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Ninety people in a crowd of 35,000 is like a drop of water in the ocean.
That’s what the “Run for Vocations” team was during the One America 500 Festival Mini-Marathon race on May 3 on the streets of Indianapolis.
Despite being overwhelmed by so many other runners, the spirits of the team members were high before, during and after the race because they knew that thousands of prayers—prayers for vocations—were being offered for them.
Father Rick Nagel, archdiocesan associate vocations director, the team’s organizer, said people from across America pledged on the team’s weblog to pray 402 rosaries, 33 Masses, 30 holy hours, 711 Our Fathers, 1,647 Hail Marys, 326 Glory Be’s and 219 Chaplets of Divine Mercy.
“It’s God’s good work,” Father Nagel said. “As I was looking at all of those prayer pledges, I was very struck and kind of got emotional about it. I thought about how the Holy Spirit has moved hearts to not only be a part of this, but [also] to really commit themselves to prayer for vocations.”
To view the prayer pledges, log on to www.archindy.org/vocations and click on “Send in your prayer pledges.”
Prayer was an important element for the team on the evening before the race.
“We run this race [of life] only once,” Archbishop Buechlein said during his homily. “We are called to seek the kingdom of God because that’s our goal. That is our final home. It’s the end of the race. We may stumble or fall. … But on the way, with faith, we have the courage to struggle, get up and go on to reach our goal.”
Fifteen priests, some of them members of the “Run for Vocations” team, concelebrated the Mass.
Archbishop Buechlein valued the team’s efforts to promote vocations so much that he made an exception to his considerable reduction in public appearances in recent months due to the cancer treatments he has been receiving for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Trent Engbers, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington and team member, came to the Mass and said he appreciated how exercise and prayer were coming together for vocations.
“You’re running and you’re praying and you’re training,” said Engbers, 31, who ran in the race with his wife, Kim.
“It’s kind of a capstone experience to bring it all together with people,” he said, “and to participate in the Mass and celebrate the Eucharist as a unified effort to support vocations.”
After the Mass, members of the team loaded up on carbohydrates during a pre-race pasta supper hosted by the Serra Club of Indianapolis. Members of Bishop Chatard High School’s vocations promotion club SERV (Students Encouraging Religious Vocations) also volunteered at the Mass and supper.
The team members all wore special blue and white shirts printed with the message “Vocation … Everyone has one. What’s yours?” In a circle around this phrase on the back of the shirts was a list of vocations—such as priesthood, religious life, marriage and sacred single life.
After the race, Father Nagel, who ran the Mini-Marathon for the first time, said a number of other runners commented on the vocations shirt as they passed him.
“I had people say as they’d run by, ‘So what’s your vocation?’ And once, I said, ‘I think it’s to be a Catholic priest,’ ” Father Nagel recalled. “And he said, ‘Good for you!’ ”
The shirt also provided help for one team member when it almost seemed like she couldn’t keep running.
“The last mile was really grueling,” said Agenia Hurrle, a member of St. Roch Parish in Indianapolis and young adult mother of three children under age 5.
“There was a man, and I don’t know who he was,” Hurrle recalled, “but he was on the side of the road, and he saw my cousin and I both wearing our shirts, and he said, ‘Go vocations!’ I was really excited, and I really needed that too because the last mile was really grueling.”
Father Nagel said one of the team’s goals—to build up a culture of vocations in the archdiocese—has already been achieved by the team members and hundreds of people who made prayer pledges.
Hurrle said being part of the team helped her value vocations more, and made it easier for her to ask others to pray for vocations.
“I thought it was a wonderful experience,” she said. “I’m really excited about the cause. I’m excited to do it again.”
Father Nagel is excited about next year’s Mini-Marathon, too. So are other team members, who have stepped up to coordinate runners from other dioceses in Indiana to participate in 2009.
(Registration for the One America 500 Festival Mini-Marathon is usually closed several months before the event. To register for the 2009 race, log on to www.500festival.com. To be a member of next year’s “Run for Vocations” team, send an e-mail to Father Nagel at email@example.com.) †