Published April 1, 2004
The call to priesthood or Religious life can sometimes get lost amidst the strident sounds of everyday life.
In an effort to cut through the cacophony, the archdiocesan vocations office hosted a Vocations Fair at the Cathedral of Christ the King on March 20.
Archdiocesan priests and members of men’s religious orders, as well as women Religious, were on hand for the fair, which began with Mass celebrated by Father Brian Higgins, vocations director.
A diverse crowd of young and old, men and women, gathered in a small section of the Cathedral’s parish hall for the Mass, which capped off Vocations Awareness Week in the archdiocese.
“All throughout the week, I have been going into various schools and hopefully planting seeds,” Father Higgins said in his homily. “We all have a calling, and one thing I have learned is that young kids seem to be more understanding that we all have a calling and that God calls us to something special.”
Each person is created by God to do something extraordinary with our lives, he said.
“What’s more extraordinary than bringing people closer to Christ?” he said. “I love my vocation. I am blessed and I know it—to wake up every day and say that I am a priest, to bring you all the body of Christ. I come from a loving and faithful family and now I am part of a bigger one.”
With the example given by priests and Religious serving in the Archdiocese of Atlanta to young people, Father Higgins said he is surprised that they are not arriving at the vocations office in droves.
“We are surrounded by good and holy priests and nuns. You look at them and you see the joy on their faces,” he said. “And you wonder, ‘Why aren’t (young people) lined up around the block?’”
Throughout the parish center, the walls were covered with posters made by elementary and middle school students from Catholic schools in the archdiocese. In a contest sponsored by the Serra Club of Northwest Atlanta, students in two categories—grades one through four, and grades five through eight—created posters with a vocations theme. Father Higgins presented the winners at the end of the Mass.
The two first-place winners—Mitchell Hogan of Christ the King School, Atlanta, for the upper grades, and Avery McKenna, St. Thomas More School, Decatur, for the lower grades—each won $100. Their artwork will also be made into professional posters for the archdiocesan vocations office.
Second-place winners, who received $50, were Danny Guidot for the upper grades and John Barton for the lower grades. Both attend Christ the King School.
Third-place winners, who received $25, were Mack Gregory, St. Joseph School, Athens, for the upper grades, and Camila Marciales, from St. Joseph School, Marietta, for the lower grades.
After Mass, participants walked around the parish hall, where the archdiocese and several orders of priests, brothers and sisters had set up informational booths.
Black and white helium balloons that read “Pray to follow Christ’s call” flew aloft throughout the room, as members answered questions for those interested in their congregations.
Tyrel Lewis, 16, a high school sophomore who attends St. Vincent de Paul Church in Dallas, said he attended the vocations fair because he is “open to the idea of becoming a priest.”
“You never know what you’re called to do, but I don’t want to wait around forever if this is what God is calling me to,” he said.
Ray Eldridge, 17, a high school junior from St. Matthew’s Church in Winder, said he is considering a priestly vocation. He came to the fair to find out more about what he might be “getting into.”
“My friends are very supportive of me,” he said. “I’m willing to pursue this if that’s where God is leading me.”
Sister Lucy Hitchcock, OP, who serves at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta, came to represent her order and said that it can sometimes be hard, especially for women, to find information about the various orders.
“It’s really important that people get a chance to get information and facts. Even if someone is just vaguely interested, you have to have the information,” she said.
She said that when she first felt called to Religious life over 17 years ago, it was difficult, as she knew few other sisters and had to make a big effort to get information.
“I had a hard time, I had to do all the work and all the driving,” she said.
“It’s a little easier now with the Internet, but it’s better if you can at least meet a person and talk to someone about their order,” she said.
The Vocations Fair also featured a priests’ panel and sisters’ panel, where archdiocesan and order priests and Religious fielded questions from participants.