A vocations discernment retreat for men was held Sept. 24-26 at White Oak Conference Center in rural Fairfield County.
It was sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston Office of Vocations, and provided opportunities to pray together and in solitude, attend Mass, and receive the sacrament of reconciliation.
Workshops were also held on a variety of topics, including understanding the call to celibacy, and Jesus’ priesthood and the world.
Father Isaac Orozco of Texas was the retreat master. Father Jeffrey Kirby, vicar for vocations, said the weekend was the first of its kind for the diocese, focusing only on men with a vocation to the diocesan priesthood.
Discernment retreats in recent years have been open to both men and women considering all types of vocations, including those to the permanent diaconate and religious life.
“The discernment weekend was … an opportunity for them to consider where the Lord was calling them,” Father Kirby said. “It was a great weekend because the men completely entered into the topic of the retreat, and immediately formed a close group.”
All but one of the participants were under 30. They were either from or currently studying in South Carolina, and from many parishes in the diocese.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone attended the Sept. 25 evening sessions. He shared a meal with the men, and then held a question-and-answer session, fielding frank, sometimes humorous questions about his journey to a vocation, and the pleasures and frustrations of life as a Catholic priest.
The bishop celebrated Mass for the group, and during his homily told them the discernment process was an important time in their relationship with God.
“Only you and God can really know what is going on in your heart,” the bishop said. “Ask yourself about the journey itself. Can that be something meaningful as well? The key to our fulfillment is to find out what God’s call is in our lives, and to answer affirmatively.”
Anthony Mathison, 21, said the retreat reinforced his vocation. He is a senior at the University of South Carolina-Aiken, majoring in history, and is a member of St. Mary Help of Christians Church.
“I’m seriously discerning the priesthood, and this really has just helped to confirm everything I’ve been going through,” Mathison said.
Will May III, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg, said the gathering also helped him realize his call.
“I now fully intend to apply to be a priest in the diocese,” May said. “The retreat has made me think of things I’d never really thought about before. You start to ask yourself , ‘Is this something I really could do?’ One of the questions people ask is why would someone want to become a priest? After being at this retreat, my question is why would you not want to be a priest? This has affirmed my vocation.”
Father Kirby said the goal is to hold two discernment retreats a year in the future. The date for the next retreat has not been determined.
Anyone who is interested in vocations should visit www.charlestonvocations.com.