Some were simply curious to learn more. Some already knew they have a calling to serve.
“I wanted to come and meet the priests, to see how they work, what they do,” said 15-year-old Billy Stocker, a parishioner of Queen of the Apostles in Belmont.
Billy was among the 60 male high school and college students who gathered with the bishop, priests and seminarians of the Diocese of Charlotte for a Day of Discernment at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Gastonia, N.C. on Aug. 5.
The daylong event allowed the young men to interact and ask questions of the clergy and seminarians to discern what God is asking of their lives and to explore their possible callings to the priesthood.
In addition to attending Mass celebrated by Bishop Peter J. Jugis, the young men spent the day in prayer, Eucharistic adoration and talks with the priests and seminarians.
The day also included sports, games and a panel discussion with a question-and-answer session about life in the priesthood and seminary.
Billy said he has always had a calling toward the priesthood.
“I want to help people and help people get closer to God,” he said.
“Discernment day allows young Catholic men to realize that the call to the priesthood is a real possibility for them,” said Father Christopher Gober, pastor of St. Lucien Church in Spruce Pine and St. Bernadette Mission in Linville and vocations director for the Diocese of Charlotte.
“The day gives them a context to see other men are thinking about it as well,” he said.
“They realize they aren’t the only ones thinking about a calling to the priesthood,” said Father Benjamin Roberts, parochial vicar of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Greensboro.
Father Roberts, who was ordained in June, has attended every discernment day since 2005 and was on hand to talk to the participants about life as a newly ordained priest.
“It’s been wonderful … more amazing than I thought it would be,” he said.
Discernment day, said Father Gober, allows young men to see “that the priesthood is a joyful life.”
“I’ve been thinking about the priesthood for a year,” said 19-year-old Josh Herman, a parishioner of St. Dorothy Church in Lincolnton.
“I wanted to come and get a better understanding of what I may be getting myself into,” he said with a smile.
“The joy,” said Father Roberts, “is seeing young men come to discernment day and then enter the seminary a few years later.”
Wendell Sawyer was one of those young men. The 20-year-old attended last year’s discernment day and is now attending St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania.
“All the signs pointed to the priesthood,” he said. “Discernment day jolts people out of their comfortable surroundings and makes them think about the priesthood more seriously.”
Bishop of Charlotte, Peter Jugis said he believed there were some future priests in the recent group.
“I was happy to spend the day with these young people who are exploring the idea of a call to the priesthood,” said the bishop.
“Every day I pray a rosary specifically for our seminarians, and for all the young people of our diocese who are exploring the idea of priesthood or religious life,” he said.
Printed with permission from The Catholic News & Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C.