Two vocational discernment events soon to take place on campus

Each academic year, the Congregation of Holy Cross hosts a men’s undergraduate discernment retreat. Likewise, Campus Ministry sponsors a Women’s Vocation Fair for female students discerning a religious vocation.

This year, the men’s retreat will be held at Moreau Seminary on campus from 4 p.m. on Friday, October 30, to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 1. The Women’s Vocation Fair will take place on the first floor of the LaFortune Student Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, November 2.

According to the Congregation of Holy Cross Vocation website, “As the call to priesthood and religious life often first comes to us as an inkling, a restlessness, a nagging thought in the back of our minds and hearts that just won’t go away, it is not always easy to determine if it is a flight of fancy or a call from God.”

The weekend away to reflect and discern one’s vocation might be useful to men considering religious life and/or the priesthood.

Father Neil Wack, CSC, Director of Vocations, shared information about the retreat with the Rover.

“The retreat is for undergraduates at Notre Dame, Holy Cross College, and elsewhere who are in various stages of discernment,” Fr. Wack said. “There are talks about the charism and the spirituality of the Congregation of Holy Cross and our founder, Blessed Basil Moreau, and also help on how to discern and pray with Mary (in this month of the rosary).”

He continued, “We should also have a panel discussion with current seminarians who will talk about what life is like in the seminary, and answer questions from the retreatants. Of course, much of the time will be spent in prayer, alone and in community.”

Jimmy Henke, a second-year seminarian in Old College studying theology and philosophy, shared with the Rover how the weekend helped him to discern his vocation and eventually apply to Old College.

“The weekend at Moreau gave me a time and space away from the busyness of the semester. … I had the opportunity for silent prayer and reflection as well as talking with other men who were in a similar position as I was,” he said.

“By the time I had decided to attend this retreat, I was already seriously considering applying to Old College. The retreat allowed me to experience a little bit of what life in Holy Cross might look like down the road,” Henke added. “I did not know with complete certainty that God was calling me to apply to Old College following the retreat, but I felt a certain peace in regards to the decision.”

Henke also offered some practical advice to any young man who is considering the seminary. “Where God is calling us may draw us out of our comfort zones, but where he is calling us will give us peace. I would suggest asking the questions: ‘when I am at peace with myself, where does my heart rest?’”

Similarly, the vocation fair might be helpful to women considering religious life. Sister Maria Gemma Salyer, OSF, Assistant Director of Vocations for her religious order, the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration from Mishawaka, described the fair to the Rover.

“We tried to have a variety of orders represented. There will be Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Holy Cross, Little Sisters of the Poor, Sisters of St. Joseph, and many other communities. I think there will be around 17 orders represented,” she said.

“The fair will be a good opportunity for young women to get to meet and talk with sisters from various religious communities, without having to travel further than LaFortune,” Sr. Salyer continued. “The sisters will attend Sunday vespers at 7:15 p.m. in the Basilica followed by a social for anyone on campus who would like to join in the first floor lounge in Coleman-Morse Center. On Monday the vocation fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the McNeill room in the LaFortune Student Center. There will be another social Monday evening at 8 p.m. for another chance to get to meet the sisters and have a screening of the film, For Love Alone, put out by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR).”

Reba Luffy, a junior studying honors math and theology, shared with the Rover how the fair helped her to think about her vocation last year.

“Growing up I have only encountered a few religious sisters from one or two orders,” Luffy said. “At the vocations fair I met sisters who were both active and contemplative. There were sisters of all ages and backgrounds and they all wore different types of habits. It helped me to see the variety of ways in which we could serve as a religious sister and that no two sisters had the same story.”

Luffy offered some advice to any young woman interested in attending the fair. “‘Be not afraid.’ Going to the vocations fair does not mean you are suddenly required to become a nun. Pray about the fair beforehand, and try to go in with an open mind. If you can, think of some questions you might have before going and then talk to the sisters about them while you’re there.”

Father Wack and Sr. Salyer both emphasized how important it is to attend daily Mass and receive the sacraments as frequently as possible, especially while discerning the priesthood or religious life. Talking to a vocation director, a pastor, or someone in Campus Ministry can also be very helpful because they provide some tools one needs to discern well.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is famously quoted as having said to the young people gathered in Madrid on the anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s death in 2012, “Each of you has a personal vocation which He has given you for your own joy and sanctity. When a person is conquered by the fire of His gaze, no sacrifice seems too great to follow Him and give Him the best of ourselves. This is what the saints have always done, spreading the light of the Lord … and transforming the world into a welcoming home for everyone.”

Alex Slavsky is a junior theology and philosophy major living in Knott Hall. He is immensely thankful for all the wonderful discernment opportunities on campus. He can be contacted at