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High school students return to vocations event as ushers

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More than 1,000 sixth graders from Omaha-area Catholic schools chatted and grinned as they gathered for Vocation Awareness Day Oct. 18 at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha.

But they weren't the only excited participants.

About a dozen high school students returned to the event this year to work as ushers and relive their experience from an older, more mature vantage point.

"There's a big take away from it and I think it's important that what we've been given we also give back," said Adam Mullin, a sophomore from Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha. "It's not so much what I want to do, it's what God wants me to do and where I can serve others as he wants me to."

And while high school ushers have been part of the vocations day since it began six years ago, the event now is producing volunteer alumni.

Serving God the way he wants you to serve was the point of this year's theme, "Take it all." And the students - sixth graders and high school students alike - were encouraged to give their whole selves to God's will in their lives, whether called to the priesthood, marriage or life as a religious sister or brother.

The students learned about the saints, were encouraged to pray and be alert for God's calling and listened to clergy and others talk about life in priestly and consecrated life communities.

Archbishop George J. Lucas celebrated Mass, and referring in his homily to the day's Gospel reading from Luke, the archbishop pointed out that St. Luke was a doctor, but dedicated his life to serving God once he realized what God wanted from him.

"Today, Jesus is asking us to be his disciples," the archbishop said. "Ask yourself: How can I live a life that's dedicated to serving Jesus and helping others?"

In the course of the day, while the sixth graders prayed and learned about vocations, the returning ushers reflected on their spiritual journeys.

"I remember keeping my nametag and putting all the prayers together, and I think I still have it," said Tess Blankman, a junior from Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School in Bellevue. "This day made me realize that no matter what I go into I want to keep my faith strong."

As sixth-graders they learned a lot, but this time, rather than participating as a requirement, they came back by choice and learned a great deal, Blankman said.

Several ushers said they hope the day plants a similar seed that grows in the sixth graders.

"I hope they understand the importance of prayer life and their personal connection with God to help them figure out whatever that calling might be," said Brian Brodin, a sophomore at Gross Catholic.

Many sixth-graders took in the five-hour day with enthusiasm, and research indicates sixth grade is the perfect age to learn about vocations because students are discovering their likes and dislikes, talents and what makes them happy, said School Sister of St. Francis Lee Agnes Hodapp of Fremont, who helped organize the event.

"God wants us to be happy, grow and make a difference," said two sixth graders nearly in unison, Ashlee Fettin and Rachel Jacobson of St. Gerald School in Ralston.

The two, with fellow students from St. Gerald, said they enjoyed learning about saints who dedicated their lives to God and serve as role models.

VOCATION AWARENESS DAY

The event is held in an Omaha-area school each fall and at the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler in the spring. About 1,000 people attend the urban gatherings and about 500 attend the spring sessions.

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