Summer vocations events offer time, space to consider priesthood
By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND
Throughout the summer, the Office of Vocations held events around the diocese for young men open to considering the priesthood.
Seminarian Mark Miller and Father Matt Schmitz led Come and See events at St. Joseph, Moorhead and St. Philip, Bemidji. The events were a chance for Catholic men to hang out, play games, talk about Christian manhood, pray, listen to stories of the seminary and priesthood, and ask questions. Miller made weekend visits to parishes to share about his discernment and attended youth events including St. John Paul II Camp and a Steubenville conference.
Miller grew up in Roseau and graduated from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in May. He will begin graduate-level theology studies at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana, at the end of August.
One goal of Miller’s travel throughout the diocese was to build relationships with young people and allow them to see the “humanness” of a seminarian.
“I remember being surprised and excited that there were other young guys who were older than I was and who were more informed than I was pursing the priesthood and seeing them as human beings, getting to know them, getting to know what they’re like – that really allowed me to take a look at myself and look at them and say, ‘you know it’s actually possible for me to do this,’” Miller said.
The annual diocesan men’s vocation camp, Esto Vir, was held August 7-9 at Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp near Fosston, Minnesota. The camp allows time for men age 16 and older to gather for fun and fellowship.
“We have a lot of fun taking part in rigorous physical activity and games and things like that,” Miller said. “It allows both the seminarians and the priests and those coming to the camp to drop their walls throughout, just to get to know each other in a little bit more relaxed environment and allow for an opportunity to share about their life and about what they’re thinking.”
Miller said he had several opportunities during this year’s camp to be present to and share his experience with those who attended.
“I had the opportunity on multiple occasions this year to share some parts of my story that were pertinent to what other guys were going through, and it wasn’t in some sort of structured talk. It was just through casual conversation. It was fun to see all the guys there and it was fun to hopefully help them become more clear and comfortable in whatever their vocation may be,” he said.
Before his senior year of high school, current seminarian Samuel Hurst attended the first Esto Vir in 2011.
“That’s where the Lord spoke to me in a very concrete way, and that’s what led me to seminary,” Hurst said. He returned home and told his parents he would be entering seminary.
“Just being here is a really great opportunity for myself and the other guys to step away, be just in a group of Catholic men, kind of just being a fraternity as brothers,” he said. “That doesn’t happen a lot for a lot of Catholic men.”
He described the camp a chance for “iron to sharpen iron” as the men step away from regular life to spend some time relaxing, praying and focusing on the Lord’s will for them.
“They don’t have to think about other things for a couple of days and can really be open and vulnerable with each other about where the Lord might be calling them in a couple of years,” Hurst said.
Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner celebrated Mass at Esto Vir on August 8. During his homily, Bishop Hoeppner spoke about discernment.
“This is such an exciting time in your life. Jesus is loving you and walking with you as you work out with him what his call is,” said Bishop Hoeppner. “It’s not a crisis or problem to be solved as much as it is a gift to be found.”
He encouraged the men to stay close to Jesus and develop the gifts God has given them as they consider where he is calling them.
“Do not be afraid. See what the Lord has in store for you. It will be right for you and it will be right for the Lord,” Bishop Hoeppner said.
CLICK HERE for additional images from Esto Vir.