Article Published

Article_archdiocese-of-miami-marriage-religious-life-or-priesthoodt

archdiocese-of-miami-marriage-religious-life-or-priesthoodt

Feature News | Thursday, June 06, 2024

Marriage, religious life, or priesthood?

'Don't be afraid or ashamed to say Yes to God,' students told at FOCUS 11 vocations rally

Students Damian Glover (left) and Michael Perez, along with their teacher Ianne Lopez, of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary-St. Richard School in Cutler Bay, reflect on the mural above the sanctuary of St. Raphael Chapel before Mass for the Focus 11 vocation rally at St. John Vianney College Seminary, May 21, 2024.

Photographer: CRISTINA CABRERA JARRO| FC

Students Damian Glover (left) and Michael Perez, along with their teacher Ianne Lopez, of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary-St. Richard School in Cutler Bay, reflect on the mural above the sanctuary of St. Raphael Chapel before Mass for the Focus 11 vocation rally at St. John Vianney College Seminary, May 21, 2024.

MIAMI | Michael Perez and Damian Glover looked up at the mural above the sanctuary of St. Raphael Chapel in St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami.

As the two sixth graders from Our Lady of the Holy Rosary-St. Richard School in Cutler Bay waited for the start of the Mass that kicked off the Focus 11 vocations rally, they identified some of the biblical moments in the mural while contemplating the unfamiliar ones.

Watching her intrigued students, Ianne Lopez, who was sitting in the pew behind them, joined in on their wonderment.

“I just want to learn,” said Michael.

Curiosity is exactly what Father Matthew Gomez, director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations, hoped sixth graders from Catholic schools would bring to this year’s Focus 11. Over 1,900 sixth-grade students from schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties participated in three separate days of the annual vocations rally, two hosted on May 21 and 22, 2024, at St. John Vianney, and one on May 23 at St. Gregory the Great Church in Plantation. Collectively, students gathered to reflect on their futures, and also to consider answering the call to the priesthood or religious life.

“The whole point of today is to change the question from 'What do I want to be when I grow up?' to 'God, what do you want me to be when I grow up?'” Father Gomez said.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski provides the keynote to students attending the Focus 11 vocations rally in St. John Vianney College Seminary May 21, 2024.

Photographer: CRISTINA CABRERA JARRO| FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski provides the keynote to students attending the Focus 11 vocations rally in St. John Vianney College Seminary May 21, 2024.

As Archbishop Thomas Wenski later explained in his keynote, “To know what God wants you to be, what God wants you to do with your life, you have to ask him. That’s what we call prayer.”

While speaking to God through prayer is a major point in deciphering God's will, the archbishop reminded the students that listening is also key.

“It won’t be like a telephone ringing and we pick it up and say, 'Hello God.' God speaks to us through our hearts, and also sometimes through some of the people who are around us. But we have to pray, and we have to listen,” Archbishop Wenski said.

Whether the call is to live a married life, religious life, or the priesthood, the archbishop said, “Don’t be afraid or ashamed to say 'Yes' to God.”

Throughout the day at Focus 11, students had the chance to follow through with the archbishop’s advice during breakout sessions that allowed for both, prayerful moments and inquisitive interaction with those living religious lives.

In the religious exhibition, participants learned from local Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, brothers and sisters from the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a Trinitarian priest, diocesan priests, and seminarians studying to be priests.

“This was the first time I met [religious] brothers,” said Maya Rodriguez, a student from Our Lady of the Lakes School in Miami Lakes.

In the chapel, transitional Deacon Jorge Reyes, assisted by seminarians, led Eucharistic adoration. Surrounded by silence, he encouraged students to meditate on God’s call for each one of them.

“What better place to do that than right here, in front of Christ himself,” Deacon Reyes said.

He also spoke of Blessed Carlo Acutis, the young soon-to-be saint, whose devotion for the Eucharist, combined with his talents for website design, inspired him to create a website chronicling Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions.

“He loved the Eucharist more than anything,” said Deacon Reyes. “He would say 'To always be close to Jesus, that is my life plan.'”

Carmelite Sister Myriam Falzon explains her vocational life as a religious to students from St. Theresa School in Coral Gables during the Focus 11 vocations rally in St. John Vianney College Seminary, May 21, 2024. Also helping at the table was Carmelite Sister Lucia Mercica.

Photographer: CRISTINA CABRERA JARRO| FC

Carmelite Sister Myriam Falzon explains her vocational life as a religious to students from St. Theresa School in Coral Gables during the Focus 11 vocations rally in St. John Vianney College Seminary, May 21, 2024. Also helping at the table was Carmelite Sister Lucia Mercica.

At another prayerful station led by seminarians and Servants of the Pierced Hearts, students were given rosaries and invited to pray a decade a day for their vocation. Together they prayed the Joyful Mystery of the Annunciation, reflecting on Mary’s “Yes” to her own call.

“We see how Mary responded to God’s call of vocation, and how we are to respond to God’s call of vocation. Whether it is married life, or religious life, or the priesthood, God calls us there because He loves us and because He wants us to become fruitful,” said seminarian Lucas Jimenez.

Father Gomez later reminded them that rosaries are not to be used as a fashion statement.

“It’s not a nice little necklace; it’s not a nice little thing we keep in our backpacks. Use it. Pray it. May they be a constant reminder that Mary walks with us,” said Father Gomez.

Rodrigo Bustamante, a teacher at archdiocesan schools -- St. Hugh School in Coconut Grove and St. Agnes Academy in Key Biscayne -- for 35 years, had never attended a Focus 11 -- until May 21, 2024.

“This is a first time, and it’s been good,” he said.

Bustamente, who teaches middle school social studies, experienced a serendipitous moment when he encountered two former students, Sister Anamargarita Certain, and Brother Iñigo Johnpaul Isla, both from the Servants of the Pierced Hearts, helping in the day’s activities. Brother Iñigo’s sister, Sister Andrea Isla, though not in attendance, was also a former student of Bustamante’s.

“I went to all of their professions of vows. I bawled like a baby. I’m just proud,” he said.

Students from St. Theresa School in Coral Gables, and their aide teacher Ana Cairo, stand up and silently cheer during the archdiocesan school roll call at the Focus 11 vocations rally on May 21, 2024, in St. John Vianney College Seminary.

Photographer: CRISTINA CABRERA JARRO| FC

Students from St. Theresa School in Coral Gables, and their aide teacher Ana Cairo, stand up and silently cheer during the archdiocesan school roll call at the Focus 11 vocations rally on May 21, 2024, in St. John Vianney College Seminary.

When asked if he ever saw a call to religious life in his students, he particularly remembered something about Brother Iñigo.

“If you ask most of these kids today, they hesitate at best. But Johnpaul Isla, you know, there was something about him. He didn’t argue the point, he embraced it, he lived it. He would say, 'I want to do service. I don’t want to go the traditional route.' All of this was perfectly normal for him,” said Bustamante.

Catching up with both students, he asked if they were happy.

“It’s something simple because all you want for any of them is to lead a full life,” said Bustamante. “They didn’t hesitate. They’re happy. And you can almost want to doubt it, but you just can’t, not in the way they say it.”

Add your comments

Comments from readers

Neida D Perez - 06/06/2024 07:04 PM
John Paul II. The Priesthood of the Faithful. It is not about ordination. It's about lay ministry.

Powered by Parish Mate | E-system

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply