I am writing this post on Monday morning from Milwaukee where I arrived yesterday afternoon after finishing up the "Here I Am Lord" conference. (I came here to interview a man who is considering joining our community.) Saturday was a very full day with the high school students of the area. The host students did a fantastic job, including a skit concerning Jesus' help to us in resisting temptation which you can see on the left.
I believe that a big piece in the success story of this program is student/volunteer involvement at both the planning stage and at the actual weekend. The visiting students see a large group of their peers having fun and enjoying the programming. The director, Mike Zak, also pulls in some impressive speakers who speak honestly and frankly to the participating youth about vocations, chastity, marriage, their life with Jesus, etc. There is also time for prayer and the sacraments. A group of us priests heard confessions Saturday afternoon for a couple of hours. The afternoon then ended with a beautiful Liturgy led by Bishop Thomas Doran of the Rockford Diocese.
Saturday evening Tony Melendez excited a packed church of both students and their parents.
Sunday morning the parishioners had a chance to visit some of the displays before and after the Sunday Liturgies. Many commented that they have never seen so many Religious in one place.
As always is the case, I find the opportunity to visit with other Vocation Directors a big part of these types of weekends. It is good to share with the other priests, Brothers, and Sisters who engage in the same ministry and to swap ideas about and approaches to our work. It is obvious to all of us--and I hope to the participants in the conferences as well--that we all are serving the same Lord and his Church. We are not in competition, but each of us is there to help young men and women discern where the Lord is calling them to serve. The Church is alive and well in the hearts of our young people.
I am in Saint Charles, IL participating in the Here I Am Lord National Conference. It is centered at St. Patrick church and parish but it draws junior high and high school students from a large area including parts of Chicago. It began last evening and will continue through Sunday Liturgies on Sunday. At the left is a quick shot of the display I set up at the main meeting hall. (The coffee can is full of pens with the vocation office info on them, in case you are wondering. :-))
Today I joined the local diocesan vocation director, a seminarian for the diocese, and two Sisters at St. Thomas More Grade School where we did a program for the junior high students of four parishes. Meanwhile other teams were at other local grade schools while a large group was at St. Patrick. The day included input from us about Religious Life and Priesthood, a Q & A sessions where the kids asked some pretty insightful questions, a scavenger hunt in which they had to seek answers to printed questions from us, and a Holy Hour/Benediction, along with a lot of good upbeat music. I returned to St. Patrick tired but enthused about the day.
Tomorrow there will be programing at St. Patrick for the high school students. Tony Melendez, the guitarist whom I had the pleasure of seeing at the National Catholic Youth Conference last fall in Columbus, OH, will be here tomorrow evening. (see http://vocationvibes.franciscan.org/2007/11/index.html)
Dan Helfrich, one of our Postulants, wrote an article for the "My Journey" feature on this month's "Franciscan Formation" page (click Franciscan Formation above on the left). His Aunt Becky comments:
Hi Father Don! I just wanted to say I am SO PROUD of our Daniel! Hey, Dan, your photos are beautiful keep it up! Your "journey" article was well written and spoken from the heart. And speaking of hearts, you are in mine and my prayers! God bless the Franciscans!!! - Aunt Becky
The Season of Lent carries a number of images and evokes a number of feelings. But in the midst of all of them, we need to remember the reality of our Baptismal calling for Lent is a preparation for the Baptismal celebration of Easter.
Some are preparing to be baptized, and some to be received into full communion in the Roman Catholic Church. For these, Easter will be a day of new beginnings as members of our faith community. For the rest of us, Easter will be a time of renewal and rededication to our baptismal promises to live the life of faithful discipleship. In all cases, it will be a celebration of the life Jesus won for us by his life, death, and resurrection.
How do we prepare for this? By repentance which is a turning away from sin and a turning toward faithful life with God. That is the positive side of Lent--a time of growth and renewal. A time of new life and rebirth. A time of victory in Jesus.
May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts to know in what ways we need to repent in order to find new life and peace.