Young adults find joy, peace and community in discovering life-long call to vocation
November 23, 2021
A group of women, including (left to right) Daniela Villalobos, Kresentia Sugiaman, Fabiana Toro, Camille Anigbogu and Arianne Scheller, who participated in The Glimpse of Community Life doing acts of love by cleaning the dishes after dinner at a series of monthly gatherings. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Vocations)
HOUSTON — When it comes to discovering God’s will and purpose for one’s life — whether a call to the priesthood, religious, single or married life — many young people face periods of confusion, doubt and even fear. Connecting with others that are on the same spiritual journey offers opportunities to find joy and peace during what can be a very challenging process.
Under the direction of Father Richard McNeillie, the Office of Vocations has a vision for every person in the Archdiocese to prayerfully discern and joyfully discover their life-long vocation. The ministry offers discernment groups, Eucharistic Adoration and prayer services, and various retreats to assist with this process.
While Father McNellie believes the pandemic may have disrupted lives and routines and made connecting with others more difficult, he believes this experience has led more young adults to re-think their relationship with God and His good and holy plans for their lives.
“Many are thinking vocationally at this moment, asking, ‘What can I do with my life that would really matter?’” said Father McNellie. “This discernment process is aiding them in listening more closely to God’s voice, the one who has been waiting for them to ask this very question in all of their lifetime.”
One example is Kaitlin Eighme, who decided to attend a virtual discernment retreat held by the Office of Vocations when the pandemic was in full force in April 2020 during Holy Week. She said during this challenging time of lockdowns and strict social distancing measures, she was searching for a meaningful way to grow in her faith and be present with Jesus during His Passion. It was during this retreat that she was introduced to the power of contemplative and imaginative prayer with Scripture, which she feels was an incredible gift along with spiritual direction.
“It also was a gift to feel a sense of community, even virtually, with others who were on this journey with me, to share what the Lord was saying to each of us, and to get guidance on how to continue to grow in our faith,” said Eighme. “I definitely met Jesus in such powerful ways through prayer and community and found peace and hope in a very challenging time of the pandemic.”
In her prayer time, Eighme felt that the Lord was inviting her to go deeper and to learn more about her own vocation and a possible call to consecrated life. The Office of Vocations encouraged her to join the Samuel Group, a program open to young adults ages 20 to 30 who seriously desire to discern God’s will for their lives.
Eighme joined the group for women that gathered each month for fellowship and Eucharistic Adoration, Reconciliation and learned more about several topics of discernment. She said it truly felt like a mini-retreat every time they met, and she continues to benefit from the many blessings this sisterhood brought to her life.
Because many of the women in the group still felt they needed more help with the discernment process, the Office of Vocations created a 10-day retreat held in Galveston at St. Patrick Catholic Church that mirrored the seminarians’ formation retreat to get a glimpse into the life in a religious community. Eighme discovered what it meant to be truly present with the other participants and consecrated women in all aspects of daily life and to grow together spiritually. She said some of the most fun moments they shared together happened while simply cooking meals and doing the dishes together.
“We affectionately called the experience ‘Holy Vacay,’ which was such a gift,” said Eighme. “Our days started with bike rides to the beach for individual prayer, Mass, and of course lots of singing and sharing hearts while cooking and washing dishes. We also volunteered at the local Catholic school and had worship reflection and community prayer at night.”
Eighme said they also had class time learning about the Art of Loving from the Focolare Movement, which is an invitation to live the Gospel message in a truly radical way through Jesus’ own example. She and the women still meet once a month to continue to grow in community, reflect upon how they each have been living the Gospel message, and have shared the joy of experiencing Christ’s love in all aspects of their lives, even in suffering.
“Since this retreat, many of us have received clarity concerning our vocational calling,” said Eighme. “One member has joined the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco in San Antonio. I have really felt clarity that the Lord is calling me to marriage and continuing to live out the Gospel through the Art of Loving.”
The Office of Vocations is currently one of 60-plus ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF). Those involved in the ministry are grateful for the generosity of the faithful in the Archdiocese that support the fund annually, which is the lifeline of its operations.
“When people support DSF, they support their future priests and religious, as well as young people in the Archdiocese that are discerning their vocational call like Kaitlin,” said Father McNellie. “Many people may not be aware that the Office of Vocations also takes care of all the seminarians while in formation along with the seminary. Our office, including the seminarians’ tuition, room and board, are completely DSF funded.”
Currently, in the Archdiocese, 38 men are enrolled in the seminary.
Eighme said she is grateful for the support of the DSF because her life has been, without a doubt, impacted in such a powerful way because of the Office of Vocations.
“I never knew that there was such a wide variety of meaningful experiences available to grow in faith and such a rich community of young adults in the Archdiocese,” said Eighme. “Not only have I personally been blessed by this community, but it has been such a gift to give back by sponsoring other women currently in the Samuel Group, as well as helping to lead worship for upcoming retreats through the Office of Vocations. I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for the future of the Archdiocese and this ministry.”
For more information about upcoming discernment events or how to encourage prayer for vocations at the parish level, visit the Office of Vocation’s website at houstonvocations.com or call 713-652-8239.