Bringing Calling Back to Life

A Conversation with Dr. Kathleen Cahalan

Does the phrase “God’s calling” make you tense? If so, you’re not alone. Many Christians confuse calling with discovering one secret “right” path in life. When faced with multiple options and decisions, it can be paralyzing.

According to Dr. Kathleen Cahalan, this individualistic view of vocation is often harmful. Instead, she advocates for returning to a more communal understanding of Christian calling where people see their callings first to be communities of faith. In this episode, Kathleen talks about her research and work to revitalize the language around vocation, equipping both individuals and congregations to experience God’s calling in wider and more expansive ways.

We are asking big questions about the theology of Christian calling and vocation during this season of the Unlikely Conversations podcast. Join us every other Tuesday for a new episode where host Ellie Roscher speaks with theologians, church leaders, and clergy in the Collegeville Institute’s Communities of Calling Initiative about how they practice vocation as a dynamic verb rather than a static noun.


Kathleen A. Cahalan is Professor of Theology at Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary and Senior Research Fellow at the Collegeville Institute. She co-edited two volumes while directing the Collegeville Institute Seminars project: Calling All Years Good: Vocation throughout Life’s Seasons (2017) and Calling in Today’s World: Voices from Eight Faith Perspectives (2016). She has also authored books for a broad church audience, including Stories We Live: Finding God’s Calling All around Us (2017) and Living Your Discipleship: Seven Ways to Express Your Deepest Calling, co-authored with Laura Kelly Fanucci (2015). In addition, Dr. Cahalan directs the coordination of the Lilly Endowment’s Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose Initiative, begun in 2018.

Discussion questions

  • How do you understand the term “vocation”? Does that language resonate with you?
  • What gives your life meaning and purpose?
  • In what ways do you experience God’s calling today?
  • How is God calling your faith community?

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