Nine youths from the Diocese of Davenport spent June 18-22 at the University of Notre Dame for Notre Dame Vision, a five-day conference designed to help high school students recognize and respond to God’s call. Here are excerpts from several youths’ reflections on their experience.
Allison Hanser, St. Paul the Apostle Parish, Davenport:
The main theme I took away from ND Vision was regarding discernment: listening to God’s voice and learning what one’s vocation in life is. As naive as it may sound, prior to this retreat, I still sort of expected God to whisper in my ear exactly what I was going to be or what path my life was going to take. I knew that this wasn’t how God operated, but then I wondered, if he didn’t talk like that, how did he communicate with me?
By going to ND Vision, I made the discovery that God, through the Holy Spirit, speaks to me in my everyday life through the people I interact with as well as through how I use the gifts he gave me….
One of my other epiphanies from ND Vision was about faith life as a journey, rather than a set of big moments. I had tended to define the strength of my faith life by how strong of a “Jesus buzz” I got from retreats.
As I got older, the feeling was less and less potent, and I began to have doubts about how close to God I really was. The discovery of life as a journey, rather than a few good moments, helped me to feel more self-assured, confident and mature in my faith.
Mitchell Frischmeyer, St. Mary Parish, Grinnell:
When they told us that a vocation is what you are called to do or the gifts that God has given you, I was excited. I thought by the end of the week I would know what my calling was and I would be able to move on to the next chapter of my life. Little did I know it was just the beginning of my journey.
Throughout the proceeding days I grew closer and closer to people I had met in my small group. I felt that I had grown the most during our sessions. I was able to share things about myself that I had kept bottled up in fear of being judged. I could also listen to struggles similar to my own and know that I was not alone. The speakers were incredible and maybe even some of the best that I have ever heard. Just listening to what they had to say gave me a new outlook on life.
Even though I left with more questions than I came with, I felt better and most definitely closer to God.
Nicholas Riedesel, St. Joseph Parish, DeWitt:
I would highlight the Affirmation session to be the greatest part of the week. After a week in small-group sessions, it was really a great time to reflect on other group members’ thoughts and actions…. When I read my affirmations to other group members I felt I was able to connect with someone I just met who lives across the country.
Then when it was my turn to sit in the middle, I was shocked to hear what my group members thought of me; they all said that I had senses of leadership, respect and kindness. When I heard them speaking to me I felt great; all of their thoughts lifted my spirits and I believe it did the same for everyone.
Cameron Fox, Our Lady of Victory Parish, Davenport:
The small-group experience really gave me other people’s perspective. This really helps because it opens you up. It really helped me think of God’s call for each individual in a new way.
Going a second time really helped affirm my vocation. I will carry this experience with me through the rest of my life. I keep in contact with many of my small-group members. The speakers that are brought in are amazing.
Matt McWilliams, St. Joseph Parish, DeWitt:
My favorite part is when we got into small groups because all the people in my group became friends. We could also share things we would otherwise be uncomfortable talking about. The speakers were all great. The musicals were all funny.
Dalton Neeley, St. Ann Parish in Long Grove:
What I got from Notre Dame Vision was don’t worry about what other people think of you; God loves you just the way you are. You don’t have to be anyone other than yourself. Also from ND Vision I got that you don’t have to be a priest or a nun to follow your vocation.