By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
La GRANGE, Ky. — About a dozen young men gathered for an evening of discernment and discussion with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz at Immaculate Conception Church on Nov. 16.
The event was the last in a series of “St. Andrew Dinners” sponsored by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office. About 25 people, including priests and pastors, attended the first dinner Nov. 2 at St. Gabriel Church and nearly 30 people attended the second dinner on Nov. 14 at St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky.
The young men were invited to the event by their pastors or by someone at their church or school who thought they might have a priestly vocation, explained Carrie Williamson, associate director for vocations. The intimate setting is designed to foster discussion and fellowship in a low-key atmosphere, she said.
The evening began with vespers and Benediction, where Father Anthony Chandler, pastor of Immaculate Conception, told those gathered that both the Eucharist and the priesthood were born during the Last Supper.
“The two sacraments of Eucharist and holy orders are so closely linked because, without the priesthood, you would have no Eucharist and certainly at the Last Supper we were born as priests,” he said.
Father Chandler also said it’s important to pray for vocations and support priests and seminarians “so the church may never be lacking for priests.”
Following the service, the young men attended a meal and presentation in the adjacent Bethany Hall.
Father Michael Wimsatt, director of the Vocation Office, noted that the dinner is named for St. Andrew because in the Gospel according to St. John, St. Andrew was the first called by the Lord to be a disciple.
“He in turn goes to his brother Simon Peter and says, ‘we have found the Messiah,’ and he brings him to encounter Jesus,” Father Wimsatt explained.
Father Wimsatt said the priests attending the dinner are like St. Andrew because they “have had an experience of the Lord and want to share it with someone else, to invite someone else into this friendship with God.” Those who attended included Father Michael Tobin, pastor of the Church of the Annunciation in Shelbyville, Ky.; Father Chris Lubecke, associate pastor of Holy Trinity Church; Father Chandler and Archbishop Kurtz.
Archbishop Kurtz acknowledged that the young men in attendance may have wondered why they were invited to the discernment dinner.
“There is some quality that a priest or parent or someone in your school saw and said, ‘There is something there that you ought
to at least hear about this wonderful vocation to the priesthood.’
“Every one of you has a vocation,” the archbishop said. “It’s a matter of uncovering God’s plan in your life. Not all of you will have a vocation to become a priest.”
Archbishop Kurtz recounted a story from high school when he told a priest the that he already knew he was going to the seminary to become a priest. The archbishop said the priest told him in response, “ ‘No, you are going away to see if God wants you to become a priest.’
“What I learned from that was this word discernment,” the archbishop said. “What the church is saying is (that) this is an opportunity for people, especially those who might have an inkling” that they might want to enter into religious life, to “discern” if that inkling is real and substantial.
“Someone has said … that you have the qualities that will likely make you to be a good priest. You have the opportunity to discern,” he said.
The group watched two short video clips — one called “Heroic Priesthood,” produced by Father Robert Barron (rector of the Mundelein Seminary), and one on Pope Francis in which the pope shares his thoughts about vocations.
In the video of Pope Francis, the pontiff is asked what he would say to a young boy who feels called to the priesthood.
He replies that the boy must let Jesus look at him because it is Jesus who is calling him, not another priest or the bishop or the pope.
“It is Jesus looking at him with love, showing him the people, showing him the need of the people of God, and saying to him ‘If you wish; help me,’ ” Pope Francis said in reply.
Following the videos, the young men participated in a guided discussion with the priests and the archbishop. Their discussion topics included: Why might someone think I am called to be a priest? What do I think I would enjoy most about being a priest?
What do I think would be the biggest challenge?
At the close of the evening, the students received information about discernment, seminaries and prayer cards.