By Anne Marie Amacher
Eighth-graders from Catholic schools in the Diocese of Davenport solved a puzzle, attended Mass and listened to vocation stories of diocesan priests and Sisters during Vocation Awareness Day.
All together, 285 students participated in the event, either May 4 at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf or May 5 at St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant.
Attending the Bettendorf event were about 160 students from Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf; Prince of Peace Catholic Academy in Clinton; All Saints, John F. Kennedy and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic schools in Davenport; and St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt. Attending the Mount Pleasant event were about 125 students from Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in Burlington; Holy Trinity Junior/Senior High School in Fort Madison; and Regina Junior/Senior High School in Iowa City.
One breakout session involved an activity based on the television show “Survivor” that Father Marty Goetz, the diocese’s vocations director, thought would appeal to the youth. He divided them into groups to compete against each other in solving a puzzle that contained a message about vocations. Students raced to and from stacks of colored puzzle pieces in an effort to finish first.
When members of one group participating at St. John Vianney announced they were done, Fr. Goetz told the other groups to keep going. When he checked the first group’s results, he found the pieces to be in the wrong order. More groups called out that they had completed the puzzle, but they, too, had the message in the wrong order.
After several minutes, the first team figured out the puzzle. The other teams were told to keep going until they got the message: “I have a call from God. I will listen for your voice. Speak Lord, your servant is listening!”
Fr. Goetz told the students that God will not IM (instant message), e-mail, Twitter or use Facebook to contact them. “He will speak to your heart.”
Father Joe Miller, C.PP.S., director of vocations for the Society of Precious Blood, and a former pastor in the diocese, asked the youth, “How do you respond? God initiates the call. He continues to call us. He calls Fr. Marty and me every day. What do you do?”
Fr. Miller pointed out that a calling to the vocation of priesthood or religious life may come “through your little brother who annoys you.” It might come from a parent. There are signs all around, he noted.
Fr. Goetz told the youth that their puzzle isn’t complete yet. “You’re a part of it.” With prayer, discernment and action, the puzzle takes shape.
The other breakout sessions featured vocation talks by priests and Sisters. In Bettendorf, talks were given by Father Hai Dinh, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport; Father Jim Vrba, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Wilton; Father Jason Crossen, pastor of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine and St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction; and Father Thom Hennen, parochial vicar at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton. In Mount Pleasant, the speakers were Father Joseph Phung, administrator of St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant; Father Jeff Belger, parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City and campus minister at the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City; Father Rich Adam, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman.
The religious Sisters who spoke in Bettendorf were Sister Ramona Kaalberg, CHM, vocation director for the Congregation of the Humility of Mary; Sister Judy Herold, SSND, pastoral associate at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport; Sister Kathy Carr, BVM, vocation master for the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque; Sister Roberta Brich, CHM, who works in Humility of Mary ministries; and Sister Mary Rocca, CHM, of Iowa City, who works in prison ministry and teaches English as a Second Language.
In Mount Pleasant, the Sisters who spoke were Sr. Kaalberg, Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, director of religious education at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine and St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction; Sister Ann Marie Dunn, OSF, adult faith formation for St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant; and Sister Joanne DiIulio, CHM, who has taught Spanish for years and does chapel work for the Humility of Mary Sisters.
Fr. Miller assisted Fr. Goetz both days and Bishop Martin Amos presided at Mass both days.
Noelle Feldpausch, a student at St. Joseph School in DeWitt, said of the vocation day, “We all made new friends and had fun.” Maggie Gehlsen, also from St. Joseph’s, said, “I think we all learned more about what God’s call for us might be.”