This past weekend, I was able to participate in my diocese's annual youth retreat weekend, entitiled Destination: Jesus. It is a Eucharistic retreat built off of the model of the Youth 2000 retreats. This is year is the sixteenth year that our diocese has sponsored this event and it has grown every year. Nearly 950 youth attended this year's event and I came away exhausted (and all I did was support all of the people that were making everything happen) because the experience of being around so many young people who are being lit on fire for Christ, who are finding healing in the Sacrament of Confession, and who are allowing Christ to touch their heart, possibly for the first time in their lives, inspired me to pour myself out for them in anyway that I could think of.
Listening to some of these youth tell me about the great experience that they had, about some incredibly difficult situations that they are dealing with, and then worshiping our Eucharistic Lord with them made me want to be a priest more than ever. Part of the last day of the retreat is reserved to ask the youth to consider vocations to the priesthood and religious life. They've seen the seminarians and nuns running around all weekend, but on Sunday we get officially introduced. Our Director of Vocations, Fr. Brian Doerr, introduced us and bragged that our seminary rectors all agree that we are some of the best men studying for the priesthood that they've seen. I was feeling a little embarrassed by this, but then the entire crowd of 950+ people erupted into a standing ovation for us and I was brought to tears. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. I am invigorated to continue to give myself to completing formation and to being ordained a priest. I am also hopeful that our witness this weekend will inspire a few young men and women to consider whether or not God might be calling them to a religious vocation.
Fr. Brian has an e-form that anyone can fill out if they are considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life up on our website. It can be found at http://www.priestforever.org/DJ. Click and submit the form if you are interested in getting information about discerning a religious vocation. Or, if you know someone who participated in the weekend, please send them the link in case they forgot it after the weekend.
Most of all, let us continue to pray for vocations, both that we may have the courage to fully live out our own and for others to courageously accept their own, and for the youth whose lives have been changed forever by their encounter with Christ this weekend, that in all things God may be glorified!