Students explore holy orders, consecrated life at FOCUS 11
By Nissa LaPoint
Photo by James Baca/DCR
At Holy Trinity Parish last week, habited nuns, Roman-collared priests and other religious shared God’s special vocational call in their lives to a stream of wide-eyed and excited youths.
“We hope they will see the beauty of priestly and religious life and if that’s God’s will (for them),” said Sister Faustina Deppe, O.C.D., who talked to students about her vocation to the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.
Some 120 high school students and nearly 1,000 grade school students were part of an annual retreat to increase their awareness of religious vocations and to consider the possibility of God’s call to holy orders or consecrated life.
Students age 11 and in the sixth grade and age 17 and in the 11th grade participated in the seventh year of the retreat called FOCUS 11, held at Holy Trinity Parish in Westminster Oct. 8-10. The high school students and grade school students attended on different days.
During an age when many students are pondering their future, the retreat was organized to educate them about vocations through testimonies, exhibits, hand-outs, talks and Mass.
FOCUS 11 is based on a study that youths are most open to the idea of a vocation when they’re 11 years old and 17 years old. Father Jim Crisman, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Priestly Vocations, which sponsored the event, said the intent is to encourage understanding and respect for vocations.
“I hope the kids walk away with an understanding that God has a special and particular vocation for each one of them,” he said.
On the Oct. 10 retreat for sixth-graders, the day began with Mass celebrated by Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila. Students broke into groups; one listened to two priests and two nuns share their journey in discovering God’s call.
“I did not want be a religious. I wanted 10 kids,” said Sister Joseph Maureen, l.s.p., recalling when she was a child. “But God gave me a love for the elderly that was real, and I couldn’t stop loving them. Through them, (Christ) drew me to himself.”
Sister Joseph Maureen, a Little Sister of the Poor who cares for the elderly poor at Mullen Home for the Aged in northwest Denver, gave a presentation with Sister Magdalit Bolduc of the Community of the Beatitudes, Father Tat-Hong Hoang, C.Ss.R., and Byzantine Father Michael O’Loughlin of Holy Protection of the Mother of God Church.
For More Information
The Denver Archdiocese’s Office of Priestly Vocations:
Office of Consecrated Life
Meanwhile, other students visited with religious who manned booths in the gym.
Sister Veronica Marie, O.P., who teaches religion at St. Vincent de Paul School in Denver, talked about life as a nun with the Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of Nashville, Tenn.
“We live in community and that’s a great joy in our life,” Sister Veronica Marie said.
Some students said they learned from the experience.
“I never knew there were so many career opportunities in just being Catholic,” said Nicole Taro, a sixth-grader at Good Shepherd School in Denver.
Later, the students sang and danced with church musician Phil Perez who played “Lean on Me” before Sister Faustina discussed vocations and the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity.
“A vocation is who you are and how you’re in relationship with other people,” she explained to the students. “As religious, our job is to make Jesus’ life present in the world.”
In the cafeteria, volunteers with the Serra Club took photos of children who peeked through wooden cut-out images of priests and nuns. The Knights of Columbus also volunteered at the retreat.
Teachers said students’ response was encouraging.
Dee Taylor of Our Lady of Fatima School in Lakewood said, “I think they’re becoming aware there are different paths our Lord chooses for us.”