ROCKFORD—Bishop Lane Retreat Center hosted a discernment retreat between the holidays for young men in high school, college and post-college.
Twenty-one came from many parts of the diocese including the lower Fox Valley area (Aurora, St. Charles, Batavia, Elburn, Sugar Grove), Carpentersville, Elgin, Byron and Sterling. Vocations Office director, Father Keith Romke, and five seminarians provided talks and time for formal and informal prayer at the retreat, which ran from 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 27 to 3 p.m. on Dec. 28.
Bishop David Malloy opened the retreat Tuesday evening with Mass. He noted the retreat was an opportunity for the young men to embrace the “sense of prayer” and to make good use of the space provided by the retreat to reflect on their lives and future.
“Where does God want me in life?” was the question posed by the bishop for their reflection. He called it a “chance to have that real talk and conversation (like) the Apostles had … that first feeling they had” when they walked and talked with Jesus.
He presented himself as “that strange creature called the bishop,” and said they could “look him over” as part of their discernment of making and keeping vows of chastity and obedience.
The bishop spoke of seminary studies as a time to draw close to the saints and allow them to “grow on you” over time. Noting that men usually don’t have a “fully formed” sense of their vocation right away, he said most have to work at discernment as they practice the prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours several times a day and wrap their minds and hearts around the counter-cultural promises of celibacy and obedience. Celibacy is a gift, he added, and “not taken on with teeth clenched and (tight) fists.” Instead a priest must “use it and live it in a way that draws you closer to Christ.” He promised the retreatants that there is “joy in it.”
Obedience “is to say I will give away even my own will,” Bishop Malloy said, adding that “humility has to react against” the self-will that comes naturally to everyone. In practical terms, obedience is saying that “when the bishop asks, I will do everything I can to do it,” he said.
“Yes, it is a bottom line,” he added, “but more often it is an attitude … trying to serve in ways I had not thought of years ago.”
The bishop spoke also of a confidence gained once a man states that he is going to study for the priesthood, even though at that point, “it is not a done deal.” Discernment is both personal and communal, with the seminaries and diocese “there to try and support you and help you” discern, with the goal of: “We want to help you get it right.”
This was the first discernment event for Jose Sandoval who attends St. Joseph Parish in Elgin. He was hoping, he said, to get an idea “if I’m really supposed to pursue” the priesthood, “or something else.”
College graduate Sean Collins came from Columbus, Ohio, during his Christmas visit at his parent’s home in Elgin. “I heard about (the retreat) when I was home after Thanksgiving,” he says. “I thought it would be a good time for me to come and allow the Lord to speak to me in whatever way He wants.”
Information about future discernment events is available from the Vocations Office at 815/399-4300, or http://www.rockforddiocese.org/vocations/