Christendom College hosted its second annual Discernment Weekend on February 8-10.
Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde launched the weekend with an opening Mass and dinner on Friday evening where he blessed a hand-crafted statue of Pope John Paul II to be placed outside the College’s John Paul the Great Student Center. In his homily, Loverde told students that in Lent and in life we are called to fast, to pray, and to give alms.
“Christ’s words in the Gospel remind us that we must be with Him in joy and on the cross. In each of your specific vocations you will be an instrument of hope—divine hope,” the bishop said, referring to Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, Spe Salvi. Quoting St. Josephine Bahkita from the same encyclical the bishop said, “‘I am definitely loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.’ Through the knowledge of this hope she was ‘redeemed’, no longer a slave, but a child of God.”
He told students that, with the help of God’s grace, actively living a life of hope would help them come to know and embrace their particular vocation, which God has willed for them from all eternity. “After all, in His will is our peace and our salvation,” he concluded.
Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of New York Rev. Luke Sweeney gave the opening remarks on Saturday morning in which he addressed some of the challenges to youth discerning vocations today.
“Now I’m sure in a way we’re preaching to the choir, for myself and for yourself,” he said. “You’ve grown up in a certain Catholic culture and tradition so that you know that priesthood, religious life, consecrated life, and marriage are good and worthy callings and I’m sure I would not hear what I hear from some parents: ‘I don’t want my son to be a priest—I don’t want my daughter to be a religious—I want them to be happy.’ Well, if we’re doing God’s will, we will be happy. There will be sacrifice, but God will give us those seeds of happiness.”
Rev. Sweeney urged students to pray, to do spiritual reading, and to talk about their call with a priest.
“Speak with a priest,” he said. “Be able to open up your heart and see if that’s where the Holy Spirit is calling you to. Otherwise, time might fly by and you might regret never having confronted that issue—never having asked God, ‘Is this what I want to do?’ whether you really want to or not.”
The day continued with Exposition and Adoration of the Eucharist with opportunities for Confession. Lunch followed and students were given the opportunity to socialize with the many priests and religious, many of whom where Christendom alumni themselves.
The afternoon featured a series of Breakout Sessions on a variety of vocations topics including: The Cloistered Life for Men and Women, Being a Missionary Priest, Diocesan Priesthood, Consecrated Vocations, and others. Psychologist Dr. Dana H. Medcalf, founder of the Veritas Clinics, delivered two sessions on Discerning Your Future Spouse.
“It was awesome,” Junior Kieran DuFrain said. “It’s great to just sit down and talk with religious. Discerning our vocation is something we students need to think about—we need to step back and say, ‘What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to accomplish in my life?’ This weekend is perfect for that.”
Sophomore Therese Fetsko said that she wished that there would be more religious on campus all the time.
“Just seeing them is inspiring,” she said. “The talks were great—especially on the cloistered life. He didn’t try to dress it up. He explained the sacrifices and difficulties as well.”
Director of Career Development Tom McGraw, who organizes the event every year, was shocked to see the number of students at the Breakout Sessions. “It was like a traffic jam in between the sessions. They really filled the rooms to the brim. During the entire day there was a constant stream of visitors to the various booths—both students and children from the local community.”
McGraw also said that the weekend is not only beneficial for the students but for the priests and religious who attend. “They love the prayer time in our beautiful Chapel. It’s like a retreat for them. They gain energy from meeting the students and each other,” he said.
Since its founding 30 years ago, Christendom has been instrumental in helping many students find their vocations. Fifty-three priests are alumni of Christendom, and over 60 other alumni are serving God as religious brothers or sisters. Additionally, over 220 alumni-to-alumni marriages have taken place, all very strong and with many, many children.
Fr. Luke Sweeney’s remarks can be heard at Christendom on iTunes U.