Lay rector discusses his vocational journey

The Rover had the opportunity to sit down with a Notre Dame rector, Chris Tarnacki, to discuss his idea of vocation and how it informs his daily life.  Tarnacki is a 2007 alumnus of the university, having lived in O’Neill Hall as an undergraduate, and now he again takes up residence in this special place.

Irish Rover: How would you describe vocation?

Chris Tarnacki: I think of vocation as the full realization of God’s plan in your life.

Do you think you have found your vocation?

I do not see vocation as something that is ‘achieved.’  Vocation is something that is lived out constantly in one’s life.  This is just a point of my vocation in my life and not a ‘be all end all.’  Being a rector is my vocation for the moment.

How did you end up (back) at ND?

Honestly, I would say it was the invisible hand of God that led me here, and it’s just our job to keep moving with it.  I studied finance here and graduated in 2007.  I worked for an investment company before moving to Tennessee and working on public policy for a few years.  Then, two years ago, I was offered a job here and am back in O’Neill.  Things just seemed to happen.  I did not really work for the opportunities so much as they were presented to me.  I wouldn’t say that you should ignore your goals or not have any, but do not become so focused on them that you do not notice what is naturally happening around you.  You have to be open to whatever you might be called to.

Do you have any advice for other rectors or students?

First, especially at this time in your life as students, be faithful and be eager!  Ask questions and explore.  Let God speak through others and various opportunities.  Place your trust in God.

Second, keep moving.  Your job is to be your best every day.  Move forward with confidence when opportunities present themselves.  If I wanted to have every question answered before I became a rector, I would never have become one.

Finally, I studied finance for four years and it ultimately led to this.  This was hardly a logical step but I learned a lot along the way.  Don’t worry too much about what you are doing now.

What are some challenges and joys of your position?

Some of the joys?  Mostly I enjoy seeing young people flourish and embracing where they are.  It is in college that people really learn about themselves.  This is when they learn what they are good at and it’s awesome to see how this manifests itself to benefit others.  Whether their talents be in athletics, art, research, or any number of other areas, it’s an honor to be with them on that journey and see them grow.  It’s special to be able to see freshmen become seniors.  You really cannot predict the changes that will happen, but I hope that each student comes out of O’Neill knowing more about themselves.

In terms of challenges, it isn’t when people make mistakes that bothers me so much as when students do not ask for help.  When I was in college, I knew that there were people there for me but all too often I did not take advantage of this.  It is a little frustrating since you cannot force people to seek out help and advice.  And then there is the bedtime.  It can be hard to get to sleep at a reasonable hour!

Do you have any final thoughts?

I would say that my vocation is more related to who I am then what I am doing at the moment.  My true vocation is to be the best Catholic man I can be every day in various ways but as a rector primarily by serving the men of O’Neill.

Peter Brown is a sophomore studying philosophy and theology.  Whether he is reading up on St. Thomas in Practical Theology or working a shift at Reckers, he is always cheerful and smiling.  You can reach him at