Steppin’ Right gives youth introduction to vocations

By | June 24, 2009



Sr. Mary Jane Spanjers, vocations director for the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc, listens to a talk with participants at a retreat for middle school youth June 12 at St. Joseph Retreat House in Baileys Harbor. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

See photo slide show

To view a slide show of photos from Steppin’ Right with Jesus, go to this link.

It was the first time Steppin’ Right, first observed at St. Agnes Church in Green Bay in July 2000, was held at the formation center. Earlier this year the center, owned by the Priests of the Sacred Heart from Hales Corners, Wis., was leased to the Diocese of Green Bay and turned into the headquarters for Catholic Youth Expeditions. CYE is an outdoor ministry to youth and young adult co-founded by Fr. Quinn Mann, assistant vocation director for the diocese, in the summer of 2002.

Members of the CYE staff helped lead some of the Steppin’ Right activities.

According to Fr. Tom Long, diocesan vocation director, Steppin’ Right is an opportunity to connect young people with Catholics who are living out their baptismal calling, either through ordained ministry (priesthood and the diaconate), consecrated life (religious orders), marriage or the single life.

“It’s sponsored by a group of vocation directors that serve in our diocese, so every year it’s been a chance for the young middle school students to meet with the vocation directors and connect with them in ways they sometimes don’t get to if they don’t have a sister or a brother in their parish,” said Fr. Long. “We’re presenting vocations coming from our baptism. It’s our call to follow Christ, to be aware that he’s going to call us in some specific way.”

The number of participants at this year’s event far exceeded last year’s numbers, said Fr. Long.

“We have doubled the amount of people we had last year,” he said. “It’s further away, so we bused kids here, which may have been helpful for some parents.” Last year’s gathering was in Brillion.

In addition to the vocations office, eight communities of religious women were represented at Steppin’ Right with Jesus.

For the priests and sisters, the opportunity to share their vocations is a highlight of the day-long event.

“It opens their eyes that we are for real,” said Sr. Lucille Flores, a member of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. “Some of the questions they ask are so important; ‘What do you do,’ ‘What is it like?’ I think it’s a good education for them. It’s also good for developing a relationship with the Lord. It’s not just about vocations.”

It also helps youth see that vocations are about different lifestyles with a common thread: serving God. Students learn that “sisters and priests are not better than married couples; that vocation is a way for getting them closer to God,” said Sr. Guadalupe Munoz, a Sister of Our Lady of Charity. “There are not levels, there are just different ways of living our lives.”

In addition to the vocations directors and CYE staff, diocesan priests, seminarians, married couples and representatives from St. Lawrence High School Seminary in Mount Calvary, Wis., were on hand to join in group discussions.

During a vocations panel talk, Fr. Long answered questions from boys about being a priest. Among the questions were: What does a priest eat? Why do priests wear black shirts and black pants? What are the hard and fun parts of being a priest?

Sr. Jean Bricco, a member of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, said the experience was edifying for her.

“It’s uplifting to see (150) young people and to hear their responses,” she said. “They are so invigorating and so hopeful. Sometimes we look at younger generations and we say, ‘Where’s the faith?'”

The youth gathering concluded at nearby St. Mary of the Lake Church, where Bishop David Ricken celebrated Mass for the group.

As she watched Fr. Long address a group of students near the shores of Kangaroo Lake, Sr. Lucille said the experience plants a seed. “It’s a chance for them to begin to think and pray about what am I going to be when I grow up. Not what am I going to do, but what am I going to be?”

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