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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Joshua Miller

Gordon:  You are a convert to the Catholic Church.  What led you to become Catholic? 

Joshua: I seriously encountered Catholics for the first time when I went to college in 1990 at the University of Wisconsin and got involved in the pro-life movement.  Catholic teaching about the dignity of each human person from conception until natural death moved me deeply.  I was also drawn to the Catholic Faith because of the depth and consistency of her teaching.  I came to see that each aspect of the Faith – e.g. Holy Eucharist, papal primacy, the seven Sacraments – were all present at the beginning of the Church.


Gordon: When did you attend Franciscan University of Steubenville, what degree did you earn, who was your favorite teacher, and why was that teacher your favorite?


Joshua: My grandfather and father – both wonderful Evangelical Christian men - had developed a wonderful narrative based approach to help persons understand their own innate patterns of unique giftedness – the System for Identifying Motivated Abilities (SIMA®).  When I became Catholic I wanted to continue this work, but I also wanted to integrate it with Catholic personalism.  I came to Franciscan University in 2000 to do that and graduated with an MA in Philosophy.  I came to study with Dr. John Crosby, who was my favorite teacher. He helped me to understand that my family’s work was consistent with Catholic anthropology, but he helped me to gain a much richer understanding of freedom and the social nature of human persons.  


Gordon: When and where did you serve as a SIMA® Biographer and explain to our readers what such a biographer does.


Joshua: The System for Identifying Motivated Abilities (SIMA®) is drawn from upon a person’s stories of authentic fulfillment. When people recollect and share about activities they have deeply enjoyed doing and done well they express a consistent, innate, unique and beautiful pattern of motivated behavior.  The SIMA Biographer’s job is to help persons tell their fulfillment stories, interpret those stories, and then help them understand the meaning of the motivational patterns found within them.


Gordon: When did you attend Duquesne University, what degree did you earn, and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there? 


Joshua: I attended Duquesne from 2005 to 2009 and graduated with a Ph.D. in Philosophy with an emphasis on the Human Person.  My favorite memories were working with Dr. James Swindal on my dissertation. He was patient and encouraging and helped me figure out how to compare the philosophical anthropology of a French Phenomenologist, Merleau-Ponty, with the Common Doctor of our Catholic tradition, St. Thomas Aquinas. This was not an easy task, but Dr. Swindal was an excellent guide.


Gordon: You are now serving back at your alma mater, Franciscan University of Steubenville.  Tell our readers about your responsibilities there. 


Joshua:  A core part of the pastoral vision of Saint John Paul II which emerged directly from the Second Vatican Council, and which continues today in the pontificate of Pope Francis, is that each unique person is called to holiness and that the Church has the responsibility to help each person become themselves in Christ.  Franciscan University of Steubenville is devoted to this pastoral vision.  Three years ago we started an Office for Personal Vocation to help each student realize their unique gifts and their role in salvation history.  My job is to serve as Director of Coaching and Programming for this new office. I also help to l


Gordon: What is the Inscape Center for Personal Vocation all about and what led you to co-found it?

Joshua: The Inscape Center is devoted to building culture in which each human person can discern and realize his/her unique calling. Luke Burgis and I co-founded it because we realized that Catholic teaching about personal vocation – God’s constant calling to holiness to each person by name -- although beautiful and strong, was not being advanced within Catholic institutions or integrated into the New Evangelization.  If your readers to go they will find all kinds of great resources for advancing a culture of personal vocation.


Gordon:  In a book you co-authored with Luke Burgis  - Unrepeatable: Cultivating the Unique Calling of Every Person – you talk about the deep importance of people knowing and sharing their stories of authentic fulfillment for identifying their own personal vocations.  Tell our readers what you meant by that. 


Joshua:  In addition to revealing a pattern of unique motivated gifts, Fulfillment stories also help us see persons offering those gifts to others around them and being who they were created to be. The stories show persons in the joy of living according to their purpose.  Obviously, discernment of personal vocation must go well beyond an examination of one’s past experiences, but fulfillment stories show the seeds or traces of our unique callings.  Also, most people have not taken the time to deeply consider these sorts of stories.  When we ask others to reflect upon them and then listen to them closely, most people gain rich self-awareness.


Gordon: There has been a significant decline in Catholic religious vocations in the United States. What are some of the factors contributing to this decline?  


Joshua:  Rampant secularism and rampant clericalism.  The first falls like a wet blanket on the embers of vibrant faith. The second problem stifles the Church and leads to anemic faith among the laity and low morale among priests and religious. Our talk about “vocation” is still primarily ordered to promoting a clerical state of life, rather than emphasizing the primacy of the universal vocation to holiness to which every person is uniquely called at every moment. What would happen if we helped every person realize their unique calling and role in salvation history, rather than positing that they “might have” a vocation?  What would happen if we fanned the flames of Faith of everyone with the conviction that they already have a personal vocation and that it is now?  If we did this, we’d have a laity alive in their faith, stronger marriages, and a lot more young men and women responding to the call to priesthood and religious life!


Gordon: Do you believe in the possibility of not requiring celibacy for the religious? Please explain your answer.


Joshua:  All of us will one day be celibate!  Those who choose celibacy now for the sake of the Kingdom are simply hastening the spousal union with Christ to which we are all ordered.  This is a great gift to them and a great sign to those who are called to marriage.


Gordon:  What are some key things we can do as Catholics to encourage religious vocations? 


Joshua:  First, we should focus on cultivating personal vocation and turn the focus away from vocation as just a “state of life” we’ll do a much better job encouraging religious vocations.  Personal vocation is the call to holiness in the Sacrament of each Present Moment and it includes all of the various ways we talk about vocation – states, professions, mission work, the call to prayer and sanctity.  Second, we should emphasize the great gift of the religious vocation in all its rigor and glory, that it has always been a privileged path towards union with Christ, which our hearts all desire


Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional and inspirational interview.

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