Thursday, May 6, 2021
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
MIAMI | Sitting at his desk while relying on the wonders of modern technology, Father Matthew Gomez pulled off a feat reminiscent of Oscar’s virtual awards night — all to persuade young people to think about their vocation in life, perhaps even a vocation to priesthood and religious life.
The event was Focus 11, canceled last year and held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Father Gomez used the magic of StreamYard to bring a two- hour version of the half-day event into the religion classrooms of sixth graders throughout the Archdiocese of Miami.
Appearing from his office in the Pastoral Center: Archbishop Thomas Wenski. Appearing from their Miami convent: novices and professed religious with the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Appearing from his office at Epiphany Parish in South Miami, Father Ryan Saunders, ordained just last year. Appearing from his room at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, Adrian Herrera, who graduated this week and plans to continue his studies at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach.
The seminaries themselves were present via pre-recorded video, as the seminarians took the sixth graders on a video tour of each one, peppered with information about seminary life. The students also got a tour of the Pierced Hearts convent and information about the typical day in the life of a novice or consecrated religious.
“Every school participated, but I can’t give you the exact number of how many students there were,” said Father Gomez afterward. “I know that at one point there were 160 devices logged on to YouTube, so probably there were multiple classrooms logged on.”
Some students watched on their individual iPads or laptops, while others watched on big screens in their classrooms.
The technical glitches were minor — a brief loss of sound, a frozen Father Gomez — and mercifully occurred at the end. “Thank you, Jesus!” Father Gomez exclaimed.
Focus 11 began in the archdiocese in 2012. The event normally takes place over several days, gathering sixth graders from different schools at a church in a geographic middle point. In years past, that has usually meant St. Gregory in Plantation and St. Agatha in Miami, with student groups as large as 600.
The day begins with praise-and-worship songs to get the students prepped, followed by a talk from Archbishop Wenski, games, more talks, and a question-and-answer session with the seminarians and the religious. The event concludes with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This year’s virtual event tried to mimic that as much as possible.
Next year, Father Gomez hopes, the sixth-graders’ Focus 11 field trip won’t be virtual. But he admits that, now that it’s posted on the Vocations Office’s YouTube channel, anyone can watch — including homeschoolers and public-school students who attend religious education programs in the parishes.
Father Gomez urged parish catechists to find the YouTube link and “share that with their kids.” (The complete video is also posted at the top of this article.)