By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
A group of eight young men who gathered for an evening of dining, discussion and discernment Dec. 6 at St. Patrick Church in Eastwood heard that the priesthood offers “amazing work.”
The gathering at St. Patrick was the last in a series of three St. Andrew Dinners, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office. The young men — who ranged from high-school to college-age — were invited by pastors or youth ministers who believe they might be called to the priesthood, said Father Michael Wimsatt, director of the Vocation Office.
The dinners are intended to be small low-key events, where those in attendance have the chance to discern a vocation and discuss it with their peers.
The event began with evening prayer and Benediction. The young men heard from Father Jason Harris, who was ordained to the priesthood in May and now serves as associate pastor of the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky.
Father Harris told his young listeners of the “amazing work” of a priest and said God calls each and every person to a vocation.
“Someone has looked at your heart and seen an opening that may be a vocation for the priesthood,” said Father Harris.
He explained that there are four vocations for men — priesthood, married life, religious brotherhood or life as a single person dedicated to doing God’s work. Father Harris noted that being a priest may ultimately not be their vocation. The important thing, he said, is for them to put their “heart, mind and soul” into whatever vocation they may be called to.
He encouraged them to keep an open and welcoming heart and to listen to see if God is calling them to life as a priest.
Father Harris also recounted an experience had recently that moved him. He had the opportunity to spend the night with a family at Flaget Memorial Hospital as they kept vigil with a dying loved one.
He called the experience “the most important thing” that has happened in his six months of being priest.
Father Harris noted he didn’t do anything special; he simply accompanied this family as they told stories and said a final goodbye to their loved one.
It was an “honor” to be there and to pray with the family, he said. “Mass is great, but the times when you get to be a part of people’s lives is the awesome part of this job.”
Benedictine Sister Sarah Yungwirth, associate director of the Vocation Office, said the young men who attended the event are at an age when they are asking some important questions about who they are, what their gifts and strengths are and how to use those gifts as they move into the future.
“We want to encourage them, as they are doing that, to keep the priesthood in mind,” said Sister Yungwirth.
During the event, the group watched two videos. The first was a 12-minute video called “I will follow,” which told the stories of two young men who found their callings as priests.
In the second video, “How should I discern the priesthood?” Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, talked about important things to consider when discerning the priesthood.
The young men also took part in a discussion and answered questions, such as: “Why do I think I might be called to be a priest?” and “What do I think I would enjoy most about being a priest?”
The discussions were facilitated by Father Wimsatt, Father Jeffrey Shooner, vicar for priests for the archdiocese, and Father Nicholas Brown, who was ordained in May.
Nearly five-dozen young men attended one of the three St. Andrew Dinners — 20 attended the first dinner at St. Bartholomew Church Nov. 1 and 30 attended the second dinner at St. Joseph in Bardstown Nov. 15.