By Barb Arland-Fye
Individuals wondering if they have a calling to the priesthood, diaconate or religious life may choose from one of four “Day of Reflection” experiences this fall in the Davenport Diocese. Each day will consist of a short presentation on vocations and discernment, prayer, and time for questions and answers. The three presenters will also be available to meet individually with participants if so desired.
Sessions are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 18 at St. Mary Parish in Pella from 9 a.m. to noon; Saturday, Oct. 2 at St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Thursday, Nov. 4 at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport from 6-9 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 21 at St. Mary Parish in Williamsburg from 2-5 p.m.
Presenters are Father Marty Goetz, diocesan vocations director; Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan director of deacon formation and of liturgy; and Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, faith formation director for Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine and St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction.
This first-ever event “focuses on ordained and vowed ministry in the church; that doesn’t mean we’re dismissing or denigrating lay ministry in any way. That’s dealt with in other programs, such as the diocese’s Ministry Formation Program,” Deacon Agnoli said. “People interested in ordained and vowed religious life usually come with a particular set of questions. We want to help those folks to begin to ponder those questions,” he added.
“They’ll hear a presentation, but more importantly, they’re gathering to pray and to ask God for guidance and also to meet with a deacon or priest or religious one-on-one,” Fr. Goetz said.
People contemplating a vocation may not know where to turn. “Hopefully, we can help them to turn in the right direction. And to be honest, Jesus asked one on one. Every disciple he called, it was one-on-one ministry,” Fr. Goetz said. “This will give us the opportunity to follow in the ministry of Jesus.”
His own vocation discernment began after a one-on-one meeting with a priest. Fr. Goetz had just completed his freshman year in college when he was introduced to Father Tony Herold, then serving as diocesan vocations director. The two talked “and that got the ball rolling,” Fr. Goetz said.
Prayer is an essential component of the day of reflection and of the discernment process. “We’ll have a holy hour with the Blessed Sacrament. We’ll be praying with and for (the participants) that they follow God’s call,” Fr. Goetz added.
“The one thing that was most helpful to me as I discerned my own religious vocation,” Sr. Demmer said, was a reminder during grade school and high school from parish priests and Sisters “to pray each night that we would know what God wanted us to do as a vocation.”
When she participates in vocation days for sixth through eighth-graders in the diocese, she encourages them to pray each night and “ask God to help you know what it is he wants you to do with your life.”
Sr. Demmer will celebrate 46 years with her religious community, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on Sept. 7. “I have been blessed a thousand times over every day,” she said of her vocation to religious life.
Each of the presenters understands what it means to discern a vocation; they want to share how their response to God’s call has shaped their lives. “Come with an open mind and an open heart,” Deacon Agnoli said. “We’re creating a welcoming space for people to discern, a place where they can pray together and listen to God’s voice.”