Teens contemplate life’s big questions at vocations retreat

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The rope bridge swayed as Dominic Wensuslaus, 16, carefully walked across its wooden slats by shifting his feet from side to side.

Several other Catholic young men followed Wensuslaus onto the rope bridge, part of a Chal-lenge Course they attempted at the Quo Vadis Day 2024 discernment retreat on June 27. Quo Vadis — Latin for “Where are you going?” — allowed him and 44 other participating teens to ask God, themselves, and each other that same question: “Where am I going with my life?”For Wensuslaus, navigating the rope bridge symbolizes his challenge of choosing between two possible calls he sees teeter in front of him: married life or the priesthood. He attended the all-day retreat with a group from his parish, St. Lawrence the Martyr in Chester. The retreat was held at Shiloh Bible Camp in the Hewitt neighborhood of West Milford.

“I do think about being a priest. I would be a people’s priest — talking to people and spreading the Word,” said Wensuslaus, a rising high school junior, who attended Quo Vadis four times. The Office of Voca-tions of the Paterson Diocese organized the retreat. “It’s one of the times I think about my vocation. I need someone to push me. It’s fun to be with the other guys.”

That day, Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney and participating priests and seminarians helped teach these young men how to discover their vocation — married, religious, or single. Participants explored God’s call during a busy schedule of spiritual, athletic, and social activities. The religious offerings included group prayer, an outdoor Mass with Bishop Sweeney, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The teens also got time to socialize with each other, priests, and seminarians. They engaged in activities, such as the Chal-lenge Course, indoor rock climbing, swimming, soccer, basketball, Ultimate Frisbee, and archery. The teens also enjoyed meals together, including a barbecue lunch by the Knights of Columbus, and went on a hike. The retreat ended with a campfire.

During the outdoor Mass, Bishop Sweeney urged retreatants to ask God about their call, maybe to the priesthood.

“Open your hearts and listen to God. We need good men to represent the Gospel. Let us listen to his Word and put it into practice,” Bishop Sweeney said in his homily.

Over the years, Quo Vadis has inspired priestly vocations, such as Father Krzysztof Tyszko, parochial vicar of Assumption Parish in Morristown. He said priests are “regular guys” with hobbies, such as playing soccer, dining with friends, and watching football.

John Peter Zappe, a diocesan seminarian, told the teens that he originally entered the seminary and later took a break to work as a carpenter. He then returned to the seminary after he realized “I love giving to others.”

“You never hear your vocation with 100-percent certainty. You can get stuck in having a hunch but still having doubts. At some point, you have to trust God. Be not afraid.”

Listen to audio of episode 61 of “Beyond The Beacon” with the link on this webpage. Bishop Sweeney and Jai Agnish, diocesan communications director and Beacon editor, talk about vocations with some of the young men who participated in Quo Vadis.

Information about vocations in the Paterson Diocese: call the Vocations Office, 973-777-8818, ext. 711 or visit rcdop.org

 

BEACON PHOTOS | JOE GIGLI

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