Interview with Fr. Richard Hall, OMI Photos by Fr. Hall and Irma Noyola
The Missionary Oblates sponsored their latest “Come and See” weekend for potential vocations in Buffalo, NY, October 5-8 at the Bishop Fallon House prenovitiate.
19 young men ranging in age from 21 to 39 came from Illinois, Texas, Missouri, Utah, California and Tennessee for the weekend, joining Oblate Fathers, Richard Hall, Tuan Pham, Harold Fisher, Jesse Esqueda, Alejandro Roque’, James Loiacono, Greg Gallagher, John Staak and Art Flores along with the prenovices for a weekend of prayer, discernment and fun.
Fr. Richard Hall, Vocation Director for the southwest U. S. said, “This was a special group, high-energy, they brought a lot of excitement and joy with them, they left me an a high.” Of the 19, Fr. Hall said 6 of the young men were attending their second Come and See weekend, indicating a higher level of interest in their discernment process.
Arriving on Friday, the visitors spent the first evening with their hosts and the prenovices, chatting and getting to know one another.
Saturday began with Mass, then it was off to St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy Center. The center is located in a former church which has been transformed into an outreach center for the poor and homeless. Lunch and dinner are served daily, and some housing is also available for the homeless and for those dealing with addictions. The men made sandwiches to serve at lunch. They also had the opportunity to visit with the people who came to eat and hear their stories.
Throughout the weekend, between presentations and activities, the visitors were encouraged to connect with the Oblates and prenovices with questions and concerns about their personal discernment process. “The prenovices connected very well with the visitors, ” said Fr. Hall. “Part of the reason is the prenovices and visitors were very close in age so they had lots in common. One said he stayed up till 2 am Saturday night just talking. The prenovices really opened their doors to the candidates.”
On Sunday, the visitors could choose to attend a Parish mission mass at one of a few different churches. Most went to Our Lady of Hope where Oblate Father, Greg Gallagher is pastor, and Oblate Fathers Francisco Gomez and Humphrey Milimo are parochial Vicars. Our Lady of Hope is a multi-ethnic parish serving a large community of Burmese immigrants, African-Americans, and others from the Buffalo area. A highlight of the liturgy was an outstanding children’s choir.
After Mass they had an “Emmaus Walk,” where the visitors walked with prenovices, talking, asking questions, learning about Oblates and Oblate formation. “It also gives the visitors an opportunity to see how they encountered Jesus during their time in Buffalo, “said Fr. Hall. Monday it was back home, except for a few who stayed another day in order to visit nearby Niagara Falls.
Fr. Hall expressed great satisfaction with the weekend and the group, some of whom have already committed to begin the application process for admittance to Oblate formation. What does he look for in a potential candidate? “I want to see a sincere candidate, a prayerful candidate, mature, that they are truly seeking God’s role for them. I also like to see a young man who’s fun, practical and down to earth.”
When asked what sort of questions the discerners ask him on these weekends, Fr. Hall responded, “They ask practical questions about the program, do Oblates wear habits? how do you interact with the poor? what colleges would they attend? how many hours of philosophy would they need? How do Oblates live in community? how do they pray? etc.”
The big question of course, is how and when does one know that God is indeed calling them to religious life? Here’s what Fr. Hall tells them: “When you finally come to peace.” You’ll know when you’re there. It doesn’t mean you have all the answers; it just means you’re at peace with the decision.” Hopefully, some of these young men are feeling a profound sense of peace.
The next Oblate “Come and See” Weekend will be held January 18-20, 2019 in San Antonio.