ministry in the areas where the seeker is sensing God’s call and/or visiting and networking with parishes who have engaged in similar ministries.

For Those Discerning Ordained Ministry

The formal process involves attending and observing worship in other locations around the diocese; conducting interviews with lay leaders, deacons, and priests about their ministry; engaging in a scheduled conversation with the Committee on Priesthood and/or the Committee on the Diaconate; and, following these activities, completing a report that will be discussed with the seeker’s presenting priest and the diocesan Vocations Minister, both of whom may offer feedback for continued exploration. Those who are discerning a call to ordained ministry must complete this step thoughtfully before moving on in their formal discernment process.

Information on the specific components of Exploring the Church and the format of the report will be made available at the diocesan Discernment Retreat.

Parish Discernment Committee

After completing the Exploring the Church process for lay or ordained ministry, the seeker may wish to continue their journey through prayerful small group conversations led by a trained diocesan discernment facilitator in order to refine the seeker’s call, giving space to wrestle with difficult questions.

Diocesan Discernment Facilitators are trained members of the Committee on Discernment who lead each discernment committee; committees are organized by the diocesan facilitator and not by the parish. When a parish is small or there is a dual relationship (a seeker is employed at a parish, for example) then the diocesan Vocations Minister can suggest alternatives.

The Parish Discernment Committee is a required part of the discernment process for those discerning a call to ordained ministry, and it is also available as an optional component for those discerning deepening lay ministry.  We value discernment and are pleased to offer this resource to the diocese.

Discernment is a vital part of the process of vocational development for all orders of ministry: lay and ordained.  All discernment occurs by consensus in the diocese, and it is an investment of time and spirit that will strengthen not only individuals, but the entire Church.  Discernment takes the time that it takes, and none of these phases should be rushed.  We recommend 12-18 months to thoughtfully complete the phases of discernment described above.