July 22, 2011

Serra Club vocations essay

Annual vocation field trips at St. Luke help youths be open to God’s call

(Editor’s note: Following is the second in a series featuring the winners of the Indianapolis Serra Club’s 2011 John D. Kelley Vocations Essay Contest.)

By Annie Melbert (Special to The Criterion)

Annie Melbert God created each of us in his own likeness. In addition, He blessed each of us with special gifts and talents, and created a life plan for us.

Throughout our lives, we search and learn how God wants us to use these talents to best serve him. Some people are created to live a single life, while others are called to the married life and raising a family.

Certain, very special people choose a different path and enter a life wholly consecrated to God. These people are the ones called by God to be priests, deacons, brothers and sisters.

It may be difficult for lay people to understand why people enter a religious vocation, sacrificing a lifelong mate and children of their own.

However, priests, religious brothers, sisters and deacons have been given a special gift from God. By opening their hearts and minds to Christ’s love, they have answered God’s call to serve him, the Church and their fellow man.

Each year, the girls and boys in the seventh grade in my school participate in a vocations field trip—a special, long-standing tradition offered by St. Luke School.

The boys travel to St. Meinrad for a daylong visit to the monastery, while the girls take a day trip to South Bend to visit the University of Notre Dame and the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration.

By exposing students like me to religious vocations, it invites Catholic youths to open their minds and hearts to Christ’s love and consider such a call.

The time that I spent at the convent revealed a world of pure prayer and worship. To see how these women demonstrated amazingly faithful and Christ-like lives was a moving experience for me.

It was evident that the sisters were proud to be Catholic, and happy in their lives serving God. All of the sisters were inspirational examples for me; they sacrificed everything to follow Jesus Christ, just like he calls all of us to do.

Priests, like their sister counterparts, choose a selfless life of service and of profound love and devotion to God. Priests have an important job within the Catholic Church, and it is by their example and spiritual guidance that help each of us live faithful lives.

Through the simplest of gestures, priests let us know how much they love us. Visiting classrooms, dressing up as saints for the younger children of the school and celebrating sacraments like reconciliation are just a few of the Christ-like things priests at my school have done in the past to demonstrate their love and commitment to the Church.

Through God’s grace, priests have the power to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We, in turn, witness the transubstantiation of his divine body and blood through the powerful sacrament of holy Eucharist.

One priest who had a profound effect on me was Father Jonathan Meyer. Through his compelling homilies and faith-filled life, Father Meyer proclaimed God’s word and led us closer to Christ-centered lives of love. During his frequent visits at the school, Father Meyer served as a spiritual role model for students because of his fiery passion for God.

Monthly, Father Meyer would walk the school hallways, popping into the classrooms to inform students about a saint he had become interested in, tell us a story, or just say “Hi.”

He also established a fellowship program on the first Thursday of every month for the boys of the parish. The meetings provided a casual night of fun activities, prayer and stories about Father Meyer’s travels. His goal was to open their eyes to the priestly life, hoping that they too would begin contemplating the priesthood.

Father Meyer often shared his interesting journey to the priesthood. He was a sophomore in college and had a girlfriend. He admitted that he had not been practicing his Catholic faith as he should.

Becoming a priest was not even on the radar, but he heard the voice of God repeatedly calling, “John, become a priest. John, become a priest.” Sensing that God was tugging at his heart, Father Meyer knew that “The Voice” would not be quiet until he fulfilled the plan and became a priest.

So he did. Father Meyer broke up with his girlfriend, started to pray, and became one of the most dedicated priests I have ever known—exemplifying Christ’s love in his everyday life and leaving a positive mark on St. Luke.

Choosing our path in life can be a difficult task. However, putting all of our faith and trust in God for guidance helps ease the stress.

With all of the distractions in the world, it is difficult to hear God’s whisper. But, as St. John Vianney said, “It is in solitude that God speaks to us.”

If we listen carefully and open our hearts, we might just hear God calling us to the religious life. We, then can answer, “Here I am, Lord.”

(Annie and her parents, Barry and Karen Melbert, are members of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. She completed the eighth grade at St. Luke School in Indianapolis last spring, and is the eighth-grade division winner in the Indianapolis Serra Club’s 2011 John D. Kelley Vocations Essay Contest.)

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