Faith, fellowship and fun are hallmarks of Brothers of Borromeo and Quo Vadis summer events for boys and teens

For more pictures from the Brothers of Borromeo and Quo Vadis summer events, click here.

By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

The best time to plant seeds is in the spring. There is no doubt that the 95 boys who visited St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood on June 28 are in the spring of their life. They came for the Brothers of Borromeo vocation camp, and all are entering grades six through eight.

The day was designed to introduce the boys to the seminary, but it was definitely soft-sell, as it should be at that stage of their lives. Yes, there was Mass celebrated by retired auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Maginnis and short talks, but also a visit from the Phillie Phanatic, a scavenger hunt and other fun activities, including a dunk tank.

“We visit grade schools every year, but this is the only activity we have here for this particular age group,” said Father Kevin J. Gallagher, archdiocesan director of the Vocation Office for the Diocesean Priesthood. {{more}}

“I think it is very effective; it gives the boys an opportunity to meet the priests, the seminarians and the lay volunteers.”

“It’s my first time here and it’s fun,” said Bryan Castaneda, one of nine boys from Misión Santa Maria, Madre de Dios in Avondale. He didn’t know if any of the boys in the group were considering the priesthood, at least at this time. “Father Frank (Depman) asked us to come,” he said.

Another large group was eight Korean boys from Holy Cross Parish in Springfield, among them Eun-Soo Park, an eighth grader who thought it “a great way to bond with God and praise Him and at the same time have fun.” Some of the boys in his group may consider the seminary, he believes.

Some parents came along with their sons, among them Jennie Dyke, whose son Joseph is an eighth grader at SS. Philip and James School in Exton.

“They talk in school about options in life, not just an option for the priesthood,” she said. “This is a good opportunity for them to be exposed to what the priesthood is all about with a down-to-earth view of priests, even if they are not necessarily called by God.”

This was not the first seminary visit for all the boys. For example, Liam McTigue, an eighth-grader at Our Lady of Grace School in Penndel, came last year too.

“It’s good to have us out here for all of these activities and thinking about the priesthood, learning about the seminary and the brotherhood of priests,” he said.

Gabe Weston, a seventh grader from Holy Family Parish in Newark, Del., also attended the event last year, and he is seriously considering the priesthood. “It’s good for people to see what they can expect and to prepare for it,” he said.

Among those helping out were seminarians and also members of Quo Vadis, the group for male high school students who are discerning a possible vocation.

“I came to this the first year they had it,” said Dan Matour, a senior at Roman Catholic High School and a member of Quo Vadis. “It sparked my interest, and it was a stepping stone.”

Matour is convinced he does have a vocation to the priesthood, but intends to wait until he completes his undergraduate college degree before entering the seminary.

He was also one of 36 teens who attended a June 30-July 3 Quo Vadis Retreat at Malvern Retreat House in Malvern. The retreat began with a penance service led by Msgr. Joseph C. McLoone, and there were daily Masses including a Saturday Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas as well as other liturgical celebrations. Speakers included Bishop Thomas, Father Gallagher, other priests and deacons and St. Joseph’s University basketball coach Phil Martelli.

While all those attending were open to the idea of a vocation to the priesthood, they were not necessarily considering it at this point.

“This isn’t just about the priesthood,” said Kody Millward, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown. “This will help us consider our path in life whether it be marriage, the priesthood, single or consecrated life. Right now I’m feeling called to married life.”

His brother, Tanner, had a similar view and hoped to get a deeper understanding of his vocation through the retreat. “At this time I feel I’m called to married life, but I would almost rather be a priest,” he said.

Mike Girard, 17, who traveled from Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Jewett City, Conn., and is home-schooled, definitely feels a calling for the priesthood. Formerly a member of St. Elizabeth Parish in Upper Uwchlan, Girard hopes to enter St. Charles in a year or two, but in the meantime he will be attending St. Mary Magdalen College in New Hampshire.

Andrew Parrish, of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Hilltown, and who is home schooled, attended last year’s Quo Vadis Retreat. At this point he has mostly made up his mind that he won’t be a priest but loves to come to the event because he likes being with the seminarians. “They are great guys,” he said. Next year he hopes to enter the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Timothy Goodwin, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Buckingham, believes events like the Quo Vadis retreats are important because of the priest shortage. “I’m here to get a better feeling about whether or not priesthood is for me,” he said. While deciding, he will be going to the University of Pittsburgh.

Michael Leach, a ninth grader from Sacred Heart Parish in Oxford, was at the earlier Brothers of Borromeo event. He’d never been to Malvern before but found it fun. As for the priesthood, “It may be an option; I came to check it out,” he said.

Quo Vadis has grown from the first 20 participants three years ago, according to the organizers. Of this year’s group, 26 were new attendees.

Whatever their vocation, “The program is important because it brings together young men who have a desire to know the Lord in an intimate way and to answer the question, ‘Is the Lord calling me to the priesthood, where is the Lord leading me?'” Father Gallagher said. “We have such good Catholic young men who want to witness to their faith and live their faith. It’s a wonderful program.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.