Interview with Vocation Director, Fr. Richard Hall, OMI by Will Shaw
Seven young men spent the weekend of June 23-26 in San Antonio with two Oblate Fathers and two Oblate seminarians in order to get a glimpse of Oblate life as they seek to determine if God is calling them to religious life.
According to Oblate Vocations Director, Fr. Richard Hall, these “’Come and See’ weekends are designed to: “Help young men discern a call to religious life as a priest or brother. It’s for them to see actual on-going ministries so they can get a picture of what Oblate life is all about. “
The men who attended included three from the San Antonio area, one from Tyler, TX, and another who came all the way from Los Angeles, CA. Their ages ranged from 23 to 36.
While the weekend was overseen by Fr. Hall and Fr. Art Flores, the seven “aspirants” were actually led by the two seminarians, Brian Bernhardt and Alejandro Alvarado. The seminarians prepared the talks they gave the men, along with the masses and morning prayers, but mostly, they spent time with the visitors. Fr. Hall says the aspirants can readily connect with the seminarians who are about the same age, and are also still in their discernment process. The young men feel comfortable asking the seminarians questions such as, “What’s it really like to live in Oblate formation?”
This year the aspirants had the opportunity for hands-on participation in outreach to the homeless. The Oblate Associates from San Juan de los Lagos Parish provide lunches and clothing to the homeless on a monthly basis, their outreach day happened to coincide with the “Come and See” weekend so the visitors packed the lunches and prepared the clothes for handing out at a local Church where other groups gather to provide for the homeless at the same time.
According to Fr. Hall: “They really did the work, we didn’t want them to just stand around and hand out the lunches, we wanted them to have a genuine experience of ministry.”
Later, the whole group drove down to the Texas-Mexico border to visit Our Lady of Refuge, Our lady of Lourdes, St. Joseph’s Parish and to attend the 50th Anniversary Celebration Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in Eagle Pass, TX. We also visited Fr. Isidore Garcia at Immaculate Conception Parish on Sunday. Fr. Garcia’s homily focused on Jesus’ words, “Follow Me,” explaining the difference between following Jesus, and doing what Jesus asks of us. Fr. Hall said, “I was watching them during the homily and you could see in their faces that it was an impactful message.”
After mass, and throughout the weekend, the young men experienced people approaching them to say, “We are praying for you, we need priests.” Witnessing this, Fr. Hall said, “You could tell that the men realized, “Hey this is not just about me and my journey, these people are praying for me because they know I’m discerning.”
That is what “Come and See” is all about: discernment and giving the aspirants more information to throw into “their cooking pot, as Fr. Hall calls it. “We help young men discern whether they have a call to religious life as a priest or brother, it’s for them to see actual, on-going ministries get a picture of missionary life. They participate in community prayer, mass, talking with Oblates and hearing their stories, anything we can give them to add to their cooking pot and enrich their ‘stew’ of experiences to provide clarity regarding whether God is calling them to religious life, diocesan priesthood, or marriage.”
After the weekend, what’s next? For the young men who consent, there is continued contact and follow up with Fr. Hall. “It’s not just something they come to, then leave and we wait to hear from them. If they agree, we maintain contact. In fact, I’ve already had a call from one of them asking for more information about the application process and the academics. For me, that’s a sign that something positive went on.
For more information about the Oblate Formation program, visit the Vocations Page or call the Vocations Office: 1-800-358-4394
At Immaculate Conception Parish, (L-R) Fr. Isidore (Izzy) Garcia, OMI, Mateusz Garstecki, Augustus Akadoluu, John Marchetti, Lazaro Leal, Joey Ibarra, Jose Calderon, Brian Bernhardt, Alejandro Calderon, Alex Cruz.