Three religious sisters speak to 6th grade Catholic school students during a Vocations Day Sept. 26 at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota.

Students encouraged to think about their vocation

Sarasota | In life, everyone has a vocation, whether it is to the priesthood, religious life, marriage, parent, or the single life. Keeping one’s heart and mind open to that call of the Lord and understanding that message is key to a proper discernment, which may lead some on the path to the priesthood or religious life.

“Throughout our lives God reveals himself to us in different ways to show His love,” Father Eric Scanlan, Diocesan Vocations Director, told Catholic school sixth-graders from the Northern Deanery at a Vocations Day Sept. 26 at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota. “Now is the time to start thinking about what you want to do with your life. I know some here are thinking about a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Reflect on how much God loves you, and keep your heart and mind open to the Lord’s call.”

Father Scanlan said when he was considering becoming a priest he tried to ignore the call of the Lord, but the more he gave himself to God, the happier he became. He added nothing can fill your heart like God can.

The students represented well St. Joseph Catholic School (Bradenton), Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School (Venice), Incarnation Catholic School (Sarasota), St. Martha Catholic School (Sarasota) and St. Mary’s Academy (Sarasota).

The day focused on encouraging the boys and girls to open their hearts and minds to develop their personal relationship with God while keeping open the possibility of a deeper calling for their vocation. Throughout the day the students heard from Father Scanlan and religious women who shared their stories of how they found a grace to serve God in a special way. There was also time for some fun and games.

Sister Peace Villanueva, Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, encouraged the sixth-graders to ask God for help in finding their way. “We have a God-shaped hole in the depths of our heart and soul. When you do God’s will, that brings satisfaction. All you need to do is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This will put you on the right path.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the sixth-graders and told them that as young men and women of God, made in His image and likeness, each student is a “masterpiece,” because they are God’s creation.

As a “masterpiece,” they will “continue to grow and learn, given the opportunity to choose what they want to do in their lives,” the Bishop continued. “You do that by listening to God in your life. By listening through prayers and taking time to talk to the Lord and to listen in all aspects of your life.”

Bishop Dewane noted that some of the students may think they don’t hear anything, but he encouraged them to listen less with their ears and more with their heart.

“It is your heart that has to have an ear to the Lord,” the Bishop added. “That’s how the Lord speaks to us — through our mind and in our thoughts — giving us guidance, helping us to grow, to mature, and to become the more, as a son or daughter of God. Listen to that call and strive to respond because you are a ‘masterpiece’ that has a vocation that lies within your heart.”

Later in the day, there were separate sessions for boys and girls, where they were free to ask any question of Father Scanlan or the three religious sisters present. The questions were initially about the basics of how each entered the life they now lead and what daily life is like for them now. The focus of the questions switched to how one can actually hear the call of the Lord: Is it choirs of angels? A booming voice from above? Each answered that the call is unique for everyone, and that prayer and an openness of one’s heart make a huge difference in the ability to hear that call.

Then the students heard from Cardinal Mooney seniors Lexy Melone and Jake Hebda who shared how following the Lord’s call has helped them succeed in their lives. They both told the young students that they must not let outside distractions take them from the path the Lord intends, but if they do stray, they need to rethink their actions and return to the Lord through prayer.

The day concluded with Eucharistic Adoration and a final reflection from Father Scanlan. Additional Vocations Fairs will be taking place for Catholic school students in the Central and Southern Deaneries in the coming weeks.