Discernment groups: Camaraderie with like-minded souls

DIOCESE—Father Jeffrey F. Kirby can’t wait to see what’s going to come out of the discernment retreat at White Oak Conference Center this year.
Last year was such an inspiration that it led to the creation of five adult discernment groups and two high school groups that meet all year long.
“The guys wanted to get together, they wanted to pray and develop their spiritual life,” he said.
Father Kirby, vicar for vocations, said he remembers leaving the retreat last year and wondering what to do next. So he drove to Clemson and had a brainstorming session over dinner with some of the retreat participants. They came up with the idea of discernment groups with Clemson as the pilot program.
The purpose is to help men who are pondering where God is calling them. It could be any vocation, from the priesthood to missionary work or married life.
So far, they have groups in Clemson, Columbia, Aiken, Charleston and Myrtle Beach, plus the two diocesan high schools. The high school students meet every week. Father Kirby said he facilitates each adult group, which gets together once a month over a meal. He also offers individual time before each meeting for anyone who has questions or needs spiritual guidance.
“A lot of times, after the meeting, the guys will stick around until 10 or 11 o’clock talking and visiting and stuff,” he said.
He encourages anyone with an interest to call the vocations office and attend a discernment group.
One of the best things about the meetings is that Father Kirby delivers the same talk and prayers at each one, so men can switch groups — if they move or something — and plug right into the session. 
The vocations vicar said he hopes the meetings will expand and draw in more men and youth. Currently they have about 30 adults and 20 students. Father Kirby also hopes to establish groups in Bluffton and Rock Hill, and find a way to include women who are interested in the discernment process. He said that means finding a religious woman to lead the sessions.
Overall, the groups are a way for the faithful to find camaraderie and support with like-minded souls.
“I hope they will find a greater understanding of prayer and discernment and are better able to hear and understand God’s will for their lives,” Father Kirby said.