Young men follow their heart and God’s voice on Vocation Discernment Retreat
On a cold winter Friday in Chicago, six young men made their way to Carith House, the Pre-Novice community, from across the United States. They came for the annual Carmelite Vocation Discernment Retreat. Those who participated were: Carl Caceres (age 21) from Teaneck,, New Jersey; Devin Ballard (20) from Mission Viejo, California; David Brickman (40) from Los Angeles, California; Mark McGuire (21) from Ann Arbor, Michigan; Greg Middendorf (38) from Crestview Hills, Kentucky, and Stephan Scacall (21) from Goodwell, Oklahoma.
They came searching and responding. Searching for answers to longings in their hearts and responding to what they believed to be a call from God to pursue a religious vocation. They came with open minds and open hearts. They came wanting to hear and learn all they could about the Carmelites and our way of life. They also came with a desire to share their own stories and their own dreams. They came from different places with different backgrounds and varied life experiences. They had many things in common, the greatest being a longing for God.
The retreat was a time for them to get to know the Carmelites and for the Carmelites to get to know them. It was a time of renewal and reflection for all who participated. There was time for prayer, conversation, and of course eating. Carmelite Brother Daryl Moresco, and the four pre-novices were perfect hosts. The six retreat candidates were warmly greeted and felt very much at home. It was amazing to watch as they absorbed every aspect of our way of life. Their thirst for prayer was refreshing. It was a delight to watch them as they participated in the Eucharistic Liturgy and the Liturgy of the Hours with great devotion and enthusiasm. The four pre-novices, Warren Kinkade, Matt Gummess, Michael Giglio and Ryan Buntrock, provided a support system for the candidates. This enabled them to field many questions and concerns that they had about entering into a formation program. Just having completed the process the pre-novices were able to identify with the many feelings and emotions that the candidates were experiencing. Unscheduled were late-night talks that evolved between the students and the candidates. This time of sharing was a very valuable part of the experience for the candidates and for our students as well.
Having the vocation retreat in Chicago allowed the candidates to experience many aspects of our Carmelite Life. The candidates visited the Chicago Theological Union and Saint Joseph Seminary at Loyola University. These are the two institutions that the candidates will be attending should they enter the pre-novitiate. They also visited Darien and were given a grand tour of the Shrine of Saint Therese by Father John Knoernschild, O.Carm., the shrine’s director. On Saturday evening the community of Sant’Angelo hosted prayer and dinner. Father Benji Aguilar, O.Carm., spoke to the candidates about prayer in the context of our Carmelite Spirituality. He also explained the mission of the urban contemplative house of prayer. We then participated in evening prayer with the Sant’Angelo community as well as with Carmelites from the Mount Carmel High School community and Saint Thomas the Apostle parish. After dinner several Carmelites spoke to the candidates about the various ministries in which they were engaged. On Sunday, a few of the candidates were able to stay for the Super Bowl party at Mount Carmel where they met several more Carmelites from the area.
Over the next weeks and months the vocation directors will keep in touch with these young men. Some may come our way in August. Others may come next year. Others may go in different directions. For a brief moment our lives touched and the Spirit was at work within us. The call to Carmel is a gift from God and it is filled with its own challenges and blessings. The Carmelites have a way of life and a spirituality that speaks to the hearts of many young people in our society today. Pray for these young men and others who are discerning a vocation at this time. Please continue to pray for vocations to Carmel. Visit us on our website www.carmelites.net and on Facebook at Carmelite Vocation Resources or Carmelite Fathers and Brothers.
By Father Sam Citero, O.Carm.