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​​Retreat assists discerners to focus on what God is calling them to be

January 16, 2015 | posted by Katherine Jass Slone

Topics: Vocations

Retreat assists discerners to focus on what God is calling them to be

In his opening message for the 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis invited those discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life to listen for what Jesus is calling them to. “I invite you to listen to and follow Jesus, to allow yourselves to be transformed interiorly by his words. It will help you to participate in a communal journey that is able to release the best energies in you and around you. No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself.A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love,” the pontiff stated.

Many faithful people of the archdiocese and beyond came together to sponsor the Life Awareness Vocation Retreat at Cordi Marian Retreat Center Jan. 9-11. The three day retreat invites those discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life an opportunity to spend time dedicated to helping them focus solely on what God is calling them to be. The retreat, now into its ninth year, is sponsored by the Vocation Office for the Archdiocese in collaboration with men and women religious and diocesan priests of the Archdiocese.

“This is our biggest discernment retreat for young men and women. It gives them an opportunity to explore their vocation and learn about the priesthood and religious life from those who have already answered their call; it introduces them to the various religious communities that are out there. This weekend is where they can learn what God is calling them to be in a relaxed and calm atmosphere; away from all the noise of their daily lives. Many of these men and women are already discerning and this weekend can help jolt them to a decision,” explained Father Alex Pereida, Vocation director for the archdiocese.

During the weekend, the 29 attendee’s participated in group discussions, listened to talks, and had individual time to spend with men and women representing various religious and diocesan communities.“While they are here the get to meet religious from a variety of communities and get their questions answered about the difference between serving in a diocese and a religious community.During the Emmaus Walk, each attendee gets one on one time with either a priest or a sister to discuss their vocation journey on a personal level and ask questions.It was nice to see that some of the men journeyed with sisters and the women with the priests; it allows for a healthy balance and different perspective,” Father Pereida said.

Israel Lopez from Sacred Heart in Floresville, who has been discerning his vocation, shared that the weekend was very beneficial for him. “God has been planting seeds and this weekend has allowed me to find peace and trust in where he is leading me. I’ve also come to rebuild my prayer life which will be very helpful as I continue with my discernment journey.”

In his keynote address, Father Eric Ritter, pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Selma, encouraged those attending to be open to God’s call and most importantly, not to be afraid. “No matter where we’re at, God is calling us to holiness; God’s calling us to be who he has created us to be. Fear can sometimes hold you back in discernment. If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat; fear can paralyze and keep us back. But God holds us in the palm of his hands and asks do you trust me. Come follow me and I won’t ever leave you.”

Concluding with weekend retreat with mass, celebrated by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, Father Pereida found the Sunday readings to be inspiring. “I think it’s providential that the weekend falls on the Baptism of the Lord as we are called to renew our baptism with the Lord. In baptism we are called to live out our faith and serve others; this is a great time to talk about vocations. We need to all pray for vocations and support those who are discerning the call to priesthood or religious life.”

In his opening message before the Mass, Archbishop Gustavo challenged everyone to never stop discerning. “The Lord has given us the peace of Christ’s baptism. As we gather discerning on our vocation -- for all of us -- we are called to discern constantly and to nourish and promote and live out our vocations.”

During his homily, he challenged the attendee’s to listen to God’s call for them. “What does God want from you -- that is the point. What is the Lord asking of you. Listen to God if you want to know what you are about. Just as he spoke to Jesus he speaks to you as we all are now called his sons and daughters. Each of us is called for a purpose and then sent forth for his purpose for the goodness of the kingdom.” He then addressed that we each have a role in supporting vocations.“We have to cultivate a culture of vocations at all times. We must help those discerning their vocation.”

Many of those who attended commented that having an opportunity to spend time nurturing their vocation call was priceless.

“I know that I was meant to be part of this weekend; when we let him, he guides us in the right direction. I’ve been actively discerning and now I know it’s for sure. This weekend has been amazing and powerful. What meant the most was spending with the sisters and getting to meet other people like me who are going through discernment for a vocation to religious life. This process has meant so much to me,” said Tiffany Oplacio who drove from Plano to take part in the retreat.

Lazaro Leal, a student at Our Lady of the Lake University, summed up the weekend for future attendee’s: “If you need an environment to discern but have been scared to ask for advice, this is a very safe environment where you can walk, speak with and break bread with fellow discerners and many religious.”