DOVER — It might be difficult to imagine 11- or 12-year-olds pondering a life in vocations.
Unless you spent the morning Nov. 7 with 525 sixth graders for Vocations Awareness Day at Holy Cross church.
Every sixth-grader in 17 Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wilmington made the trek to Holy Cross to get some first-hand insight into what can call a person to vocations.
Sister William Adele, assistant superintendent of schools for the diocese, coordinated the program that included priests, sisters, deacons, seminarians and Bishop Malooly.
An opening prayer led by the bishop was followed by a lively game of “Simon Says” with its energetic leader, Father Richard Jasper, associate director of vocations for the diocese and associate pastor at St. Ann’s Parish in Wilmington.
“We’re here because every single person in this church was called to do something special,” Father Jasper told the assembly. He says he enjoys the fun of Simon Says, but says it also reminds him a lot of life with God.
He said three elements of vocations overlap with the game — listening, being honest and not being afraid to look like a fool.
“Jesus says sometimes when you follow, the rest of the world will make you look like a fool,” he said, but if you listen, be honest and take a chance on following a calling, you will make a contribution.
“We need good, whole families to make a difference in this world. But some are being called. Be yourself. Use your talents and it will make a difference in the world.”
Father Jasper encouraged the youngsters to seek the help of the Blessed Mother and the saints.
“Just like they did,” he said, “so are we called to do. You are called to be holy. Go out and make a difference in Jesus’s name.”
The children transitioned to separate breakout sessions during the program. They heard from people currently in vocations, including 11 current seminarians in the diocese, and took part in question-and-answer sessions.
The schoolkids heard from Sister Colleen Gibson, who works at a neighborhood social services center run by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Camden, N.J.
She described working in the business world when she realized she was meant for something different.
“You have to take a step forward,” she said. “I started to listen, started to do some service on the weekends.”
She said she confided in a priest that she thought she was meant to be a sister, even though she had never even met a sister.
“I told him I think I might be more like them. I think I’m called to be in the service of God. I feel more like myself.”
Father Norman Carroll is diocesan director of vocations and pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish in Wilmington. He said as a young man he was working full-time and volunteering at church.
“People told me I looked happy in service. ‘You like this church stuff.’ I finally said ‘I’m going to do this.’
“Look at all the gifts that you have,” Father Carroll said, “and see how you can use them.”
Gabe Weston is a St. John the Beloved parishioner and freshman at the College Seminary of Immaculate Conception at Seton Hall University. During the Q&A, he fielded a question from 11-year-old Tyler Sinko of Christ the Teacher school. “What is most difficult about pursuing vocations?”
“Balancing work with what I do. I have to be a student and learn how to be a priest at the same time,” he said. “And some days I just don’t feel like getting out of bed.”
Included in the day’s program was a “JeoPARODY” game, a play off of the game show “Jeopardy!” Students were provided “answers” but in the days leading up to the event teachers helped students learn definitions to the answers.