By Tom Maguire
Associate editor

Do you know a young man who is a sincere, generous, spiritually mature leader?

Father Jason Hage would like you to direct that man, age 18 to 39, to a “pretty dynamic retreat” featuring talks by seminarians and New York State vocation directors; a visit from Bishop Douglas J. Lucia, who will officiate at Mass and stay for lunch to chat with discerners to the priesthood; a Q-and-A with panelists; an all-night vigil with Eucharistic Adoration; meals; and plenty of informal discussions with fellow discerners.

A discerner, said Father Hage, director of the Office of Vocation Promotion for the Diocese of Syracuse, is a young man who is sincerely open to God’s call in his life and wants to be generous with his life. The discerner exemplifies leadership and could be a leader in the Church someday. As his flyer says: “Have you felt the invitation to follow Jesus Christ as a Catholic priest?”

The New York State Discernment Retreat is set for Jan. 2-4 at Christ the King Retreat House in Syracuse. The retreat has been held for at least two decades; in fact, Bishop Lucia used to help with the retreat when he was Father Lucia, the vocations director for the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

Typically, the retreat draws about 15 discerners, half of them from the Syracuse Diocese, and, usually, one of the local men applies for and is accepted into formation, Father Hage said. For example, the Diocese of Syracuse has 10 men right now in seminaries, and every one of them attended the NYS Discernment Retreat before entering the seminary.

In recent years the retreat was held online due to the pandemic, but in January Diocese of Syracuse seminarians John Brusa III and Joseph Ryan, who are in their pastoral year of formation, will be among the speakers at the retreat house. Also, Deacon James Buttner, who will be ordained a priest for the Syracuse Diocese in the spring, will deliver one of the major talks. High school seniors can stay overnight or be a commuter.

The first night, very low key, is dedicated to the seminarians, with a panel Q-and-A. A discerner may ask them, How did you get here? What did that look like in your life when you said, I need to pick up an application and move forward. After the Q-and-A, the vocation directors disappear and the discerners have pizza and hang out till midnight or 1 a.m. “chatting about what God might be doing in their lives,” Father Hage said.

On the second day there is more time for silence between the talks by vocation directors from the different dioceses. And Bishop Lucia will celebrate Mass. “Discerners always love getting to meet our bishop,” Father Hage said.

On that second night, Father Hage will expose the Blessed Sacrament for the vigil, with the discerners and the priests taking turns throughout the night. The discerners “get to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament, our Eucharistic Lord, in silence,” Father Hage said. “And they just finally get to talk heart to heart with Jesus about what God would be doing in their life.”

The third day wraps up with a breakfast and everyone hits the road in late morning.

“This could be the retreat that can help you understand more deeply what God made you for, and how God made your heart,” Father Hage said.

Please register by Dec. 29 by emailing


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