March 16, 2007

Bishop Chatard students foster vocational awareness

Danny Shine, left, and Eleanor McReynolds, right, both seniors at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, discuss their enthusiasm for encouraging vocational awareness through their participation in SERV (Students Encouraging Religious Vocations) at the school on March 8.

Danny Shine, left, and Eleanor McReynolds, right, both seniors at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, discuss their enthusiasm for encouraging vocational awareness through their participation in SERV (Students Encouraging Religious Vocations) at the school on March 8.

By Sean Gallagher

(Listen to the author read this story)

It has been said that the future of the Church lies in the hands of its youths.

A growing number of students at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis are acting now to make that future a bright place.

They’re doing it by raising vocational awareness in general, and encouraging their peers and others beyond their school in particular to consider the possibility that God might be calling them to a priestly or religious vocation.

SERV (Students Encouraging Religious Vocations) began about a year ago when Mary Schaffner, Bishop Chatard’s director of campus ministry, suggested the formation of such a group to a handful of students.

Schaffner didn’t have a grand recruiting plan. She simply approached the first 10 students she saw in a school hallway that she thought might be interested.

“Every one of those 10 kids said, ‘I would love to do that,’ ” Schaffner said. “I don’t think they knew what they were getting themselves into.”

In the relatively short amount of time since the group was formed, it has quickly taken off.

The founding members formed the group’s mission statement and have initiated many activities.

They have spoken about vocations at five Catholic grade schools in the Indianapolis North Deanery and hosted a “Night of Faith and Fun” for junior high students.

SERV sponsors a weekly trivia contest at their school to raise vocational awareness and has arranged for speakers such as the archdiocesan vocations director, Father Eric Johnson, to speak to the Bishop Chatard student body on the topic.

The group has also grown from its initial 10 members to nearly 20 today. It meets twice a month and is currently restricted to juniors and seniors, although underclassmen have expressed interest in joining SERV.

The vitality behind its burgeoning membership and schedule of activities reflects the value that its student founders place on vocational awareness.

“The Church is something so special that I wanted to be … a part of making it as strong as it could be,” said Bishop Chatard senior Danny Shine, a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

“I thought this group was a great way to do that. The priesthood and the religious life is so overlooked and discouraged in our society. It’s so important to … us that it’d be something worth fighting over and worth being a part of supporting.”

Danny and other SERV members are also drawn to encouraging vocational awareness because, like many youths, they are energized by a challenge and see the priesthood and religious life as paths that truly test those who enter into it.

At the same time, they want others to see that God calls all kinds of people to these vocations.

“I think the most important part is that religious vocations, through this group, are being brought into the norm,” Danny said. “They’re extreme. But they’re not something to be feared. [Priests and religious] are normal people living extraordinary lives.”

Although they value vocations as a challenge, members of SERV want to be lighthearted in their presentations.

“Since we’re young and energized, we try to make vocations fun,” said Bishop Chatard senior Kristen Metzger, a member of St. Luke Parish in Indianapolis.

“We try to think of fun things, like lock-ins or trivia questions to get people talking and excited about vocations.”

Kristen said she hopes the challenge of priestly and religious vocations, combined with the group’s fun-filled approach to them, will help others view them as real options.

“We just wanted to make the priesthood and the religious life sound as exciting as being married because they’re all vocations,” Kristen said.

The students’ enthusiasm for vocational awareness has, in part, been encouraged by the good examples they’ve been given.

“I think we have really great priests and youth ministers and teachers right now that … know that there is so much in youth, and that we’re the future and we have so much to contribute,” said SERV member Eleanor McReynolds, a senior at Bishop Chatard and a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis.

“So having adults encouraging youths to find that in themselves has led people to look more at the religious life, their morals and their values.”

Father Johnson, who before becoming archdiocesan vocations director was Bishop Chatard’s chaplain, thinks SERV is one more instrument to foster a culture of vocations throughout the entire faithful in the archdiocese.

“It keeps the question in front of the community’s eyes,” he said. “Vocational discernment and encouraging priestly and religious vocations in the Church is not something that belongs to me or to a

particular subgroup, but it is something that really involves the entire community of faith. … There is joy and there is life and there is goodness there.”

“I think we’re trying to plant a seed in everyone’s heads by asking them questions and getting them talking about it and trying to get them excited about it,” said Kristen. “I think that’s where it will start. Then, hopefully, it will just go on from there.”

Wherever it goes, SERV members are excited about the Church’s future.

“We’ve seen so many people that are so passionate about their faith and so passionate about the Church,” said Danny. “You can’t help but be excited for what’s to come, because it’s going to be good.”

(To learn more about SERV, log on to and click on “campus ministry.”) †


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