At vocations-focused Lifeline, youths encouraged to say ‘yes’ to God’s call

| February 7, 2017 | 1 Comment

While driving down Interstate 94 in Minneapolis a few years ago, Father Michael Becker witnessed a motorcyclist slam head-first into a car. The rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul pulled over and anointed the man, who died at the scene.

Father David Blume shared Father Becker’s story while speaking to more than 450 high school boys at the Feb. 4 National Evangelization Team Ministries Lifeline Mass and program. The young men had just watched a similar incident dramatized in the vocations video “Fishers of Men” produced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“It’s not just dramatic, it’s very real,” said Father Blume, the vocations director for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Declan Thompson of St. Francis Xavier in Buffalo high fives seminarians from St. John Vianney College Seminary during a National Evangelization Teams Ministries Lifeline event Feb. 4 at the NET Center in West St. Paul. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

That call to bring Christ to others in an emergency stirred something within the young men attending the event. Among them was Andy Hanson, a senior at Robbinsdale Cooper High School.

“It just shows how important they [priests] are even to society,” said Hanson, who attends St. Raphael in Crystal.

Held at the NET Center in West St. Paul, Lifeline brings together teenagers monthly for Mass, socializing and presentations on Catholic living. Archbishop Bernard Hebda celebrated Mass at the evening event, which focused on discernment, religious vocations and priesthood. Following Mass, priests and religious spoke to separate groups of young men and women.

In the men’s vocation presentation, Brother Conrad Richardson of the Franciscan Brothers of Peace in St. Paul explained the importance of priesthood, the permanent diaconate and religious life.

Marriage, he explained, is a “natural vocation,” but God also calls people to serve him in a “supernatural way” through ordained and religious life.

Religious men and women from more than 10 orders — including Pro Ecclesia Sancta, St. Peter Claver Sisters, School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Crosier Fathers and Brothers — joined the 1,200 youth and adult volunteers at Mass in the NET Center gym.

In his homily, Archbishop Hebda reflected on the Gospel message of being the “salt of the Earth” and the “light of the world.” He also reflected on the works of mercy called for in the second reading from the book of Isaiah. He said that text lays out “a beautiful game plan … since it’s Super Bowl weekend” for following Jesus.

“If we turn our lives over to the Lord in whatever way he is calling us to serve, it’s then that we’re going to be able to bring light to the world,” Archbishop Hebda said. “Not our own, but Jesus’ [light].”

The archbishop also spoke of the attitudes needed to discover one’s vocation in life.

“Our job is to give ourselves over with such humility, with such docility that we’re willing to do whatever it is that the Lord asks us to do,” Archbishop Hebda said.

Speaking to a group of young women, Sister Mary Juliana Cox of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Stillwater explained that Jesus is already active in their lives. She emphasized the importance of responding to their baptismal gifts, which provide a foundation for discerning God’s call, living the universal call to holiness and living out religious life if called.

“The consecrated life is the fulfillment of our baptismal promises,” Sister Mary Juliana said. “It’s a deepening of those promises.”

She highlighted the importance of starting to “remove those things that are keeping others from seeing the light” and to “turn away from sin, which only distorts that light and dims it.” She said it allows a person to give one’s “all to the Lord” in order for others to be “able to see the light, see the way to heaven more  clearly.”

Sister Cynthia Carmona of Pro Ecclesia Sancta, which serves St. Mark in St. Paul, concluded the presentation in talking about the importance of building trust in God and learning to say “yes.” It worked for her.

“I haven’t regretted a moment I’ve been a sister,” she said.

Hearing more about religious vocations resonated for St. Anthony Village High School sophomore Maria Osterbauer.

“I thought that it was really interesting how they said that you’re called to a vocation wherever you are,” said Osterbauer, a parishioner at St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony. “You can be living what God wants you to do and … this life isn’t actually your own. It’s for God.”

Eighth-graders Mary Oberg, who is home-schooled, and Anna Walter,  who attends St. Agnes in St. Paul, each said the presentation inspired them to think more about vocations. They both attend St. Joseph in West St. Paul.

“They were so joyful and so happy,” Walter said of the sisters.

Oberg recalled how saying “yes” paid off for Sister Cynthia.

“She knew what God wanted her to do, but she wasn’t ready to say yes, but then when she said yes, she was truly and absolutely happy,” she said.

For Hanson, the time is approaching to make a public step in that “yes.” He plans to apply to SJV to begin studies for the priesthood. He said he has been considering priesthood for three years.

St. Anthony Village High School senior Thomas Solomon also has SJV on the radar for next year. Solomon, who attends St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony Village, learned more about the priesthood last year from Joe Wappes, also a St. Charles Borromeo parishioner and SAV graduate, who entered SJV in 2016. Wappes also spoke to the boys about seminary that evening.

“He’s got me thinking about it,” Solomon said.

It’s that step that priests, brothers, sisters and deacons most encouraged that night. They prayed with the youth in the crowded aisles of the gym during the closing prayer session, which especially resonated with Hanson. “It was amazing having all the religious being here to help pray over you,” he said.

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  • Charles C.

    It’s too bad that the Pope and Archbishop Hebda disagree on this. The Archbishop seems to be welcoming vocations. His Holiness, on the other hand . . .

    “Pope Francis has stated that the rise of new religious institutes that attract numerous religious vocations “worries” him because they often promote “rigidity.” Francis denounced new traditional religious orders as “Pelagians,” who want a return to asceticism and penance.

    “In an obvious reference to the Legionaries of Christ, he called young people in traditional orders “soldiers who seem ready to do anything for the defense of faith and morality, and then some scandal emerges involving the founder [male or female].”

    “So, do not put hope in the sudden, mass blooming of these Institutes,” he added.

    “Asked about how to fire the hearts of young people for the cause of the Gospel, the pope turned his focus to the training of “seminarians and future priests.”

    “Discernment, meanwhile, means moving forward through the gray of life according to the will of God. And the will of God is to be sought according to the true doctrine of the Gospel and not in the rigidity of an abstract doctrine,” he said.

    “Asked what should be done about the plummeting number of vocations to the priesthood, the pope said that while the decline “worries me” he is also worried about the rise of new traditional religious orders.

    “Some are, I might say, ‘restorationist’: they seem to offer security but instead give only rigidity,” he said.

    “When they tell me that there is a Congregation that draws so many vocations, I must confess that I worry. The Spirit does not follow the logic of human success: it works in another way.”

    “Traditional orders do not simply worry Pope Francis. Within months of becoming pope in March 2013, Francis moved quickly to utterly dismantle the flourishing Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. The order, which encouraged the Latin Mass, was one of the most faithful of all of the new Catholic religious orders, especially in regard to their pro-life commitment. The move stunned faithful Catholics.

    “In 2015 the pope warned bishops against ordaining “traditionalist” seminarians, stating that doing so was like placing a “mortgage on the Church.” ”

    So, dear Archbishop, the Pope isn’t interested in new vocations in general, he only wants priests, brothers, and sisters who aren’t traditional Catholics. The priest he wants is someone who says there is no black and white, right or wrong, true or false. The Church has a name for this type of thinking.

    Well, Archbishop, make sure your approach encourages only the “right” kind of vocation. For Pope Francis does see commitment to his philosophy of the Church, and strict obedience to him, as perhaps the only black and white issues facing the Church.