February 24, 2023

New Albany Knights of Columbus open youths’ ‘minds and hearts’ to religious life, ordained ministry

Mercy Sister Paulanne Diebold interacts with sixth-graders of New Albany Deanery Catholic schools during a religious and ordained ministry vocations fair hosted by the New Albany Knights of Columbus on Feb. 2. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Mercy Sister Paulanne Diebold interacts with sixth-graders of New Albany Deanery Catholic schools during a religious and ordained ministry vocations fair hosted by the New Albany Knights of Columbus on Feb. 2. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

NEW ALBANY—Recalling his childhood growing up in Mt. St. Francis, Greg Brodfehrer remembers knowing religious men and women of various orders—particularly the Conventual Franciscans whose Province of Our Lady of Consolation is based in the town.

“I had a lot of exposure to religious life, which led to my own vocation journey,” said Brodfehrer, who spent five years in formation with the Conventual Franciscans. “A lot of us had religious sisters or brothers teach us [in Catholic schools].

“But that’s not happening as much now. A lot of kids know what a priest is, but don’t really understand there’s more than just being a priest” when it comes to vocations.

To make local youths more aware of various priestly and religious orders, the member of the Knights of Columbus Cardinal Ritter Council #1221 in New Albany enlisted the help of his fellow Knights in hosting a vocations fair on Feb. 2 for sixth-graders of six Catholic schools in the New Albany Deanery.

“I just wanted to expose them to different kinds of religious life,” said Brodfehrer. “I figure with changes in the world today, we need to think of new ways to do that.”

He said the event was designed to “help kids know there are more vocations out there than marriage and parish priests, that a religious vocation is one of those, and that there are many ways to live out a religious vocation, like as doctors or teachers.”

The day—which included lunch and prizes—began with a silent procession from the Knights’ headquarters to St. Mary Church in New Albany for Mass.

“I asked the Holy Spirit at Mass today to bless us and the kids so that a seed might be planted in whoever a seed was meant to be planted,” said Mercy Sister Paulanne Diebold.

She represented one of three women’s religious orders that Brodfehrer invited to the vocations fair. He also invited members of the Conventual Franciscans at Mount St. Francis, the Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, a Dominican priest, a permanent deacon of the archdiocese and two archdiocesan priests to participate in the fair—the first of what he hopes will become an annual event.

Each order provided him with questions and answers to add to a questionnaire. To complete the questionnaire, students visited stations with representatives from each order.

“There’s a lot more religious orders than I originally thought,” said Ambrose Kruer of Holy Family School in New Albany. “And it’s not just that they do one thing—they do different things like charity and teaching.”

His classmate, Cecilia McGovern, said she “definitely thought [the event] helped me learn more about the different orders. Some I knew about, but others I didn’t. I thought it was very interesting.”

So did Nicholas Smith of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs School in Floyd County.

“I learned that the Sisters of Charity helped in the Civil War,” he said. “And [President Abraham] Lincoln sent a special notice that nobody could hurt them because they were helping care for people on both sides of the war. They cared for all life.”

The timing of the event was “excellent,” said Brittany Geswein, who teaches sixth-grade theology at

St. Mary-of-the-Knobs School. “We have a whole unit where we focus on vocations. Talking about the different options versus hearing from people who are living this life is a great opportunity.”

The religious and priests present also felt the timing was right.

“I think that this is a good age range,” said Benedictine Brother Zachary Wilberding, a monk of Saint Meinrad. “They’re coming into adolescence. It’s a time that they start thinking about what they might want to do with their future.

“I think [events like this are] very important for helping kids know what’s available to them in terms of service to the Church, service to the community and finding their way in life.”

Father Adam Ahern agreed.

“It’s great exposure for the kids to the different types of religious life and to the priesthood,” said the pastor of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Augustine parishes in Jeffersonville. He is also an associate director of vocations for the archdiocese.

“And it’s great exposure to asking that question of discernment, ‘What is God calling me to do?’ The more often we ask these kids to ask that question, the better. It opens their minds and hearts to religious life as a viable option for their future.”

He was grateful to the New Albany Knights of Columbus for hosting the vocations fair, which the sixth-grade students of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus School attended.

“The more we can do stuff like this, the better,” said Father Ahern. “Men’s clubs at parishes, Knights of Columbus, ladies’ sodalities—any organization that cares about the life of their parish and the life of the Church could put on something like this.”

Father Michael Keucher, archdiocesan director of vocations, was also grateful to the Knights of Columbus in New Albany for organizing and holding the vocation fair.

He said the organization’s founder Blessed Father Michael McGivney “always saw the promotion of priestly vocations as perhaps the most important work of the Knights. He knew that without priests, there is no Eucharist, no sacraments. … Events like this go a long way to supporting [religious and priestly] vocations.”

Vocations that might be considered by young people like Ambrose, Cecilia and Nicholas, as well as St. Mary-of-the-Knobs sixth-grader Lillian Boelker.

“I like to help people, so I think there could be a possibility of becoming a sister,” she said. “It’s not something I really ever thought of before. But now that we did this project, I think I’ll start thinking about it a lot more.”

(To learn more about priestly and religious vocations in the archdiocese, visit www.HearGodsCall.com.)

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