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Vocations Day helps young people in Diocese of Wilmington focus on call from God

Father Richard Jasper at Vocations Day on Nov. 6, 2019. Photo for The Dialog/Kathryn Mancuso
DOVER — You can learn a lot from “Simon Says.”
Hundreds of Catholic students, who gathered for the annual Vocations Day at Holy Cross Church on Nov. 6, began their day with blessings and prayers, before a spirited game of Simon Says led by a very enthusiastic Father Richard Jasper.
Seminarians, from left, Brooks Jensen, Brennan Ferris, Peter Schirmer and James Gebhart take part in “Simon says” led by Father Richard Jasper, associate director of vocations for the diocese and associate pastor at St. Ann’s Parish in Wilmington, at Vocations Day in Dover. Photo for The Dialog/Kathryn Mancuso

Father Jasper told the sixth-grade students from throughout the Diocese of Wilmington that we are all called to be saints. He then played the well-known participation game to show how we can do that.

Soon, the hundreds of students had dropped to only a small handful of kids left standing and listening intently as Father Jasper told them to put their hands on their heads, their shoulders or their knees. “Simon Says, ‘Go like this,’” he said, striking a dance pose from “Saturday Night Fever.”
To fulfill that mission to be saints, he said we must all listen, just like in Simon Says. We must listen to God, listen in prayer and listen to those who love and care for us.
Seminarian James Gebhart at Vocations Day on Nov. 6, 2019. Father Richard Jasper at Vocations Day on Nov. 6, 2019. Photo for The Dialog/Kathryn Mancuso

Secondly, we should realize that sometimes we get it wrong and need to sit down, just like the students in church who were fooled by the fast-paced game. That means we must be honest with ourselves, he said.

Third, we must not be afraid to be different. “I watched you,” he said. “You all looked like fools.”
That’s not a bad thing, he said. He explained that as Christians, we are often told we are at odds with the world, that we must live differently. “When the world says to hate, we say to love … When the world says it is all about money, we say that it is all about other people,” he said.
The world may proclaim Christians to be fools, but we should not be afraid to be different or be branded as foolish, he said.
The game helped to begin the Vocations Day, a low-pressure annual field trip to introduce students to possible paths within the church. They get to ask questions, play games, listen to speakers and learn a little more about a religious life.
The lobby at Holy Cross included cutouts of figures dressed as priests, brothers and sisters. Students could stick their heads through the cardboard cutouts and find themselves in priestly garb or a coarse brown robe worn by a brother.
Vocations Awareness Day began with Bishop Malooly. “Bless your church by raising up dedicated and generous leaders from our families and friends who will serve your people as priests, sisters, brothers and deacons. Inspire us as we grow to know you and open our heart to hear your call. We ask this in Jesus name,” the bishop said.
“We pray for all priests, deacons, religious women and brothers that they continue to serve, teach and minister to the people of God with zeal and love. … We pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life,” the reader said. “We pray for young women and men who are discerning a religious vocation, and for those students present today, that God may guide their choice of vocation.”
Students were separated into three groups of angels, saints and apostles. They rotated throughout the morning, either listening and asking questions of priests, seminarians and sisters, playing “Vocation Jeopardy!” or breaking for an early lunch.
Students who questioned the priests, sisters and seminarians, lined up to ask questions, many of them expected. They were asked what they liked most, if they could wear regular clothes, what they studied and when they went to seminary.
Some questions were a little more unexpected. “When did you get your call and what did it feel like?” asked one student.
A priest on the panel answered that “Paul had that blinding light. But mine was more like a dimmer switch,” he said to laughter.
He explained that it wasn’t a dramatic moment, but a growing peace and conviction which gradually guided his journey to become a Catholic priest.
Students also got to break into groups to play “Vocation Jeopardy!” They chose answers worth up to 500 points as their classmates cheered them on. Bonus points were given for the group which could name the number of Commandments and Beatitudes and correctly spell Franciscan. Answers ranged from vows to monks as the students were quizzed on the seven sacraments.