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BEECH GROVE—In the spring near the end of the academic year, it is not uncommon for students to go on field trips to museums, zoos or other places outside a school that are good for learning.
The eighth-graders at St. Barnabas School in Indianapolis did just that on April 16 to learn more about the priesthood and religious life.
The eighth-grade boys visited Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis. The eighth-grade girls went to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove to learn about the Benedictine sisters and meet representatives from several other communities of women religious.
St. Barnabas Parish’s vocations committee and Father Randall Summers, the parish’s administrator, helped organize the field trip.
“It seems a shame for a Catholic school to let their students come out without ever experiencing what the priesthood or religious life is about,” Father Summers said. “People have a lot of different images when they think of studying for the priesthood or being in religious life. Some of them are probably as far away from the truth as they could possibly be.”
Eighth-grader Amanda McClellan learned things about religious life that she didn’t expect when she toured Our Lady of Grace Monastery.
“I kind of expected it to be more like a work place or a headquarters,” Amanda said. “But this was the sisters’ home and it actually felt like home. It was a lot more welcoming than I think you would expect.
“One sister was into the arts and so she decorated all the tablecloths for them. And they all helped her. And so they had it decorated the way that they wanted it.”
The eighth-grade girls met sisters from a number of religious communities in the archdiocese, including the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the Sisters of St. Francis based in Oldenburg, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Daughters of Charity.
“I think a lot of times people stereotype them,” said eighth-grader Olivia Curtis. “They think that they’re this holy, kind of boring people. But you got to see how they really are. They’re just normal, everyday people that have decided to do that kind of stuff with their life.
“And there are a lot of options with what they do. That was good for us to hear.”
While the eighth-grade girls were visiting Our Lady of Grace Monastery, the eighth-grade boys were learning about being a seminarian at Bishop Bruté Seminary.
Just visiting the seminary caught the imagination of the boys. It had previously served as the Carmelite Monastery of the Resurrection and was built to look much like a medieval or renaissance building.
“It looked like a medieval castle, and I thought there’d be sentries up in the guard towers,” said eighth-grader Jack Hosty.
But when he went inside, he met two young men who were St. Barnabas eighth- graders not too long ago— Seminarian Timothy Wyciskalla and Anthony Chastain, who is discerning a possible call to the priesthood. Both men are also students at the nearby Marian College.
“[They] are just eight years older than you,” said eighth-grader David Buergler. “It was like, ‘Wow, two people from St. Barnabas, where I am right now, are there.’ It’s just breathtaking to think about it.”
Wyciskalla, who is finishing up his junior year at Bishop Bruté, was glad to show students from his old school around the seminary.
“It’s neat,” he said. “I can remember when I was in the eighth grade. We never had an opportunity like this. … It’s good that the parish is promoting vocations in the way that it is and bringing them out here.”
Although impressed by the seminary’s building, Jack left thinking that becoming a seminarian wasn’t something out of a fantasy.
“On that whole trip, I was noticing that this is definitely possible for anybody my age to really decide if this is what God wants me to do,” he said.
Debbie Perkins, the principal at St. Barnabas School, thought the field trips were a definite success.
“The kids all came back with pretty much the same idea—that it was very different than what they had expected,” she said. “So whenever you can change perceptions and clarify those things, it’s a good idea.”