July 30, 2021

‘Brothers in the faith’

Annual Bishop Bruté Days camp continues to plant seeds of priestly vocations

Nicholas Weber, left, Zen Ivey, Nicholas Schneider, all members of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, and Louis Rivelli, a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis, kneel during a Mass on July 6 at St. Joseph Church in Shelbyville.  (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Nicholas Weber, left, Zen Ivey, Nicholas Schneider, all members of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, and Louis Rivelli, a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis, kneel during a Mass on July 6 at St. Joseph Church in Shelbyville. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

SHELBYVILLE—Transitional Deacon Matthew Perronie stood on July 6 in the chapel of Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary before dozens of teenage boys from across central and southern Indiana open to the possibility that God might be calling them to be priests.

They were there for the 16th annual Bishop Bruté Days, a summer vocations camp sponsored by the archdiocesan vocations office and hosted at the Indianapolis seminary on July 5-7.

When Deacon Perronie looked out at the teens, he knew what it was like to be in their place. He participated in the camp in 2010, just after graduating from the eighth grade and being received into the full communion of the Church at St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.

“It’s really come full circle,” said Deacon Perronie. “I can put myself in their shoes. I’m also grateful for how God has led me along the journey. I’m appreciative of how seeds were planted when I went to Bishop Bruté Days.”

With just a year left in his priestly formation before he is ordained a priest for the archdiocese in June 2022, Deacon Perronie gives credit to Bishop Bruté Days for helping him start discerning his vocation.

“The idea of being open was really planted here at Bishop Bruté Days,” he said.

‘Brothers in the faith’

In the past 16 years, the annual vocations camp has become a significant way for young men in the archdiocese to do the same. Nearly all the archdiocesan seminarians who staffed Bishop Bruté Days this summer were previous participants in the camp.

Seminarian James Hentz, who will be a junior at Bishop Bruté Seminary starting in August, went to Bishop Bruté Days six times as a junior high and high school student.

“I loved the community in Bishop Bruté Days,” said Hentz, a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield. “Sometimes you can feel alone in your parish as a young Catholic guy thinking about the priesthood. Then you come here and you have all of these guys here discerning the same thing. They’re brothers in the faith with you.”

That fellowship is built during Bishop Bruté Days through praying together at daily Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, hearing presentations on the faith and having time for eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of penance.

It’s also fostered by having the high school participants live together for three days in the seminary’s dormitory rooms, sharing meals and taking part in outdoor games like basketball, ultimate frisbee and capture the flag.

This kind of prayerful and fun-loving community that Hentz experienced at Bishop Bruté Days laid the groundwork for the brotherhood he’s experienced in the seminary during the past two years.

“When I came to [Bishop] Bruté as a seminarian, it was like ‘Wow. These are the same guys that I was at Bruté Days with,’ ” Hentz said. “It was so cool to see.”

Like Hentz, Joseph Von Essen is a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield. Going into his sophomore year at Greenfield Central High School, Joseph has taken to Bishop Bruté Days much like Hentz did.

“I love it—the structure, the community, the way of life, being prayer-centered. It’s like paradise,” Joseph said.

While life in Greenfield won’t be like the paradise he has experienced at Bishop Bruté, he said the three days he spent at the vocations camp will help him in his life of faith through the rest of the year.

“It’ll encourage me to persevere more through high school,” Joseph said. “A lot of my time I just spend kind of hoping that I’m getting closer to my goal of being a priest. This will encourage me.”

‘A beautiful image of discipleship’

While Bishop Bruté Days is a three-day experience for high school students, there’s also a one-day program for boys in the seventh and eighth grades.

There were a combined 64 participants in this year’s Bishop Bruté Days, which ties the record for most participants in the history of the event.

Father Michael Keucher, archdiocesan vocations director, delighted in seeing so many participants.

“This is the kind of thing that I’ve been dreaming about and hoping for,” he said.

That’s especially the case because he became vocations director in November 2019, just a few months before the coronavirus pandemic put a clamp on social activities that draw many people.

“I had about three months of normal,” Father Keucher said.

Last year, Bishop Bruté Days was limited to being a one-day event because of continued pandemic protocols. Father Keucher said that it “paled in comparison” to being able to have high school participants together for three days.

This year’s camp, which saw a return to its ordinary three-day schedule, was focused on St. Joseph since the Church is in the midst of a year dedicated to the foster father of Jesus.

On the second day of the camp, participants heard from priests in a variety of ministries reflecting on how St. Joseph serves as a model for them.

They visited St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis and heard from Father George Plaster, a chaplain there, talk about how St. Joseph, as a patron saint of the sick and dying, helps him in his ministry.

They went on to St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville, where they heard Father Vincent Lampert reflect on his ministry as archdiocesan exorcist and on how St. Joseph is known as the “terror of demons.”

While sharing lunch in Shelbyville, Father Adam Ahern, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Henryville and

St. Michael Parish in Charlestown, spoke with the participants about how St. Joseph is a patron saint of workers.

Toward the end of the day, the seminarians visited the Divine Mercy Perpetual Adoration Chapel at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis near Bishop Bruté.

There, Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, spoke to the campers about how the example of St. Joseph can increase their faith. The priest helped found the chapel, which was the first perpetual adoration chapel in the archdiocese.

“Joseph offers us a beautiful image of discipleship and its different dimensions,” said Father Keucher, who also serves as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville and sacramental minister of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Shelby County. “That’s why it’s so neat to have a wide variety of priests and seminarians who each live one aspect of St. Joseph in powerful and beautiful ways.”

Joseph Von Essen was impressed hearing priests in a variety of ministries.

“I think of them as kind of heroes,” Joseph said. “It’s nice to know that you can maintain your individuality even after ordination.”

‘Young people on fire for the faith’

Seminarian Samuel Hansen, who will be a senior at Bishop Bruté Seminary in the coming formation year, helped lead Bishop Bruté Days this summer. He had participated in it after his freshman year at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.

“I was at a point where the priesthood was a distant speck on the horizon,” said Hansen, a member of St. Roch Parish in Indianapolis. “It was something that I was interested in and thought was beautiful. But, in many ways, I knew I wasn’t capable of it at that moment.”

He said he knows that many of the young men who took part in this year’s Bishop Bruté Days are in the same position. But he also recognized the opportunity that he, his fellow seminarians and the priests who assisted with the camp had to form the teenage boys who came to it.

“It’s been exhilarating to see so many young men come here,” Hansen said. “The big adventure is knowing that something that I might say about what I’ve accepted and held in practice as a Catholic for a while might be something that they’ll hear for the first time.”

Undergirding the efforts of the seminarians and priests who ran Bishop Bruté Days were members of Catholic organizations in the archdiocese, including the Knights of Columbus and the Serra Club of Indianapolis, who helped provide meals for Bishop Bruté Days.

Jim Ryback, a member of

St. Malachy Parish and the Knights of Columbus, was part of a crew that provided dinner on the last day of Bishop Bruté Days.

“This is a wonderful thing,” said Ryback. “It’s inspirational to see such young guys come out through the ranks. And what’s coming out is what we’re really excited about.,” including their fellow parishioner, Deacon Perronie.

For his part, Deacon Perronie knows personally the power that Bishop Bruté Days can have and is grateful to see it continuing for the next generation of teenage boys.

“It’s encouraging to see young people on fire for the faith and wanting to look into [the priesthood] a little bit more,” he said, “taking time out of their summer to come spend a few days here and actively consider it. It’s powerful to see.”

(For more information on a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit HearGodsCall.com.)

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