by Father Scott Wallisch
Studies have been conducted in the vocations world indicating that the number 11 is significant in vocational discernment.
Now, do not worry, we are not promoting some sort of numerology, where having eleven letters in your name or eleven toes on your feet cosmically indicates that you are meant for consecrated life.
Rather, eleven is important because, for many priests or religious, thoughts about the possibility of a consecrated vocation began when their age was 11 or their grade was the 11th.
In fifth grade and junior year in high school, young people are more likely to think about their future and God’s plan for that future.
Aware of this phenomenon, we have a sort of an “11-11 Program” that includes yearly events for those at these stages in their lives. Each year, we host two fifth-grade vocation days for all of the students in our Catholic schools.
We also coordinate two yearly Project Andrew discernment evenings for high school men, many of whom are in their junior year, and we take junior and senior boys to a “Come and See” retreat at Conception College Seminary in Conception, Missouri, each semester.
Young people in these two grade levels are more open to finding God’s plan for their future. We organize these events to coincide with these stages of development, not because we are looking to convince them to make decisions at these ages, but because we want to take advantage of their openness to present the beauty of a possible religious vocation. Seeds are planted.
Recognizing that those seeds need to be nourished, though, we do not ignore young discerners from the first 11 until the second 11.
In fact, we bring the topic of vocational discernment back up in a fun way halfway between fifth grade and junior year. For our eighth-grade boys, we give them opportunities to interact with priests or seminarians.
And similar to the old adage that you can find a way to a man’s heart through his stomach, you can find a way to many young men’s attention through sports.
So, in March and April, the Serra Clubs help us organize Runnin’ Revs basketball games between our priests and eighth-graders. And, in conjunction with our “Quo Vadis” discernment retreat, our CYO is helping us host a showcase on Dec. 17 featuring eighth-graders playing basketball and/or Xbox FIFA soccer with our seminarians.
The boys have a chance to see that seminarians are normal people who want to serve God while still having fun and building community in relatable ways.
So, thanks to these events, our “11-11 Program” is really an “11-14-11 Discernment Vision.” Email me if you want to know more about any part of this vision.