By Tony DeGol
The annual Bishop’s Night for Vocations puts great focus on the youth and helping them realize their true vocation in life.
This year’s guest speaker had a great message for them, but also crucial advice for the adults in the room.
“Live your faith,” Greg Schwietz urged the parents. “The home is the first seminary. It’s the first convent. It models Holy Marriage. All the great things that we think of as vocations are modeled in the family, modeled between the mom and the dad, modeled with the way they love each other and the way they love their children.”
The Catholic faith, Schwietz contended, must be about more than just going to Mass on Sunday and saying grace before meals, especially in a day and age when religion seems to take a back seat in a secular world.
“The home is where we create the holy and sacred places where young people learn about their faith, ask the tough questions, and are given good answers,” he reminded.
A resident of Omaha, Nebraska, Schwietz is the Immediate Past President of the USA Council of the Serra Club – a global organization of lay Catholics that promotes and fosters vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.
The Cambria County chapter of the Serra Club is the sponsor of the Bishop’s Night for Vocations, along with the diocesan Office of Vocations. Bishop Mark L. Bartchak serves as host.
The Cambria County Serrans invited Schwietz to headline the 2019 BNFV when he visited Johnstown last summer.
Held on May 10 at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg, the theme was “Open Your Heart to Respond to the Call of God.” It was inspired by the relic heart of Saint John Vianney, which was present at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in January as part of a national pilgrimage tour.
Students from Catholic schools and religious education programs were invited to design posters and write essays or poems based on the theme. The winners were recognized at the event.
In his talk, Schwietz highlighted three heroic people who answered the call of God.
Saint Junipero Serra, after whom the Serra Club is named, was a Franciscan missionary from Spain. Despite the obstacles he faced in becoming a priest, “he persisted, and he heard that call in his heart,” Schwietz said.
Saint Joan of Arc, he continued, is recognized as a heroine in France for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War. She did not express fear because she realized that God was calling her for the mission.
A third role model is none other than the Blessed Mother, who, of course, answered the call of God to be the Mother of Jesus.
“Our own Blessed Mary said ‘yes.’” Schwietz reminded. “God invites, you listen to Him, his invitation, and then you can say, ‘I am not afraid, I was made for this.’”
Bishop Mark offered words of encouragement based on his exchanges with youth during this Confirmation season.
“Every Confirmation this year, at least one, and in many cases multiple young men asked me questions about discerning a vocation to the priesthood for our diocese,” the Bishop reported.
He continues to pray for those young hearts to be open to the Lord’s call in the spirit of Saint John Vianney.
“There are signs that the Holy Spirit is alive and present among us,” Bishop Mark stressed. “Please do not hesitate to be proactive in inviting young people to think about it and talk about it. All of us can have the opportunity to foster vocations. Spread the word, and don’t hesitate to encourage all young people.”
Another great moment of the Bishop’s Night for Vocations was the Serra Club presentation of the second annual Holy Spirit Award. The award recognizes an inspiring young individual who embodies the Catholic spirit.
The 2019 honoree is Jenna Stofko, a senior at Bishop McCort Catholic High School.
“As long as you pray to God and trust in Him, he will guide you along the right path and you’ll make the right choices,” Stofko assured.
[Photos: (from top) Bishop Mark poses with various award winners; Vocations Director Father Matthew Reese, Greg Schwietz, Cambria County Serra Club President Barbara Bartkovich, and Bishop Mark; Bartkovich and Bishop Mark with Holy Spirit Award winner Jenna Stofko. Below are photos of the winners of the poster, poetry, and essay contests.]