Priests and Religious Help Catholic High School Students Respond to God’s Call


By Tony DeGol

The sounds were as harmonious as any from the great parish musicians throughout the diocese, but the gathering was anything but a choir practice.

   Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Singing and dissecting those words from the familiar song The Summons, a group of religious sisters invited teenage girls to truly consider how the Lord is summoning them, and what their response will be.

It was just one of many thought-provoking moments recently as Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School in Altoona sponsored a vocations day and welcomed various priests and religious to spend time with students and answer their vocation questions and any other questions on their mind.

   Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

“We had priests and religious who were always wanting to get to know young people better, and we had young people always asking questions about religious life, so I thought we could put the two together in a relaxed setting so they can really get to know each other,” explained Bob Sutton, BGCHS Campus Minister. “Our vocations day is really an opportunity to do that.”

Besides the Guilfoyle students who opted to participate, a group of students from Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown also took advantage of the opportunity.

“I’m really hoping that they understand that becoming part of the religious life is not something that needs to be foreign to them,” noted Michelle Rivetti, McCort Campus Minister. “To see the sisters here and the joy that is on their face, I just want them to take that home with them.”

That joy did, in fact, seem contagious.

Representatives from the Sisters of Saint Ann in Ebensburg, the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Cresson, and the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth were present to engage the students. Two priests from the Sacred Heart Province of the Third Order Regular Franciscans were on hand, along with Father Peter Crowe, Pastor of Saint Andrew Parish in Johnstown and Diocesan Director of Vocations.

Students broke into small groups to connect with the priests and religious and ask questions. Later, all the female students gathered with the sisters while the male students spent time with the priests.

Everyone then gathered for Mass, celebrated by Father James Puglis, TOR, of Saint Francis University and concelebrated by Father Crowe.

“God is not limited to audible words,” Father Puglis assured the young people in his homily. “God is deeper, God is stronger, God is more profound than any single word or audible thing He can say to you. Sometimes God’s silence is deeper than anything He could say that we understand. In the same way, when we pray, it doesn’t even need to be words. Sometimes it could just be a thought or a feeling. That, itself, is the beginning of prayer. There is nothing that we could hold back that God would not receive as a prayer.”

   Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

The students who participated walked away with a better understanding of the life of those in ordained and consecrated life and how to better discern their own vocation in life. They also learned more about the beauty of the Catholic faith.

“I think it’s kind of hard to start considering the religious life if you don’t even know what they do,” commented Damek Shontofski, BMCHS senior. “To get to talk with them and understand better what it’s like to live that life, it makes it a whole lot more real. I definitely appreciated this opportunity.”

Hien Mguyen, a junior at Guilfoyle described the experience as awesome.

“This helped me improve my faith and get to know more about priests and sisters and their experiences and struggles, and how to get closer to God,” she added.

   Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

For any young person weighing his or her true vocation in life, Sutton offered a word of advice: prayer.

“The more we enter into a relationship with God, the more it becomes a two-way conversation,” he insisted. “It isn’t a matter of Him imposing a call on them, and it’s not a matter of them choosing something they think God wants. It really has to come down to a conversation between two friends, between two people who honestly love each other and trust each other to follow the right path. If it opens and ends with prayer, everything that comes in between is going to fit very nicely.”

That, indeed, sounds like beautiful music.

   Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

Editor’s Note: For more on the Vocations Day at Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School and special messages from some of the priests and religious who participated, watch Proclaim! TV on November 7 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23, which marks the start of National Vocations Awareness Week.

[Photos: (Top) Participating students and some of the priests and religious. (First Inset) Two Sisters of Saint Ann chat with students. (Second Inset) Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Vocations Director Father Peter Crowe answers questions. (Third Inset) A light moment with two Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth. (Fourth Inset) Sister Mary Joseph Calore of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus shares a story. (Fifth Inset) Students listen to two Third Order Regular Franciscan priests. (Sixth Inset) Father James Puglis, TOR, celebrates Mass with Father Peter Crowe concelebrating.]

“The Summons” written by John L. Bell & Graham Maule