Recognising the power of personal testimony in edifying teenagers to value the Christian life, Religious Education teachers from St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point, gave their Year 10 students an unique opportunity to witness how the mission of Jesus Christ can be lived out.
Organisers invited 11 priests, nuns and seminarians, both Diocesan and Religious, to take part in a vocations panel during the Year 10 Emmaus Retreat at the College on 25 November.
The panel included Jesuit Father Nico Lariosa SJ, Conventual Franciscan Brother Bernard Mary Fonkalsrud OFMConv., Loreto Sister Rachel McLoughlin IBVM, Dominican Father Reginald Chua OP, Somascan Brother Sheldon Burke CRS, Somascan Postulant Michael Iezzi, Good Shepherd Seminarian Michael Rodgers, Capuchin Friar Fr John Nguyen OFMCap as well as Missionaries of Charity Sister Ignatia Joy MC and Sister Agnelle MC.
“It was out of the ordinary for these young men to meet a range of vocations in our respective habits and daily cloth.”
Forming part of the unit Discipleship – Living a Christian Life, students were enthused by the panel and were engaged in their exploration of religious life as an option in their discernment through honest questioning and dialogue.
“It was out of the ordinary for these young men to meet a range of vocations in our respective habits and daily cloth,” said Father John Nguyen OFM Cap, Vocations Director for the Capuchin Franciscan Friars.
“They were intrigued by our testimonies, our sacrifices and the joy in living out our calling.
“I personally was impressed by their thought-provoking questions and won’t be surprised if a handful will respond to the religious life or priesthood.”
Fr John saw this engagement as a clear indication that this in person encounter “filled a massive void in young people and their faith experience”.
Attributing some of this void in students to the effects of remote learning during the COVID pandemic, Br Bernard Mary OFMConv felt blessed to be able to engage with students in person and share about the “joys and realities of Religious Life, and the unique charisms, traditions, and histories” of each community.
“I feel that the common message was that God loves us, God desires to be in relationship with us, and that our vocation is our response to that love,” said Brother Bernard.
“The Year 10S asked fantastic questions and were genuinely curious and intrigued by the example of the Religious and Seminarian present.”
“We express it in different and unique ways, but ultimately we share the same mission, which is to evangelise and share this great gift with others.”
“The Year 10s asked fantastic questions and were genuinely curious and intrigued by the example of the Religious and Seminarian present; I pray some seeds were planted in their hearts and minds.”
Many of these questions were asked by the students during afternoon visitations by the Religious guests to their individual classrooms.
Dominican Fr Reginald Mary Chua OP, Chaplain for Notre Dame University’s Sydney Campus, also found himself impressed by the level of interest shown by the students during the afternoon.
“I was particularly encouraged by the numerous students who asked searching and honest questions about the challenges to faith in Christ and living out the Christian moral life as a consecrated person,” said Fr Reginald.
“These were questions that I myself remember asking and needing answers to in the course of my own discernment of religious life.
“It was wonderful to have the opportunity to share my vocation and also to be witnessing alongside other young priests and religious. I will be praying for all the students we met today.”
The vocations panel was a final activity in a week-long program which included moments of solidarity and community service.
“I HOPE THAT IT MAY PLANT A SEED OF WONDER SO THAT THESE YOUNG MEN HAVE A DEEPER CAPACITY TO BE ABLE TO DISCERN HOW THEY ARE BEING CALLED TO A LIFE OF SERVICE TO GOD”
Mr Phillip Merchant, Head of Religious Education at St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point, was optimistic that the Year 10 students were given much to think about, especially as they move into their studies in Years 11 and 12.
“I hope that students would come away from the afternoon with a deeper understanding of the breadth and diversity of the Church in Sydney,” said Mr Merchant.
“That they would have an opportunity to hear from voices that they may not normally hear or seek out.
“On another level, I hope that it may plant a seed of wonder so that these young men have a deeper capacity to be able to discern how they are being called to a life of service to God.”