By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Youth Gather for Fun, Vocations Discussion
Fayetteville — Young people got a chance to talk to women and men religious, priests, a transitional deacon and a couple of bishops recently as the first-ever diocesan Youth Congress met to discuss vocations at Immaculate Conception Church on July 31. Also there to discuss personal vocations were a married couple and a single woman. The Youth Congress was co-sponsored by the diocesan Office of Youth Ministry and the Office of Vocation Promotion. Sister Eileen McCann, CSJ, director of Youth Ministry for diocese, said 42 young people participated during the day’s activities and approximately 100 were present by the close of the event that included liturgy and a dance.
“We need to give the kids the language and we also need to remind them that by their baptismal call, they have a responsibility to use their gifts to meet the needs of the world and they can do this through whatever vocation they choose,” Sister Eileen said. Before opening the discussion on discernment, a lively version of “Come, Lord Jesus,” brought everyone to their feet. It was made even more inspiring by Deacon Kevin Maloney’s dance moves. Both Bishops James Moynihan and Thomas Costello attended the congress and obviously enjoyed spending time with some of the younger members of the diocese. They sat in on group discussions about vocations and the discernment process. Deacon Maloney, who will be ordained next year, discussed the differences between discernment and making a decision or choice. “When I got up out of bed this morning at 7:30 a.m. the first thing I did was decide what to wear today,” Deacon Maloney joked. “Fortunately, I decided I would wear black. That decision was easy.” Discernment, he explained, doesn’t take a minute or 10 minutes. It may take 10 years, he said.
“Discernment is more than a brain/head decision,” Deacon Maloney said. “There are other parts of the body involved. The brain is one, the other is your heart. You have to feel in your gut, what you deep-down think God is telling you. And you have to be creative about where God might be calling you to be.” The process of discernment requires that the varied parts — imagination, the brain, guts, and the heart — come together before a choice is made. Imagination means using mental exercises and visualizing what God’ s plan is for an individual. Using one’s brain entails mulling over the consequences of a decision before that decision is made. Using one’s “guts” or gut instinct means thinking of that thing deep down inside each person that may tell a one what he/she is called to do. One’s heart comes into play by the different feelings one might have about a decision. Does the decision bring with it a feeling of peace, or one of anxiety?
After a skit featuring youngsters acting out the various parts that make up the process of discernment, the teenagers sat in small groups for discussion about differences between decision-making and discernment. Afterwards, some of the facilitators shared their own reasons for choosing their vocations. Many of the presenters said they were attracted to the joy and peace demonstrated by religious and clergy they had observed while they were growing up. Brother Tom Purcell, OFM Conv., is director of vocations for the Franciscan community. He told the young people that he is still constantly discerning, asking himself whether or not he still fits within his chosen religious community. “I entered with the idea that I would give it six months and then I’d go off to college and have fun. That was 36 years ago,” Brother Tom said. Sean and Jenn Clive are a young married couple with two little girls. They spoke of their love for each other, their relationship and why they are so certain that their vocation as a married couple is exactly where they should be.
Jenn said that Sean knew how to be romantic and yet respectful. The couple began dating as teenagers and by college knew they wanted to be married. “People said, ‘You’re so young, you should be free, date other people.’ The only thing I could think of was that I couldn’t imagine life without Jenn. I WAS free — free not to worry about other girls, free not to have to do things I didn’t want to do,” Sean said. The Clives explained that all vocations require prayers for wisdom. “I look at Sean and I know being married to Sean is my vocation because it goes beyond us. We recognize God’s love through our marriage,” Jenn said.
The vocation discussion carried over into small groups. The group Bishop Moynihan sat with discussed the role parents play in their children’s vocations. Some of the young people agreed that their parents are more concerned about which college they will go to and how much money they will make. Father John Donovan, the director of the Office of Vocation Promotion, said he is very aware of the issue of parental support concerning vocations. “One of the obstacles I face is that parents are opposed to even the discussion of married life and single life as a vocation, let alone a vocation to consecrated life,” he said. “It’s as if ‘vocation’ is a dirty word.”
Bishop Moynihan told his discussion group that parents can give their children a good example by the way they live. One young man said that not being able to be married would be a concern if he were considering a vocation to the priesthood. The young people asked Bishop Moynihan about his decision to become a priest. He told them he has never regretted it. “Every day becomes the happiest day of my life. You never have a bad day because you start every day with prayer,” the bishop told them.