From December 17, to the 22nd, three young men spent six days in prayer and meditation at the Oblate’s La Parra Center near Sarita, Texas. The occasion was the Oblate Discernment Retreat designed for individuals who are seriously considering religious life. The Vocation Director for the U.S. Province, Fr. Victor Patricio-Silva, OMI, explained it this way, “This is a retreat that I do only for discerners that are seriously considering an Oblate vocation. So that they can have the time and space to go deeper into their discernment. These three men have been discerning with the Oblates for more than six months.”
The three men all hail from Texas, one is from Houston, another from San Antonio and the third is from Corpus Christi. They chose to spend nearly a week in this remote part of Texas in order to better be able to hear that, “still, small voice” they feel may be calling them to religious life.
Fr. Victor described some of the activities the men participate in: “We meditate every day about one of the different calls in the Bible. The first day is The Call of Moses, the second, Call of Samuel, next the Call of Isaiah, the call of Jeremiah and finally the Call of the First Disciples of Jesus. The men are encouraged to meditate on these Biblical stories: how is their call similar to the one in the Bible? How is it different?
“Then each day a different Oblate relates his own vocation story to the men. Again, the discerners are asked to think about the stories they’ve heard, to pray about them, and reflect on the similarities and differences they have experienced.”
Just before lunch there is a daily Mass, then after lunch the men have the afternoon for prayer and reflection. Just before dinner there is evening prayer, and after dinner an hour of Eucharistic Adoration.
In addition to their interaction with Fr. Victor, the discerners have contact with the local Oblates who celebrate the Masses, provide spiritual direction, relate their personal stories and interact with them at mealtimes. Oblate Fathers David Ullrich, James Taggart, Robert Leising, Roger Bergkamp, and James Chambers represent a treasure-trove of missionary experience to share with the men. In addition to the Oblates living at La Parra, Fr. Andrew Sensenig often visits from nearby Sarita, where he is Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.
At the end of the retreat. one of the young men decided to begin the application process for entering the Oblate Formation program. Fr. Victor feels that having 6 or 7 days with young men in discernment is very beneficial to his own ability to get to know the young men, and to see their motivation. The men speak of the silence at La Parra, how it allows them get away from the noise of our modern society and listen to the call.
The La Parra Center is comprised of what was formerly the main house of the Kenedy family Ranch. The house and 1,000 acres were bequeathed to the Missionary Oblates upon the death of Sarita Kenedy East in 1961. Since then it has been used by the Oblates as a novitiate and retreat house. It’s surrounded by nature and borders the Gulf of Mexico.
Fr. Victor feels it is a good place for discerners: “You have only space with God. La Parra is the perfect place to do a discernment retreat, the participants can isolate themselves to pray and meditate in the silence of nature.”
Fr. Victor has several more Vocation events coming in the near future: There is a “Come and See” weekend January 20-22 in San Antonio, TX for those thinking they might be called to religious life. Fr. Victor will have an exhibit at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California in late February and in March he’ll be at a Vocation Fair in Bismark, ND. Anyone interested in one of these events or for more information is invited to call toll-free, (800) 358-4394, or visit www.omiusa.org.