June 27, 2008

‘We’re all brothers’: Prayer, fun and learning help camp participants ponder priesthood

Benedictine Fathers Columba Kelly, from left, Harold Hammerstein, Simeon Daly, Rupert Ostdick and Damian Schmelz pose for a photograph after celebrating their priesthood jubilees on May 25 at Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church in St. Meinrad. (Submitted photo)

Archdiocesan vocations director Father Eric Johnson gives a homily during a Mass on June 12 at the Future Farmers of America Leadership Center in Johnson County during Bishop Bruté Days. The camp and retreat experience for junior and senior high-school-aged boys open to the priesthood is sponsored by the Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

JOHNSON COUNTY—The culture of vocations in central and southern Indiana is spreading.

That fact was on display from June 11-14 at the Future Farmers of America Leadership Center just outside Trafalgar when 50 junior and senior high-school-aged boys from across the archdiocese participated in the third annual Bishop Bruté Days. (See a photo gallery here)

The participants came from 22 parishes and nine deaneries in the archdiocese.

Four participants who are members of parishes in the Lafayette Diocese also took part in the camp.

Bishop Bruté Days is a retreat and camping experience for young men open to the idea that God might be calling them to the priesthood. It is sponsored by the Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.

Archdiocesan priests are present throughout the event, giving presentations on the faith, celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and presiding over Benediction in addition to being present to the young men in many informal situations.

“These guys have more energy than Quaker has oats,” said seminary vice rector Father Paul Etienne with a laugh after the various groups of campers and their seminarian counselors did their often raucous group cheers on June 12.

Seminarians serve as camp counselors and lead the young men in morning and evening prayer services and also in outdoor activities such as dodgeball and soccer.

Members of the Knights of Columbus and the Indianapolis Serra Club provided meals for the camp.

“It gives me a very strong hope for our future, both in terms of the quality of guys in the seminary but also just in the number of young men that are obviously thinking about the priesthood,” Father Etienne said. “I think it shows that our efforts to create this culture of vocations in the archdiocese are beginning to grow. That’s encouraging.”

Bringing together young men who are thinking about the priesthood from across 39 counties helps them feel less alone in their thoughts, said camper Jay Cougan, a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis.

“In this type of atmosphere, with seminarians and priests, I think it’s a lot more open for kids of all ages to explore their vocation from God, whatever it may be, and to be proud about it and not feel pressure … about that. It’s an open and positive [environment],” Jay said.

In fact, after being at the camp for just a day, Jay felt a real bond with the other young men there.

“We’re all brothers,” he said. “We’re doing all the prayers together and then we’re doing all the physical activity with each other. It [builds] community and gets us closer together.”

Although Bishop Bruté Days helps teenage boys explore a possible priestly vocation, it is also a time for archdiocesan seminarians to test their leadership skills.

“Quite often, some of the guys whose leadership skills are a little bit more questionable, when you see them in this context, you really see them developing their leadership,” said Father Robert Robeson, the seminary’s rector. “You realize that they are pretty good in leadership roles when that wouldn’t otherwise be apparent at other times during the school year.”

Seminarian Gregory Lorenz, a member of St. Roch Parish in Indianapolis, finished his first year at Bishop Bruté just weeks before he served as a camp counselor.

He said being a leader for the campers had some potentially profound implications.

“What we say and do really affects them,” Lorenz said. “It’s kind of a huge responsibility to keep your patience and really be aware that everyone is looking up to you.

“You have the potential to help these kids out and to help them further their faith. But you also have the potential to turn them away from that if you seem hypocritical or too uptight.”

Although the seminarians’ duties at the camp were serious ones, Father Robeson felt pride in watching them be good leaders.

“I’m especially proud of how they step up to the responsibility and really make this a fun but also a very prayerful and very holy experience for the kids that are coming,” Father Robeson said. “It’s great for the kids to get to see that the seminarians and the priests that they encounter here are just good, normal guys who are committed to Christ, who put Christ first in their lives.”

(To learn more about Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary, log on to www.archindy.org/bsb.)

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