Did you grow in your faith during Lent?By: Bishop Edward M. Rice
I spent the weekend of March 24-26 in the West Plains Civic Center along with 430 teens, chaperones, and youth leaders from across the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau for the 24th annual Diocesan Youth Conference (DYC).
The keynote speaker was Jesse Manibusan, a Catholic catechist, evangelist, and musician from California who invited all of us to live the fullness of our Catholic faith.
The theme of our gathering was, “The Narrow Gate,” and event speakers challenged the youth to forgo the “easy” way of life, the “whatever” way, and the “my” way of life. Instead, participants were encouraged to choose the way of “eternal salvation.”
Using the imagery of a “journey,” youth were able to pick three of 14 workshops to better explore the theme. To name a few, topics included “Planning the Journey,’ “Life in the Fast Lane,” “Riding in Cars with Boys/Girls,” and “Mary, Our GPS for Life.” I had the opportunity to present a workshop to parents that I called “Driver’s Ed,” during which I related the importance of driver’s education prior to obtaining a driver’s license to the importance of living the faith at home prior to gathering at the parish for Sunday Mass.
Throughout the weekend, the sacrament of penance and reconciliation was offered along with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the celebration of Holy Mass on Saturday and Sunday. For me, a conference highlight was hearing three young teens give witness talks on the importance of their faith. I was especially touched by the young man who said he came to know Jesus at Camp Re-NEW-All. For him, DYC was a shot in the arm to keep him going. And then there was the young man who said, and I quote, “I’m not a saint, but I’m trying to be.” In my Sunday homily closing the DYC, I challenged the young people to do the same: “Be a saint.” I also asked them to go back to their parish and be that person that asks for time set aside in the parish for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, or the person who forms a “rosary group” or a bible study.
I am so grateful to all the seminarians, priests, religious, musicians, parents, chaperones, youth ministers, and volunteers who made our Diocesan Youth Conference such a success. Special thanks to Katie Newton, Office of Youth Ministry, for organizing the event. The weekend was underwritten by our annual Diocesan Development Fund (DDF) and I am so glad to say that many grants were given to teens through our Capital Endowment Campaign who otherwise may not have been able to attend DYC. As you may recall, one of the three areas of need highlighted in the Capital Campaign was youth formation.
After DYC, I drove to Notre Dame Regional High School (NDHS) in Cape Girardeau for a Vocation Rally held Mon., March 27. The day was planned by our Director of Vocation Promotions, Fr. Patrick Nwokoye, in cooperation with Bro. David Migliorino, OSF, Principal of NDHS, whereby the entire student body was invited to reflect on the Lord’s will for their lives. The day included talks by priests, religious, and seminarians, along with Mass, Adoration, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I mentioned to the students that one simple goal for the day was for each of them to reflect on their life and ask if the Lord might be calling them to the priesthood or religious life.
According to studies, the top three reasons often given for a lack of a religious vocation are a preference to marriage; money and a successful career; and peer pressure, all three of which do not actually weigh in as the greatest obstacles. The two greatest obstacles to a religious vocation are parents and the lack of a personal invitation. It is a sad reality that three out of four parents would not support their son or daughter if they wanted to be a priest or a consecrated religious. Along with that, so many of our young people have never been invited to consider the calling. Until that invitation happens, one may never consider a religious vocation at all. When one is asked to consider the religious life, a private discernment is begun, and the person being asked usually has to formulate a response one way or the other. The Lord works in different ways in each situation. Some priests or religious will tell you they first considered the call in elementary school or high school. For others, the call came during or after college. When someone tells me the religious life or priesthood is not for them, I always ask them to keep an open heart: you never know when the Lord might speak. As I drive through the 25,719 square miles of our diocese and see the beauty of our landscape, I cannot help but believe that the Lord continues to call men and women in the Ozarks to serve Him in the Church. With this in mind, I ask everyone to do two things: First, please pray for vocations. Make visits to the Blessed Sacrament and ask the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers into the fields! Second, I ask that you seek out, invite, and encourage a young man or woman that you think has the qualities necessary to be a good priest or consecrated religious to consider the priesthood or religious life. The power of that one invitation cannot be exaggerated. Have the courage to do your part, ask the question, and the rest is up to God.
Men’s Cursillo #98
Finally, during this same weekend, March 23-26, the Men’s Cursillo Weekend #98 was held outside Fredericktown, MO, at its new facility Pinecrest Camp and Conference Center. There were 27 candidates from the various parishes of the diocese. (They even let a guy from St. Louis participate!) In addition, 15 team members facilitated the weekend. What is Cursillo? The Cursillo Movement pursues two purposes or objectives. The immediate purpose is to provide a conduit for living what is fundamental for being a Christian, namely, the on-going and total conversion of the person. The end purpose is to support and augment Christianity in society by means of these persons who live what is fundamental for being Christian (the love of God and neighbor) in their daily lives.
In closing, when you look at all that was going on just that one weekend in March, the Lord was truly blessing our diocese. There are so many opportunities in the Church of Southern Missouri for spiritual growth. As we begin the Easter Season, I leave you with this thought: “Did you grow in your faith during Lent?”