Weekend offers opportunity for discernment


ROCK HILL — A vocations weekend offering an opportunity for young adults between the ages of 18 to 35 to learn about religious life and the priesthood drew five men and nine women to The Oratory Nov. 21-23.

Attendees came from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, as well as one from Indiana.

Hosted by the Diocese of Charleston’s Vocations Office, presenters at the event included Father Dennis Willey, vocations director for Promotion and Recruitment for the diocese; Father Edward McDevitt, CO, vocations director for The Oratory of St. Philip Neri; Sister Maureen Houlihan, DC, from Our Lady of the Valley Center in Gloverville; Sister Helen Godfrey, OSC, from the Monastery of St. Clare in Greenville; and Sister Julianne Guy, OSU, from the Ursuline Convent in Louisville, Kentucky.

According to Father Willey, the gathering began with participants sharing how they came to attend the weekend, followed by discussion with presenters on how they made the commitment to the life they are living, a “spiritual biography.”

A presentation on vows, including the differences between diocesan priesthood and religious order priests, was also featured, as was a talk on “Seeing Yourself in Ministry,” highlighting how a call to religious life is a call from the people of God, and not away from the people of God.

The weekend ended with a question and answer session with attendees posing a wide range of queries to panel participants. Questions asked included the differences between the charism and mission of a religious order, how many religious orders should be examined before a commitment is made, and the call to religious life.

The retreat, said Father Willey, followed a format called “Life Quest” developed by the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., and the Midwestern Province of the Vincentian order.

At the meeting, attendees received a packet containing information concerning the diocesan priesthood, the diaconate, the Trappist order, the Oratorians, Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, the Franciscans, Daughters of St. Paul, the order of Poor Clares, and the Benedictines.

“The retreat went very well, and we look forward to doing it again,” perhaps biannually, said Father Willey. “We are very pleased with the turnout. The attendees saw it as a real opportunity to discern.”

Lisa Horner, administrative assistant in the diocesan Vocations Office, stated that parish vocations committees were helpful in promoting the event to local churches, in addition to sending direct mail pieces to individuals identified by pastors as candidates for religious life.

The vocations weekend was the first conducted solely by the diocese in several years. The last such gathering was hosted 18 months ago by The Oratory, however, the Charleston Diocese was just a participant in the event.