By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published August 30, 2013
Late night noise isn’t unusual when several dozen teens get together.
But how about solving the problem?
Praying the rosary together is unusual.
That’s one way that Joseph Ndoum, 15, who attends St. Francis of Assisi Church, Cartersville, knew a weekend retreat hosted by the Atlanta Archdiocese’s Vocations Office was a unique experience.
“It may not sound like it, but it was pretty incredible for me to see what simple prayer could achieve. I always think about that moment when I pray for other people now because it showed me that prayer can truly transform people, if we are sincere in it,” he said.
This retreat was part of a new effort by the Vocations Office to reach teenage boys as they approach crossroads about college and other milestones to encourage them to think about their future. A similar program for teenaged girls is in the planning stages.
Another new program is called the “Andrew Dinner,” named after the disciple who introduced apostles to Jesus. Recently, 20 priests invited 60 young men to evening prayer and a barbecue dinner at the home of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
The retreat took place in late July at Woodland Christian Camp in Temple. Nearly three dozen high school teenagers from throughout the archdiocese participated.
A new vocations initiative, the “Andrew Dinner” brought 20 priests and 60 men the priests think might consider the priesthood to a barbecue Aug. 14 at the home of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. The archbishop told his vocation story and spoke of the qualities needed to become men of God, in whatever vocation.
Organizers called it the “Quo Vadis” retreat. They said the point is to have the high schoolers take stock of their lives and “ask the Lord, where am I going?”
With group activities and talks by local seminarians, the weekend focused on how God calls each person to a specific vocation and how to begin to discern where God is calling individuals.
Teens got a taste of a variety of prayer, from the Liturgy of the Hours and in front of the Eucharist to Mass celebrated with Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama. On Saturday, members of the Knights of Columbus from St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw, cooked barbecue.
Sunny Kim, 16, is a junior at South Forsyth High School and attends Korean Martyrs Church, Doraville. He attended at the suggestion of his altar server director.
Kim said he hoped it would reboot his faith journey and help him look to the future.
He thought he’d be interested in pursuing life as a priest, but the weekend revealed he has another vocation.
“The event has inspired confidence within me to think more and do more in my life and pursue what I believe is the best for me,” he said.
“It allowed me to think deeper and change into a person that God and I would want me to become,” he said.
Ndoum, who is in his school’s drama club at Cartersville High School and volunteers at his parish’s Vacation Bible School, has found himself praying more since the retreat.
To his surprise, the retreat was broader than just talking to the men about becoming priests.
“I think any young man, even one who wasn’t considering the priesthood, would benefit from going to this retreat. It isn’t just about becoming a priest, it’s about how to best answer God’s call and how to be a Christian man,” he said.
Wil Donohue, 17, is a senior at Flowery Branch High School and attends Prince of Peace Church. He also spent time in prayer and came away believing he has another vocation besides the priesthood.
He learned that men and others are “always called to be in service.”
“It’s hard to stomach how much work this world needs, but as Christians we are called to go forth anyway,” he said.
And that’s the goal.
Thirty-five young men take part in a July weekend retreat at Woodland Christian Camp in Temple, hosted by the Vocations Office. It was aimed at helping high school age guys pause and reflect on what’s ahead and how better to hear God’s direction for their lives.
Michael Ferrin, associate director of the Vocations Office, said the office is not only focused on leading men toward the priesthood, but also tasked to foster everyone’s “primary call to holiness, which begins with a lived relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer.”
Retreat participants came at a time in their lives when they may face big decisions, he said, and this retreat should have left them with an understanding that God is most interested in calling them to a deeper relationship, whether they are interested in seminary or not.