Sixth graders called to discern their vocation

Dominican Father Pier Giorgio Dengler spoke to sixth graders from St. Aloysius School. (Record Photos by Ruby Thomas)

Close to 100 sixth-grade students had the opportunity to listen to vocation stories, ask questions and interact with priests, religious brothers and sisters during the Sequere Me event Nov. 22 at the Flaget Center.

Sequere Me, Latin for “follow me,” provides an opportunity to introduce young students to different vocations at a time when they are starting to think about their future, said Benedictine Sister Sarah Yungwirth, who serves as associate director of the Vocation Office.

By meeting and interacting with priests, religious men and women, “they can see that life as a viable possibility for their own life. It’s a joyful and blessed calling, so planting that seed will hopefully help young people consider it and say ‘yes,’ ” when the time comes, said Sister Yungwirth.

The program was piloted Nov. 22 with sixth graders from three Catholic schools. The Vocation Office plans to offer the experience to others in the future, said Sister Yungwirth.

A group of sixth graders from Notre Dame Academy listened as Cole McDowell, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Louisville, shared his vocation story during the Sequere Me event Nov. 22 at the Flaget Center.

The students heard from Cole McDowell, a seminarian in formation for the Archdiocese of Louisville, Franciscan Sister Kathleen Branham and Dominican Father Pier Giorgio Dengler, who shared their vocation stories.

McDowell, studying at Theological College in Washington, D.C., told the students that as a child he didn’t like going to church. That changed as he got older and he even became an altar server. It was at this time that he started hearing a call to the priesthood, he said.

McDowell told his young listeners that bringing the Eucharist to God’s people is the reason he wants to be a priest. McDowell also encouraged them to be open to what God might have in store for them.

“Everyone of you has a vocation from God,” McDowell said. “Discerning that vocation is a fulfilling and beautiful experience. … I encourage you to put God’s will first in your life.”

Little Sister of the Poor Sarah Skelton spoke to sixth grader Peyton Alexander, a Notre Dame Academy student.

Sister Kathleen Branham shared a similar encouragement, telling the students to pay attention to their calling.

Sister Branham told the sixth graders that she knew she wanted to be a religious sister when she was six years old, but because of various circumstances, she didn’t enter the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg, Ind., until she was in her early 40s. She pursued a successful career in the transportation industry instead and lived a life filled with material things, she said. Eventually, the calling to religious life became stronger and Sister Branham said she sold and gave away all her possessions to enter religious life.

“It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. Just pay attention to that call,” she said to the students. “If God is calling you, God will continue to pursue you. … Be open.”

Father Dengler shared with his young audience that he was attracted to religious life as a child, but when he got older and went off to college he wanted to keep his “options open.”

Sister Joni Luna, a Sister of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, spoke to two Notre Dame Academy students. The students were instructed to ask questions and have priests and religious brothers and sisters sign a passport sheet.

“I thought I knew what I wanted, but all the time God was saying ‘I have a better idea,’ ” said Father Dengler.

He also told the students to rely on God, but that they also have a role to play in discerning their vocation.

“I wanted God to do all the talking,” he said. But when he started having a conversation with God, his discernment began.

“If you decide on a religious vocation, Christ will help you to learn where you belong and he will help you to decide,” said Father Dengler.

During the event, students took part in various activities, including a “passport” activity that required them to interact with at least six priests and religious men and women. The goal was to ask them questions and have a passport sheet signed. They also took part in small group discussions, prayer, a procession and eucharistic adoration.

Franciscan Friar John Elmer and a group of sixth-grade students listened during Sequere Me Nov. 22 at the Flaget Center, on Lewiston Drive. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)
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