by Fr. Timothy Armbruster, C.PP.S. Regional Vocation Director
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” is inscribed on a stone plaque in my garden. Gone are the plants of the summer turned under by the spade. The ground is raked and leveled once again. Spring bulbs are planted and yet the ground looks barren. It is a waiting time to see what spring will bring. If I were to say the same for vocations, the plaque might read, “To pray for vocations is to believe in tomorrow,” but we all know it takes more than prayer.
On All Hallows Eve, we gathered to begin our Discernment Weekend hosted at Precious Blood Center. Five men accepted our invitation to continue seeking God’s call in their lives. Our time began with evening meal and prayer and continued with s’mores and storytelling around the bonfire. The chill of the night was a perfect setting for this bonfire and getting to know each other. Saturday morning, on the Feast of All Saints, our prayer began with us singing, “We come to share our story,/we come to break the bread,/we come to know our rising from the dead.” In the spirit of the feast, we spent the rest of the weekend sharing our community story, including our personal vocation stories as well as the story of St. Gaspar, and in turn invited our five inquirers to share their stories.
Vocation team members, Fr. Vince Wirtner and Fr. Matt Link, as well as Fr. Timothy Guthridge, Director of Initial Formation, joined me on the weekend. In addition, Fr. Joe Nassal, Fr. Keith Branson, Fr. Mark Miller, and Br. Daryl Charron were also were present to share their time and stories with us. The inquirers joining us were Matt Perez, from Garden City, Kansas; Ryan Cornelissen who is currently serving as one of our Volunteers at Christo Rey High School in Kansas City; Christopher Hoffman from Sacred Heart Parish, Sedalia, Missouri; Michael Petterson, from Idaho; and Rob Hartnett from Most Holy Redeemer Parish, San Francisco, California.
It was a weekend of great energy and excitement, of prayer, storytelling and laughter. What began as a weekend of knowing little more than a name, ended with the hope of seeds being planted and the question being asked, “What’s next?” For these inquirers, if they feel called to continue the journey, the next step is the Discernment Journal. The inquirer meets with a member to share his story, hear our Precious Blood story and see where the two stories intertwine. If this seems a good fit, the inquirer is encouraged to apply for either residence in a House of Discernment and spend time in a Community Live-in Experience or apply for Admission. If accepted, the candidate continues in the formation process towards becoming a member.
I have heard from other members who offered more names of men who might be interested in the community but were unable for various reasons to attend this weekend. I challenge you, invite you, ask you, to keep inviting and thinking about those who express or show an interest in religious life. We have another Discernment Weekend scheduled for March 20-22, 2015, at St. Charles Center, Carthagena, Ohio. We will be sending out more information and an invitation to this event. Fr. Vince, Fr. Matt and I are also available for a one-day or evening Time of Discernment sessions that can be done in our various parishes with those who are unable to attend an extended weekend.
How do we continue to invite others? One: through our relationships with those we encounter, our openness to share with them the joy of our ministries and what it means to be a Missionary of the Precious Blood. Two: through invitation and recognizing within others the gifts needed to be a missionary. What does it take today to serve the church and our community? Who do you know that fits that description? Who possesses skills of compassion and leadership? Ask them, invite them, share with them who we are as Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
We know it takes more than prayer to believe in tomorrow. It takes encouragement, invitation, and responding to God’s call. May we continue to seek out those called to become Missionaries of the Precious Blood.