St. Mary in Aiken is creatively encouraging vocations with a field day

AIKEN — Putting on a play about the life of an important saint is hard enough. Pulling it off in 15 minutes, with just a handful of props pulled from a plastic storage container,  might seem near impossible.
But 32 children more than rose to the challenge June 28 at the first Vocations Field Day held at St. Mary Help of Christians School in Aiken.
The event was organized by Peggy Wertz, principal, as a chance to raise awareness about the need for vocations and offer faith formation in a fun, laid-back atmosphere.
Wertz teamed with a group of volunteers and Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, parochial vicar at St. Mary Help of Christians Church, to put the event together. The majority of children who attended belonged to the two vocations clubs at St. Mary, one for boys and one for girls, which were formed during the 2008-09 school year as a way to encourage elementary and middle school students to start thinking about their vocation in life from an early age.
The clubs met once a month, and each time focused on a different Christian virtue or fruit of the Holy Spirit.
“It’s a way to both focus on vocations and promote Christian living among young people,” Father Kirby said. “It’s important to promote vocations awareness at this age, just to make sure it’s in their minds and their hearts, and they’re open to the idea.”
The field day was open to all young people, and a few who attended said they may join a vocations club when school resumes in the fall.
The children broke up into four groups and took part in a scavenger hunt to find clues related to the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity.
Once they found a clue, they answered a series of questions about how to live each fruit of the spirit in their daily lives, and why each was important to the life of a faithful Catholic.
Then, it was time for the skits. Wertz, Father Kirby and other volunteers dragged large bins full of costumes and props into the middle of the floor.
The four smaller groups formed two large ones, with the girls taking on the life of St. Cecilia, and the boys depicting that of St. Maximillian Kolbe.
These saints are the patrons of the schools’ vocations clubs, and were selected because their life stories offer dramatic examples of being willing to sacrifice everything to follow Christ and the Gospel message.
The boys created a fast-moving, five-minute skit that told the story of St. Maximillian, a Polish Catholic priest who was a prisoner in Auschwitz. He asked to be executed in place of a prisoner who had a wife and children.
The girls told the story of St. Cecilia, a second-century martyr from Sicily who is the patron saint of musicians. St. Cecilia was betrothed to a pagan, and later persuaded him to convert to Christianity. She was condemned to death for her beliefs, but attempts to suffocate her and decapitate her failed, and she did not die until three days after her attempted execution.
Several of the students said the field day helped them reinforce lessons they learned in vocations club during the school year.
“I joined the club this year because it sounded like a great opportunity to listen to God and pray for my vocation,” said Mark Tisler, 12. “I’ve learned there are many different vocations in life, and this has helped me better appreciate the calling God has given to me, which I believe is to enter the military.” Tisler said he would eventually like to join the Marine Corps.
Eighth-grader Natalie Gorensek, 13, said the day helped her learn a little more about the lives of priests and religious sisters, and persuaded her to continue praying for God’s guidance.
“I’m trying to discern what he wants for me in life, trying to figure it all out,” she said.