COLORADO SPRINGS. Living out one’s faith is the number one priority of Christians everywhere. However, busy lives and an array of choices can make it difficult to know the best way to live out that faith. “Embrace 2017: Vocations Day,” to be held at St. Mary’s High School on Jan. 31, seeks to help the Catholic youth of Colorado Springs learn to discern God’s will for their lives as they continue their faith journey.
Through activities and speakers, “Embrace 2017: Vocations Day” will show students in fifth through 11th grades ways to live out their Catholic identity and how to connect with God on a deeper level and say ‘YES’ to him regardless of which Catholic vocation (single, married, or religious) they pursue in life. The event is free, and is open to all students, including those who are homeschooled or attend public school, as well as adults; all are welcome. Attendees are asked to register through the St. Mary’s High School web site (www.smhscs.org). The event will run from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
While a new event for St. Mary’s High School, “Embrace” events have taken place at St. Peter School in Monument for the past four years. Spearheaded by Patti Morgan, whose daughter attended St. Peter and is now a freshman at St. Mary’s, the events have grown over the years, and Morgan is excited to bring Embrace to high schoolers as well as middle schoolers.
“We always ask our kids what they want to be when they grow up, and expect answers like a teacher or doctor,” Morgan said. “How about becoming a saint? That’s what God wants each of us to be. Our youth need to understand that it is how they live their lives (and God’s grace) that will get them into heaven where they’ll be saints.”
The theme of Embrace 2017: Vocations Day is: “Being Catholic isn’t just my religion, it’s my identity. Learn it! Live it! Embrace it!” Morgan said the theme was carefully chosen and the speaker’s presentations and activities have been built around the theme. Students will hear a teen, deacon, consecrated women, and a married couple speak about how they embrace their Catholic identities in their vocations. Priests and sisters will speak about their different religious orders, their charisms, including telling personal stories about how they were called, as well as help students understand how to listen for God’s call in their own lives. Students will also hear about Divine Mercy — learning to fear not and trust in Jesus, praying and discerning with the Scriptures,and about chastity. The day will begin with Mass and end with Adoration and Benediction, including the traditional Latin which the students will learn in a training session on “how to properly adore”.
“As Catholics, we are responsible to know the scriptures, our faith, and our traditions — and to live out and embrace that faith by being Christ to others,” Morgan said. “If we do that, we can change the world! It is through events like Embrace that youth gain a deeper understanding of their faith and make it who they are. It is going to be a powerful, Holy Spirit-filled day!”
Salesian Sister Bernadette Mota, who will assist with the activities during the day, hopes that students experience the beauty of the Church as they embrace God’s plan for their lives and prayerfully consider who God is calling them to be.
“God lovingly calls us to a life of holiness, to be the best version of ourselves for His glory,” Sister Bernadette said. “Within the universal call to holiness, we experience Jesus inviting everyone to give over their lives in a particular way.”
Prayer is the key to finding that best version of ourselves, said Father Brian Roeseler, who is the chaplain at St. Mary’s High School and will speak during Embrace. Understanding the importance of prayer, and especially praying for a vocation, is one thing Father Roeseler hopes students take away from Embrace.
“We all have a vocation, a call from God, and if we want to be truly happy in life, we must follow that vocation,” Father Roeseler said. “I think often young people do not pray for their vocation and hence perhaps do not know what God is calling them to do in their lives. The sooner they start praying to know God’s call for them, not only the easier will their life becomes, but the more joy they will have. So pray that you hear and listen to God’s call.”
“The Embrace experience will likely be very different for older students versus younger students,” Father Roeseler said. Older students who have already been praying about their vocation might gain a better understanding of how to respond to their vocation calling. Younger students will learn that it is never too early to begin praying that they hear the call of God and will be encouraged to start praying about their vocation, if they haven’t already.
“For all, I want them to know that whatever vocation God has for them, but especially priesthood or religious, it is a life of great joy and peace,” Father Roeseler said. “I want them all to understand that while I was a normal teenager, much like all of them, I love my life as a priest and have never regretted responding to this vocational call.”
Father Roeseler and Sister Bernadette are just two of over 30 priests and sisters who will participate in the Embrace event. Embrace 2017: Vocations Day will give students a chance to interact with priests and sisters in a fun and relaxed setting, which hopefully allows students to have a better understanding of the religious vocations.
“Eventually we hope to see an increase in the number of youth who choose religious vocations, but immediately we hope to see more youth respond by opening their hearts to God’s will in their lives,” Morgan said. “Whether they are 11th graders who are facing some major life decisions, like college, or 11-year-olds who are still figuring out who they are, all youth need to know that God is calling each one of them to get to really know him, listen for his voice and to use the gifts he’s given them to serve him — whatever their age!”
Students at the Catholic schools in Colorado Springs will be bussed to the event, but Morgan encourages Catholic families whose children attend public school or are homeschooled to consider having them attend Embrace.
“As a parent, I can’t think of a better way for my child to spend the day,” Morgan said. “As we are called to live out our faith, we face tough choices. Choosing to have kids attend this event, even if it means missing school or other activities, is one way parents can show how important it is to put God first. And showing that faith is a priority will have a huge impact on how these students receive the messages they hear that day.”
(Amy G. Partain is communications associate for St. Mary’s High School.)