There truly are very few places for young adults like myself to come together and discuss our journeys of faith. The young people that commit to Catholic spirituality as a lifelong discernment process, can find the process lonely at times, in addition to the already difficult questioning necessary to this growth. I have shared in the difficulty of finding others who experience this journey, or who can support this commitment to deepening one’s self through faith. Once I became a part of Catholics on Call, this journey has brought me great joy, and has helped me to make some of the most important decisions of my life. I now serve as a Regional Coordinator for Catholics on Call, and I am pleased to be able to offer support to others on a similar path.
Catholics on Call retreatants are young people of college or post-college age who are discerning a call from God. They also come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences of church. The goal of the program is for retreatants to find peers who also want to know more about what it means to be “called” by God. They are seeking to know what possibilities are out there to live a life of service. Participants connect through the use of Scripture, different experiences of prayer, and the shared knowledge of other adults. Then they visit ministry sites in the Chicago area. These young people listen to the stories of pastoral ministers who share about their calls and what led them to their ministries. These mentors, lay or religious men and women who are experienced in giving guidance to young adults, offer their unique perspective both during the retreat and after. Overall, Catholics on Call has gained the trust of many young adults as a “pressure-free” environment in which one can explore his or her vocation.
During the past seven summers (2006-12), Catholics on Call has hosted 381 young adult Catholics, from college age to early thirties and from all around the United States. The young adult conference is a blend of presentations by nationally recognized speakers, guided discussions among the participants, a variety of experiences of prayer and liturgy, visits to ministry sites, and theological reflection on these experiences. After each presentation, participants have the opportunity to discuss the content in their small groups, led by experienced mentors. Each session concludes with a large group sharing and often a questionand answer session with the presenter, followed by time for personal reflection on guiding questions. By the end of the retreat, each participant shares their own plans to move forward in his or her own vocational discernment.
Though the retreat lasts only a few days, it truly is a time of great transition for each participant. The time that I spent together with my own group in 2011 was a chance to take a personal inventory and see where that fits with God’s purpose. By the end, we had not only gained a new perspective, but a set of tools for examining our consciences and the road ahead. A celebratory visit to Navy Pier, a Chicago landmark and beautiful scenic destination, allowed us all to share the joy and growth of our transitions and to mark a new beginning in our lives.
Through Catholics on Call, I have made lifelong friends and mentors, as well as gained deeper insight into myself. This retreat was invaluable in that process. Through the Catholics on Call network, I am able to nurture those connections, and maintain the discernment process well beyond those few days at CTU. The young men and women who attend a Catholics on Call retreat are often and regularly struck by gratitude. How inspiring it is to be newly connected to a group of faithful and compassionate young adults! It is this shared gratitude that made this such an important milestone in my life.