Answering the call: Youth publicly show openness to discerning religious life
STEUBENVILLE, OHIO — This summer, more than 50,000 participants at Steubenville Youth Conferences are encountering Christ in new ways during one of 23 gatherings held across the U.S. and Canada. Taking an extra step in acknowledging God’s will in guiding their lives, about 6,000 of them will answer the vocations call, coming forward to receive a special blessing for those discerning a vocation to religious life at the Sunday Mass that ends each conference.
At the July 8-10 conference held at Franciscan University, Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey Monforton called forth the young people who were open to discerning religious life.
“Thank you for your fortitude, your humility,” Bishop Monforton said, first calling the young women to the foot of the stage to receive a blessing.
Nearly 100 young women came forward, some hesitantly, some in small groups. Bishop Monforton extended his hands and invited the 2,000 people in attendance to also stretch out their hands and offer prayers.
Heather Leclair, from Two Rivers, Wis., was one of the young women who received the blessing. “God put this desire in my heart that I’d been ignoring for years,” she said. “Last year at Steubenville, He really opened my heart to religious life. This year He also reaffirmed that desire.”
Then it was the young men’s turn. They came from all corners of the dimly lit Finnegan Fieldhouse, some from the bleachers, some from just a few feet from the stage. Blessing the young men, Bishop Monforton quoted Luke 10:2: “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few … And so, praying to you for more laborers, those who will tend your flock, shower your blessings upon our brothers here who are discerning the priesthood. Give them fortitude, give them strength and humility, docility to hear your word and that the life of your Son is ever grown in their hearts.”
Adam Szalay, a member of St. Richard Parish in Pittsburgh, Pa., went forward for the Vocations Call.
Szalay said that discernment is “a constant battle between my plan for myself and God’s plan for me, being comfortable versus being called out of my comfort zone.”
Bishop Monforton said the vocations call is a reminder of each person’s own vocation as a “common thread [that is] rooted in the love of Jesus Christ … One begins to have clarity of position toward a vocation when casting one’s gaze on the face of Jesus. This invites response.”
Attesting to the impact of the vocations call, a recent survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate showed 10 percent of newly ordained priests and 21 percent of women professing perpetual vows in religious life said they had previously attended a Steubenville Youth Conference.
This year, Franciscan University of Steubenville offered six adult, four young adult and 23 youth conferences in 14 states and two Canadian provinces that are expected to reach over 60,000 people. Visit www.steubenvilleconferences.com for a complete list of conferences.