Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fostering Discernment of Vocations

Summer camps are a great way to keep kids busy and entertained while out of school for the summer. An exciting time for participants, camps come in all varieties.  Usually focused on a certain age group, they can cater to a specific theme, such as music, sports, art or wilderness survival, canoeing, horses, and so on.  Sometimes location plays a part in determining the purpose of the camp. Combining families with picturesque Lake Huron made for a beautiful Family Vocations Camp.

On July 23, the Sisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace of Ave Maria Parish, hosted a day-long Family Vocations Camp.   Held at the CYO Girls Camp, just north of Port Sanilac, the purpose of the day was to help young people become more aware of different ways of responding to God's call in their lives, especially as regards priesthood and consecrated life. This was a “family” day with over fifty five participants, ranging in age from babies a few months old to great grandparents.

We wanted to have a 'family' vocations camp because of the important role the family plays in the discernment of vocations. Families play an important part in raising awareness of vocations, especially to priesthood and consecrated life, which require an extra measure of discernment and encouragement that goes beyond the discernment of natural attraction to the married state. In various Church documents, the family is described as a 'nursery of vocations,' 'domestic church,' 'initial seminary,' 'sanctuary of love and cradle of life,' 'natural setting' for the care of vocations, 'natural and fundamental school for formation in the faith,' 'first experience of the church,' 'seedbed of vocations.' All these descriptions highlight the importance of the family as the proper environment for their children to listen to the divine call and to make a generous response. In fact, it is part of the family's vocation to inspire children in the family to discern and follow their own vocations from God, be it to marriage or to consecrated life. The family is to provide the holy space in which the Lord's voice may be heard in the hearts and souls of young people.

The day was filled with activities which helped participants think about the unique invitation that God extends to each person individually. Some topics that came up during the activities included the similarities and differences between priesthood and consecrated life, the role of the laity in the world, the basics of how to discern God's plan in one's life, the essential elements of consecrated life, the missionary mandate of the Catholic Church – to name a few. Other areas explored helped participants experience the value of life in community, the advantages of learning from and relying on others, and that not all have the same gifts, nor play the same role in a group.

"I learned a lot.  Last year, we seemed to learn more about the lifestyle, the price you have to pay, the rules you have to follow [in embracing consecrated life].  This year was more about the reward entailed in going into religious life," said Alexis Marschall, a fifteen year old,  "and the reward is worth a lot more than the price."

But the day was not dedicated solely to learning about consecrated life from the Sisters. Father Nate Harburg offered Mass at the camp and shared his vocation story. There was also time for confessions – Father Bob Schikora just happened to be in the area for a sick call and was inspired to stop by the camp, just in time to help hear confessions. And to share still another different life choice, Brian Derowski told of his call to be a single lay missionary in Poland.

The National Weather Service Hazard Beach Warning (it was the first time many people had ever seen this) prevented swimming and a bonfire, but there was volleyball and basketball.  Alexis' favorite activity was the Scripture Scavenger Hunt because "we were able to work as a team as well as bring the Bible to life and connect small pieces of the Bible to our everyday world.  Things haven't really changed much.  People still do amazing things and we can relate to how life was like back then."

"It [Family Vocations Camp] was very good.  It exceeded my expectations.  I expected it to be smaller, because last year there were fewer people.  It definitely has grown," said Alexis. "I think it is a great thing and should become a yearly tradition."

We are grateful to all those who helped make this event possible, especially for a grant from the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid Michigan.

More photographs of the Family Vocations Camp, 2014 are available at, or on our website: