By Dave Jolivet
FALL RIVER, Mass. — The beautiful setting of the Betania II Retreat Center in Medway will be the site of an upcoming retreat geared toward men ages 19-45 with the goal of allowing them to step away from everyday routines to discern if they are being called to consider a priestly vocation.
The Discernment Retreat will take place March 3-5, sponsored by the Diocese of Fall River Vocations Office.
For the last few years the Diocesan Vocation Board, led by Father Kevin A. Cook, director of Vocations; Father Christopher M. Peschel, associate director of Vocations and Seminarians; Dominican Sister Paulina Hurtado, episcopal representative for Religious and associate director of Vocations; and a handful of ordained and lay people have diligently planned and executed several events aimed at providing children, young adults and adults the opportunity to learn to spend quiet time to listen to what the Lord may be asking of them.
“We have been very active in our diocesan schools bringing the lesson of listening for God’s call,” Father Peschel told The Anchor. “And each year we provide high school young men the opportunity to attend a five-day vocation retreat, Quo Vadis Days.
“We realize we have a decent outreach to our young people, but we have had post-high school individuals express interest in learning more. The Discernment Retreat is expressly geared toward men recently and not-so-recently out of high school.”
The weekend has as its axis discernment talks, Eucharistic Adoration, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Liturgy, Spiritual direction, and time for discussion and reflection.
“The structure for the weekend comes from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ book titled, “Is Jesus Christ calling you to be a Catholic Priest?” said Father Peschel. “I will be giving the bulk of the talks and Father Cook will be presenting some. Since it’s a weekend we have to be aware of our parish duties as well.”
Father Peschel told The Anchor that the retreat is limited to nine candidates. “We feel that is a healthy number to work with, to be able to provide more personal interaction.
“This is a great opportunity for men to step away from studies or jobs and pray and listen to what God may be calling them to do with their lives. The retreat also makes the candidates aware that there are others out there their own age who are thinking about vocations, and this is very encouraging to them.”
Father Peschel said last year’s retreat was very well received by those who attended: “We have one young man who attended who is now in the seminary and others have stayed in contact with us. There’s no question that this weekend is a very worthwhile thing.”
In addition to Fathers Cook and Peschel, other speakers may be added. “Last year we invited some of our seminarians to come share some time with the candidates, and we had five who were willing and able to do so,” added Father Peschel. “They came on the Saturday afternoon and spent about an hour-and-a-half sharing their experiences and feelings with the men in attendance.”
The weekend will take the attendees through various steps of the discernment process.
Father Peschel said he has seen a very encouraging increase in vocation awareness and activity over the last few years, since his ordination to the priesthood in 2014.
“The year before I was ordained, I spoke at a school, and at the time there were only three men in seminary for our diocese,” he said. “Now we have nine and the possibility of adding four or five more next school year. I feel we are heading in the right direction.”
Since Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., arrived in the diocese in 2014, he has made a concerted effort to increase vocation awareness and participation from everyone in the diocese. His order is vocation-driven — the Society of Divine Vocations (the Vocationist Fathers).
“Bishop da Cunha’s focus on fostering vocations has been a great help,” said Father Peschel. “His great support and establishing a Diocesan Vocations Board has been a tremendous encouragement to us. It’s not wasted time reaching out to students and adults. There is hope for the future.”
Father Peschel also gave a big shout-out to the many parish Vocation Teams that have sprouted across the diocese: “There is no coincidence that the increase in the number of seminarians and the increase in the number of faithful lay people praying for vocations. Having organized groups praying for vocations is surely reaping benefits. Last year on the high school Quo Vadis Days we had 40 young men attend. That’s outstanding.”
Since space is very limited, men who are between the ages of 19 and 45 are encouraged to contact Father Peschel as soon as possible. For more information and/or to register, respond to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Father Peschel at 508-398-2248.