During a weekend discernment retreat held at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, 40 men visit Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston for a panel discussion with a seminarian and two priests. Pilot photo courtesy of Father Michael Harrington
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BRIGHTON — Forty men who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood gathered for a weekend retreat at St. John’s Seminary Feb. 10. The number of men in attendance was the highest it has been in the last five years.
“We were praying and hoping that the Lord would bless this retreat with a good number of men who are interested in discerning the priesthood,” said Father Dan Hennessey, assistant vocation director for the archdiocese.
Father Hennessey said he was excited that so many men chose to spend the weekend discerning their vocations. Most of the men were encouraged by their pastors or college campus ministers to go on the retreat.
“So many men attended because so many men were asked by their pastors and campus ministers, and that’s huge,” he added.
During the retreat the men had many opportunities for prayer, eucharistic adoration and Mass. They also attended four conferences by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley about discerning a vocation.
The archbishop advised the men to find time for regular prayer amid all the distractions of the world. He added that they should also seek spiritual direction from trusted advisors, according to Father Michael Harrington, assistant vocation director for the archdiocese.
The men must open their hearts to God and live His will, unlike the rich young man in the Gospel who is offered discipleship but walks away sad, Father Harrington said.
“If we hear Jesus, if we open our hearts to Jesus and if we receive Jesus’ call, we will never walk away sad,” he said. “The rich young man failed to recognize what Jesus was offering to him. He was calling him to a special discipleship, to walk with Him in a very close way.”
Those who are discerning vocations need to trust in the Lord and be not afraid, he added.
“Sometimes we’re very fearful and uncertain about things in the future, and it prevents us from taking a step. We have to learn not to be afraid, to trust in God and take the steps sometimes that put us out there to hear God’s voice,” he said.
The men on retreat also visited Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston to hear a panel presentation given by a seminarian, a newly ordained priest and a priest of many years, he said. They were able to ask the panel members questions about discernment.
Father Harrington said the weekend stressed that discernment does not end when a man enters the seminary, rather he continues to listen to God’s call while studying.
Many of the men have said that the retreat was a step forward in discernment as well as a powerful and moving experience, Harrington added.
“Some of them said it was one of the best retreats, the best spiritual experiences, they ever had. They’ve had very, very positive comments,” he said.
Several of the men are planning to attend the men’s conference together, said Father Hennessey. The second Boston Catholic Men’s Conference will be held March 4 at the New Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
“The retreat has helped them to get to know each other and plan activities in the future,” he added.