By Fr. Thom Hennen
In my last column I said it felt like I had been on a very fast roller coaster that was pulling into the station, if only briefly, before taking off for another run. I could not have been more right. It has been a fast and eventful summer, both for me personally and for the Office of Vocations.
It began with the ordinations of Father Kevin Anstey, Father Bob Cloos, Father Chris Young, Deacon Bill Roush and Deacon Guillermo Treviño on June 7. What a blessing to witness the fruit of all our labors to promote and encourage vocations for service here in the Diocese of Davenport.
After a couple weeks in the office and the candidacy retreat for the permanent deacon class, I did manage to sneak in a little vacation with some seminary classmates in North Carolina.
The wheels had barely hit the tarmac and I was right back in the thick of things with Catholics in Action in Iowa City, June 29-July 1.
This three-day event is something I look forward to every summer. High school youths from across the diocese come together to learn about Catholic social teaching and then put that teaching into practice by directly serving those in need in the Iowa City area. I love it because in addition to serving the community it allows me to work side by side with our youths. We have great conversations while we work and my hope for the future of the Church is always reinvigorated.
I was also privileged to have Bishop Martin Amos on the crew I was directing for one day. I admit I took a little delight in telling the bishop what to do. His carpentry skills certainly came in handy and the youths loved the opportunity to get to know their shepherd.
The week following Catholics in Action I attended my very first Notre Dame Vision at the University of Notre Dame. The theme of this weeklong conference for youths and youth ministers was The Call to Relationship and Communion. It emphasized the need to draw youths into “responsible participation in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community.” The talks were inspiring and there was palpable joy among the young people from our diocese who attended.
Following on the heels of Notre Dame Vision was Christian Leadership Institute, held on the campus of St. Ambrose University in Davenport. Youths and youth leaders from three Iowa dioceses gathered to learn about leadership styles, consensus building and other helpful topics to develop young leaders in our Church.
Of course, the seminarians weren’t exactly twiddling their thumbs this summer. We had three seminarians doing CPE (Clinical Pastoral Experience) or a like intensive hospital internship, five seminarians who had summer parish placements in the diocese, one seminarian who was part of a team for the “Totus Tuus” program (a vocations-themed summer camp) in the Diocese of Wichita, and one seminarian who worked at the chancery. Meanwhile, my office was busy with the application and interview process for some new seminarians. At the time of this writing we have accepted four new seminarians and have an interview set up for one more, in addition to some strong leads already for next year.
Finally, right around the bend (Aug. 8-10) is the Annual State of Iowa Seminarian Convocation, which our diocese is hosting this year in Iowa City. Seminarians from Iowa’s four dioceses will gather for three days of enrichment and relaxation before heading back to their respective seminaries.
Whew! I think that’s enough. I can certainly sympathize with those parents who long for the start of the school year so that things return to normal, whatever that is. Then again, I will be going back to school, too, as I will be co-teaching junior and senior religion this year at Assumption High School in Davenport, an endeavor I look forward to with great hope and joy, even if tinged with a little anxiety.
Please keep me, the seminarians, and all who are discerning their vocation, in your prayers. May we always be so busy, provided we receive the rest we need and never forget who is really doing all the work.
(Fr. Hennen is vocations director for the Davenport Diocese. Contact him at (563) 888-4255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)