Encouraging vocations: an interview with my parents

When I was a little girl, all I wanted was a little sister.  Time after time, my parents came home from the hospital with another little boy.  It got so bad at one point that when my dad called from the hospital after having their 7th child, he asked to speak first with me.  I was 11 or so.
Dad: Micaela?  We had the baby and he’s a boy.
Me: {sobbing}
Dad: It’s okay honey.  Do you want to name him?
Me: {perking up a bit} {sniffle sniffle}  Alright.  I want to name him Andrew.
Dad:  Oh.  Well, um.  {Thinks of his wildest and most unruly student.} Let me talk to Mom about it.

The next day they came home with my 6th brother.  Nathan Andrew.  Fine.  For all that hoping for a little sister, it wasn’t until I was nearly 16 that my wish came true: I now have 3 sisters along with 7 brothers.

But God must have had something in mind with all those boys.  Aside from the insane asylum for my mom, that is.  My brother Matthew is a priest, and my youngest brother Stephen is studying for the priesthood at the Angelicum in Rome.  When I moved to South Korea and told this to our chaplain, he about fell off his chair.  (He was a bit dramatic.)  I told my mom then that I felt like Catholic royalty.  Or at the very least, Catholic Kennedys.  But I digress.

Focus, Micaela!  Focus!

I decided a long time ago that I wanted to interview my parents to learn the secret of encouraging, but Gina’s series “Love’s Calling” finally spurred me to git ‘er done.

Without further nonsense, I present to you an interview with the world’s best parents, and my own, Tom and Cheley Spencer:

The cutest, no? Si.

When did you begin to think that Fr. Matthew and Br. Stephen had a call to the priesthood?

I (Mom) first started thinking that God might have a religious vocation in mind for our children when we had 6 boys in a row. But we didn’t begin to mention it to them until the priests in our new parish began to ask our sons if they had ever thought of the priesthood. This particular order of priests had a high school home seminary program as well as a high school live-in program. Our sons began to attend monthly vocations retreat at their seminary 3 hours north of where we live. Later, two of our sons separately spent one year each at the seminary living in community and experiencing community life of the priests and brothers.


Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ (left) and Br. Stephen Spencer.

Which practices seemed to encourage their vocations?

We believe the most significant things that we did to foster vocations in our home was developing the practice of family prayer and regular Mass attendance and monthly confession. The spirit of family prayer changed so much in our family we can’t say enough to encourage instituting it and making it a priority. As time went on we began to talk about vocations very often with the kids. We knew that since the world does not encourage vocations we would have to be the ones to remind them. Also, we encouraged them to try and discern first to what state in life God was calling them. We have also prayed that our children would have religious vocations and continued to invite and encourage and support them during the process. For example, we encouraged our son to postpone going to his prestigious college of choice, knowing that college life away from home might be a distraction from the discernment process, until he had clarified for himself whether he had a vocation. He decided to follow our advice and studied at a community college for one year. He then applied for admittance to the seminary. We believe his choice to wait a year helped him decide to make his application.


My parents and all my siblings with then-spouses after Fr.. Matthew’s first Mass. Two of my SILs are missing because we did not yet know their awesomeness. I was pregnant with Gabriel then.

What would you say to parents who might mourn their child becoming a priest?  (the loss of potential grandchildren, for example)

Practice and pray for the trust that God can see better what the world needs from our family than we can. Our children are not just given to us for ourselves but they are a gift to the world and the Church.  We would encourage families to have more children. We have two religious and 15 grandchildren. The fruit of a priest in our family is wonderful grace and gift to us and to all to whom he ministers.

Fr. Matthew presiding over our parents’ renewal of vows on their 40th wedding anniversary. Verrrrry cool.

What have been the highs and lows of having sons with calls to the priesthood?

We have been greatly honored to have a son who is a priest and one who is studying to be a priest. Both have shown great courage in choosing the unpopular and sometimes more difficult path of a celibate life. We would even say that we take (holy) pride in having a priest in our family. That being said, there is a loss because your son no longer belongs to you. As a religious and a priest, our son, because of his responsibilities to his religious community and parish, rarely spends holidays with the family and that is one difficult part of being the parents of a priest. On the other hand, you always know who to ask to perform baptism and weddings.


Br. Stephen processing behind Papa Francesco just this past Advent.

There you have it, out of the mouths of experts.  For more information about the Oblates of St. Joseph, click here.

And for more ways to inspire vocations in your family, be sure to visit Gina’s blog hop, Love’s Calling.


  1. your family is truly blessed! Thanks for the interview inspiration!

  2. Love hearing from parents of priests and religious! Thank you for posting this!
    Mary @ Better Than Eden recently posted…My Cup Runneth Over (and it maketh a mess)My Profile

    • Yeah, we’re pretty lucky. One of our priests in Korea said my mom has a free pass into heaven. I don’t know about that, but she sure is responsible for a lot.

  3. Great interview! My parents were always hoping one of the six girls would become a religious, but it didn’t “work out” for them 🙂
    Annery recently posted…When Gratitude Comes HardMy Profile

    • So funny how outside the Catholic faith vocations are considered a loss to the family, and then those of inside the Church are all, “Aw, man! No one wants to be a nun?! Really?” Hahaha!

      One thing that I should have stated in the interview is that marriage has no less importance than priesthood. But everyone just sort of assumes they’ll get married these days, and most people don’t consider a religious vocation. So it’s up to us parents, not to make the decision for our kids, but to make sure they know their options.

      • Definitely! There’s actually a local group of moms who get together once a month to pray for religious vocations. My oldest has ready started talking about feeling called to the vocation of marriage. I think in today’s world the conversation around the vocation of marriage can be even more important because it’s easy to miss the call the holiness in it, where that call is a little more obvious in the religious life.
        Annery recently posted…The Weight of GriefMy Profile

  4. I love this! Your parents seem so awesome. We have three boys (so far!) and our oldest, Gabriel, who is 5, has been telling us for a while he wants to be a priest. We tell him of course that he has to keep asking God what he wants but that if God wants him to be a priest then He will help him to be one. (PS our anniversary is feast of St John Vianney and Gabriel was born in 2010, the designated “year of the priest,” and he was named after the two priests who said our wedding Mass so our hopes are high! 😉 )

    I feel like we’re in a little bit of uncharted territory because I am a convert and my husband is a revert (with a largely unpracticing family) so we’re not quite sure how to go about this. But my husband works at a college Newman center so his boss is a priest and there are lots of other priests and sisters about, and the kids interact with them frequently. We try to have family prayer and talk about our faith regularly, in addition to Sunday and sometimes daily Mass. It’s good to hear from families who have been there, done that. I figure anyhow that if we keep having boys the chances are good for a priest in there somewhere! 🙂

    • I’ve got a 5 y.o. Gabriel too! 😉

      I’d say just keep praying, leave the discussion open, and hang around with priests as much as possible. If God has a calling for one of your sons, He’ll figure out a way to make it clear if you leave the lines of communication open.

  5. What a beautiful family! You are truly blessed! My brother is a priest also and his vocation has been such a gift to my parents and to our family. The beauty of the priesthood is that my parents did not lose a son, but rather, they gained an army of sons. We have great memories of the seminarians coming over to our house for dinner and being able to witness their camaraderie was a real testimony to the brotherhood that exists in the priesthood. To God be the glory. We continue to pray for vocations in our family and beyond. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • So true, Debbie. Something I didn’t mention in the interview is that my parents are lay associates of the same order, and have become great friends with many of the priests there. It truly has expanded our family.

  6. This is so beautiful, Micaela! Such a gift your parents are! I the way they encourage and share that family prayer grows over the years. We have family prayer every evening together and for the most part its fairly basic. But even compared to when we first started it has grown and more prayers have been added. I would have totally missed it for much longer had I not read this. Thank you for sharing your beautiful family!!!
    Amanda recently posted…Currently: Blankets, Snuggles, and the Present MomentMy Profile

    • Thanks, Amanda. You want to know something funny? I have a very clear memory of the first night we ever said a decade of the rosary. I think I was probably about five? But I remember it so clearly. So keep praying with your little ones. It really makes for good memories!

  7. Thank you for sharing your wisdom! Such a lovely family!
    Theresa@OrdinaryLovely recently posted…Beef Barley Slow Cooker Soup (10 Days of Family Friendly Soups)My Profile

  8. This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing!
    Catherine recently posted…7QT: Facebook, Learning Notes & cheap gasMy Profile

  9. This is so wonderful! What an amazing family you belong to Micaela! God Bless you all!
    Christy recently posted…Checking In From The Home(School) FrontMy Profile

  10. I can definitely sympathize with you on praying and hoping for a baby sister after one brother after another — I am the eldest of nine and they were all boys after me! Never got my sister, but I have two adorable daughters now. And I love my brothers to death…wouldn’t trade them for the world! 😉

    What a blessing to your family to have two called to the priesthood. Wonderful advice from your parents! Thanks for sharing, Micaela!
    Laurel recently posted…Our MosaicMy Profile


  1. […] please go visit Micaela from the blog California to Korea, with a great interview with her own family. Thanks, Micaela, for sharing with us! It is wonderful […]

  2. […] in this series: Sr. Theresa’s Story by Anabelle (Jan. 27) Vocation Ideas by Debbie (Jan. 27) Encouraging Vocations: An Interview with My Parents by Micaela (Feb. […]