by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Have you heard this one before? It takes a village to raise a . . .
Child? Maybe. But it definitely takes more than a village — a team, really — to encourage a young man to discern the priesthood. Discerning alone can be isolating.
Happily, that sense of isolation ends when a young man meets others who feel the same call. Suddenly, he’s on the team.
Teamwork was an obvious theme of a busy vocations- themed weekend Dec. 18-21 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
On Dec. 18, archdiocesan seminarians fanned out over both counties to serve as chaplains for 42 eighth-grade basketball teams of the Catholic Youth Organization of Johnson and Wyandotte Counties at games that represented the end of the regular CYO basketball season.
When the games concluded, coaches nominated one player from each team to participate in an all-star event, which consisted of two games of eighth-grade players matched up with a team comprised of seminarians.
Then, on Dec. 19, the first game of the Seminarian Showcase All-Star Event was played, with the CYO and the archdiocesan vocations office cosponsoring the event.
Neither side dominated. The eighth-grade players and the seminarians each won a game.
And the teamwork didn’t end at the final whistle. As the seminarians and eighth-graders were playing their second game, 26 young men arrived at Savior for “Quo Vadis,” held Dec. 19-21.
“Quo Vadis” — Latin for “Where are you going?” — is the name of an annual Christmas break retreat designed to help seniors in high school and college-age men decide if they might explore a vocation to the priesthood at a seminary.
This was the largest group at “Quo Vadis” in recent years, with more men attending than in the past two years combined, said Father Scott Wallisch, archdiocesan vocations director.
“It’s the biggest discernment opportunity we have all year,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for men who are seniors in high school or older to spend time with the archbishop, seminarians, some priests, and to be spiritually fed.”
“It’s a chance to spend time with Our Lord in prayer,” Father Wallisch continued, “all in the hopes of helping them better discern — come to a little more clarity — on God’s call for them [and] their vocation in life.”
Msgr. Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, was the presenter at this year’s retreat. The participants also attended Mass, lunched with the Sisters, Servants of Mary, and had an opportunity for a one-on-one meeting with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
The participants also attended two panel discussions — one consisting of priests, the other of seminarians — during which they were able to ask questions. This year, 24 seminarians participated in “Quo Vadis.”
“The retreatants had the opportunity to go on a ‘discernment walk’ with a seminarian to ask about seminary life,” said Father Wallisch. “This year, we had more retreatants than seminarians.”
There were multiple opportunities for prayer, including a time for the Liturgy of the Hours and eucharistic adoration.
Kyle Lavin, a 20-year-old member of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park, was typical of those at “Quo Vadis.”
“I have, in the past couple of years, felt a call to pursue the priesthood as a very high possibility,” said Lavin, now a NET missionary in Minnesota. “I might be fulfilling God’s will by serving in that way.”
Daniel Boos, a 19-year-old sophomore at Johnson County Community College, knows he has a vocation — but not a direction.
“I came to see which vocation God is calling me to,” said Boos, a member of Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe. “Right now, I feel it’s missionary work [but] the priesthood is also a possibility.”
One of the great things about “Quo Vadis” is being surrounded by guys “in the same boat” who are feeling the same things and asking the same questions, said Lavin and Boos.
“I feel that it helps a lot to be around so many other people who share the same goals and aspirations,” said Boos. “They’re all striving to be the best, like you are. And it’s like a giant community.”
Colim Larkin, a 21-year-old senior at Benedictine College in Atchison, has already made up his mind. He will enter a seminary this fall for the archdiocese. Nevertheless, “Quo Vadis” helped him a lot.
“The talks by Msgr. Swetland have really affirmed my love and passion for the priesthood,” said Larkin. “The way in which he proposed it to us, explaining the various ministries we’ll be undertaking, really got at the core of what it means to be a priest. It was so good to hear that coming from [him].”
Another of the benefits of attending “Quo Vadis” was having an opportunity to meet some of the men he might eventually study with in the seminary — building that “team” spirit.
“You had 50 guys there who were all wanting to know a little bit better God’s will in their life,” said Father Wallisch. “Fifty guys who love the church, love the Lord and want to serve him, and are not just telling God how he should let them serve him, but asking how he wants them to serve him.”
The archdiocesan vocations office will follow up on the retreat by staying in touch with the participants.
“We’ll see what the retreat has done for their discernment — if it’s given them any clarity or stirred up any more questions,” said Father Wallisch. “We’ll walk with them — especially guys who might apply for seminary in the spring. We’ll also invite retreatants to visit a seminary and attend other discernment opportunities.”