The work of promoting vocations to religious life, like most aspects of society, continues virtually. And judging by the results so far, the effort is having a positive impact in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
The Celebrating Mary’s Yes Online Rosary Rally on March 25 gathered thousands to pray a livestreamed rosary for vocations and to announce the newest initiative of the Vocation Office for the Diocesan Priesthood.
Originally designed to take place in-person across seven locations in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the rally shifted online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to vocation director Father Stephen DeLacy.
While the in-person rally hoped to reach 3,000 to 5,000 attendees, the online rally gathered even more traction.
“To our great surprise we ended up with a total of 33,000 views,” Father DeLacy said.
The Vocation Office’s new initiative was an invitation for men and women to join Serra International, a lay apostolate dedicated to fostering a culture of vocations. Serra International has more than 1,000 Serra Clubs in 46 countries, according to the organization’s website, and the vocation office hopes to start six new Serra Clubs in the archdiocese.
To date, nearly 100 men and women are discerning whether or not they are called to join the club, and a number of priests are committed to be club chaplains.
Those discerning participated in online training sessions in April and May, and are set for a third training session in July. At this time everyone is encouraged to become a Serran and promote vocations.
The vocations office is building on that same momentum as it prepares to offer a much-loved high school discernment camp, Quo Vadis, online.
Quo Vadis is a national summer camp program held in numerous dioceses, and is open to incoming high school freshmen to graduating seniors. Translated from Latin, quo vadis means “where are you going?”
Now in its 12th year in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia, the camp will run online from Monday, June 29 to Wednesday, July 1.
Usually drawing an average of 100 men, the archdiocesan camp aims to help young men “learn how to listen to God’s voice in their life and how to discern what God is calling them to,” said associate director for the Vocations Office, Susan Matour.
While the camp is run differently in various areas of the country, the Philadelphia Quo Vadis isn’t necessarily just for men who are going to become priests. Rather, it starts “to help men hear God’s voice in their life,” Matour explained.
Typically the outdoor camp would run for four days at the Black Rock Retreat Center in Quarryville, Pa., but this year the vocations office is getting creative to bring Quo Vadis online.
The online camp will run via Zoom, with a special emphasis on small groups. Since participants can’t go swimming or play basketball, recreation will include online games.
(Watch the video below.)
Daily Mass and Liturgy of the Hours — Quo Vadis spiritual staples — will be streamed online.
A virtual penance service will be streamed online as well, but will be followed by an opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation in person.
The sacrament will be available at six locations throughout the archdiocese, where the young men are invited to go if their families are able to drive them.
An outdoor eucharistic procession is scheduled for the last night of Quo Vadis at a church central to the archdiocese. In keeping with social-distancing guidelines, everyone will remain in their car six feet apart. Participants’ families are invited to join.
Many young men who come to Quo Vadis return year after year, said Matour.
“I’ve always loved Quo Vadis because it showed me you can have fun and live out the Catholic faith,” said seminarian Dominic Mirenda in a promotional video for this year’s Quo Vadis Camp. Mirenda is currently studying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood.
The registration deadline for Quo Vadis is June 12. More information and the registration packet are available at heedthecall.org/events/quo-vadis/.
Despite the challenging circumstances of the pandemic, the vocation office’s ministry is thriving.
“We basically have been able to convert our ministry to an all-online experience, which has been really good,” said Father DeLacy.
Men of any age looking to discern the priesthood can also join an online discernment small group, which is another initiative that came from the coronavirus pandemic.
A discernment group for post-high school men had been meeting once a month on Sundays before the pandemic. In light of social-distancing measures and seeing that many people had more free time, the vocations office moved the small group online once a week.
In addition, a weekly online discernment group for young men of high school now meets online on Thursday nights.
Three school-specific online discernment groups for young men are also meeting weekly, including the West Chester University Newman Center, Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown and Regina Luminis Academy in Berwyn.
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