Archbishop Lucas, music and faith energize Vocation Awareness Day
With loud music, cheering, motivational speeches and lots of energy, the Archdiocese of Omaha’s most recent Vocation Awareness Day felt much like a pep rally – a pep rally for Jesus.
More than 1,000 sixth-graders from 26 Omaha-area Catholic schools, as well students educated at home, gathered for the event at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha. Through an engaging encounter with Christ and his church, the students were invited to think about his plan for each of their lives.
"While we certainly want the students to consider the plan God has for their life in terms of their vocation, we especially encourage them in their relationship with Jesus," said Apostolic Oblate Jessi Kary, national director of the Pro Sanctity Movement, who was at the Oct. 20 event.
One of the pastoral priorities of the archdiocese is to create a culture of encountering Jesus and equipping disciples, and Vocation Awareness Day provides a unique way to evangelize to young people, she said.
Held annually in the archdiocese for the past 13 years, Vocation Awareness Day invites students to personally encounter Jesus through praise and worship music, the celebration of Mass, presentations by priests and men and women in religious communities, and adoration of the Eucharist.
"We want the day to be really fun and positive – and loud – while also helping them to understand how they can speak to Jesus quietly," said Father Andrew Roza, vocations director for the archdiocese, who served as an emcee and speaker at the event.
In his homily during the Mass, Archbishop George J. Lucas told the students that Jesus wants to have a close relationship with them and reveal his Father’s plan for their lives. But they have to look for him, and listen.
"Pope Benedict reminded us that if we’re able to be in the presence of the Lord and speak with him, then we find out what our vocation is," Archbishop Lucas later told the Catholic Voice. "So if they have some sense that Jesus is close and they have some communication with him, then that’s a step in the right direction for knowing your vocation."
Misty Banks Noon, a sixth-grade teacher at St. Pius X/St. Leo School in Omaha, said students each year enjoy coming to the event, especially because they get to sing and let loose a bit, as well as mingle with students from other schools. They are also at an age where they are still receptive to the idea of being called to the priesthood or religious life, she said.
"They are very enthusiastic," Banks Noon said.
Studies have shown that sixth grade is a time where there is real curiosity about what students might want to be involved with for the rest of their lives, Father Roza said.
"Our Catholic schools do a great job of helping kids be aware of what God might have in store for them, but this is a great day for them to see their peers from other schools and to learn in a slightly different way about what God can do with their lives," he said.