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Students focus on vocations in day of prayer, fun
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Archdiocese of Denver's Office of Priestly Vocations:
What's a vocation?
By John Gleason
More than 250 teens and nearly 1,000 grade-schoolers attended this year’s FOCUS 11 discernment program. The program, held Oct. 4-6, included Mass, music and talks. It was sponsored by the Denver Archdiocese’s Office of Priestly Vocations.
The annual event is designed to increase youths’ awareness about vocations and to consider whether God could be calling them to holy orders or consecrated life. Focus 11 is for juniors in high school (11th grade) and for sixth-graders (11-year-olds), which gives the program its name. High school students and grade school students attend on separate days.
Grade-schoolers attended the program Oct. 4 and 5 at Holy Trinity Parish in Westminster. Students from Holy Family and Bishop Machebeuf high schools attended on Oct. 6: the boys at Bonfils Hall of the John Paul II Center in south Denver while the girls spent the day at Holy Trinity. The Denver Catholic Register visited the high school program.
“We had a suggestion that the day be held in a prayerful, retreat style,” said Priestly Vocations Office Director Father Jim Crisman, explaining why the teen boys and girls programs were held in separate locations. “This will allow both groups a better chance to listen to the Lord.”
In welcoming the young men, Father Crisman urged the youths to be open to God and to turn their hearts to the Lord.
“Unlike a regular day in school, a learning day when you’re given things to put into your head, the point of today is to give you the opportunity to enter into a new relationship with God,” he said.
Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office Director Christopher Stefanick, began the morning with ice breakers, calling students up to “Rock the Mic” and sing a few bars of some popular songs. After several students showed off their singing skills, Stefanick got down to the message of his presentation.
“You’re here to discover who you are, to figure out what God wants from you,” he told the young men. “We exist to love and serve God.”
Stefanick reminded the youths that instead of trying to be a “big deal” in this life, they should strive for real greatness—holiness and eternal life.
“For every need we have in this life, there’s something out there to fill it,” Stefanick said. “And there is some need that only God can fill. The way to get happy in the right way is to get into a deep personal relationship with God.”
Machebeuf junior Nevan McCabe, 16, praised Stefanick’s comments.
“Over time, being a ‘big deal’ really isn’t a wonderful thing,” he said. “If you’re the most popular guy in the world, as soon as you’re gone, what do you have? What we should be wondering is will God call me to greatness through religious life or married life? We may not find out today; we just want to remind ourselves to listen.”
Jacob Francis Kingsley, 16, of Holy Family said in order to find true direction, people need to keep an open ear and heart.
“Young people struggle with who they are and what they want to be,” Kingsley said. “And sometimes we overlook the examples right in front of us. God called saints to greatness, some of them more than a thousand years ago. Today, they’re still setting an example. We just have to be aware of their presence.”
Something new for the high school boys was the opportunity to share Mass and lunch with seminarians and priests. The afternoon session included a talk by Father Matt Hartley, parochial vicar at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and small group discussion with priests, consecrated men and seminarians.
Meanwhile, at Holy Trinity School the high school girls also attended Mass. Other activities included a skit and a video followed by discussion, and presentations by Religious Sister of Mercy Karol Marie Haney and by Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia Miriam Kopenhafer. The Loretto Sisters, the Dominican Sisters of Peace and the Little Sisters of the Poor had booths and were available to talk.
Sister Carolyn Martin, l.s.p., said the teens’ enthusiasm was refreshing.
“Look at their faces, they’re excited about everything, even finding out about religious life,” she said. “These girls are caught up in the spiritual aspect of life. They want to know what we do, how we live and even if we’re happy. It’s a beautiful sincerity; a real spiritual interest that will carry them to whatever God is calling them to do.”
Junior Kyrie Vigil, 16, attends Holy Family High School. She thought just one day to talk about vocations seemed brief, but said it did allow students to focus on the idea in an atmosphere they might not otherwise get.
“We know that God should be a part of our life,” she said. “But young people have to deal with so many distractions: everything from Facebook to cell phones and iPods—even guys! I think it’s great that the boys and girls are in different places. It gives us all a chance to experience the day as it should be.”
In one of the final programs of the afternoon, Sister Kopenhafer, an English teacher at Machebeuf High School, spoke about her experience as a religious.
Beginning with a quote from 1 Peter, she read, “Although you have not seen him you love him…you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
“This is what my life is,” she told the girls. “It has been touched with joy. It’s a deep seated reality that endures; one that comes from finding purpose.”
Machebeuf junior Stadia Marie Thomas, 16, said she was glad to have the chance to hear Sister Kopenhafer talk about how it “feels” to be a nun.
“At school, I see her every day and never think that there is another part of her life outside the classroom,” Thomas said. “We come here and remind ourselves that God could be calling us, and that call could be coming through the sisters who are here to talk about their own lives—that’s what’s cool about this day.”