Jon Wesly Marble stood at the top of a hill, staring straight ahead at the 100-foot water slide at his feet — otherwise known as the Zeüberslide. The soon-to-be seventh-grader had heard the stories from his older brother about Kenrick-Glennon Days’ famous Water Olympics, and now he was going to have his first crack at the slide as a new camper.
But beyond the fun and games over the three-day camp, Jon was just as eager to learn about his faith and to do so in the presence of other like-minded young men. He also looked forward to hanging out with young priests and seminarians and learning about their call to the priesthood.
“I knew I was going to have a great time, because it’s a Catholic environment, and there’s a lot of fun activities here,” said the member of St. Clare of Assisi in Ellisville. His older brother, George, was planning to attend the second session of camp later in the week.
Kenrick-Glennon Days is just one of several vocational opportunities for young men thinking about the priesthood. The weeklong camp, which began in 1999, is divided into two sessions: one for rising sixth- and seventh-graders; the second is for incoming eighth- and ninth-graders. Attendance this year was 114 for the first session, and 73 registered for the second session.
In addition to the seminarian staff, there were 34 high schoolers volunteering as junior counselors. Those men attend a day of recollection before camp begins. Throughout the week, they’re finding opportunities to discern where God is calling them, and if that call might involve entering the seminary.
Archdiocesan vocations director Father Brian Fallon said the camp brings together young guys “that are open to learning about Jesus and having fun, and from there, to have the opportunity to form them in the faith, introduce them to some new prayers and traditions of the Church that maybe they hadn’t learned before.”
Quite simply, the week is focused on faith, fun and fellowship, Father Fallon said.
Kenrick-Glennon Days has been credited as playing an important role in discerning a vocation to the priesthood. Since the camp’s inception, 23 participants have gone on to be ordained as priests for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Camp counselor Matthew Davenport will be entering Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in the fall. He said his participation as a camper at Kenrick-Glennon Days was the first time he’d seen the joyfulness of seminarians and priests. “It really normalized the idea of the seminary,” said the member of St. Paul Parish in Fenton. “It’s a ton of guys growing in brotherhood. I think that brotherhood was the biggest pull — seeing the tight bond that all the seminarians had was the biggest influence.”
This was Father John Schneier’s third camp as a priest and ninth overall since he was a seminarian. The associate pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville noted that there were 22 from St. Joseph Parish attending this year’s camp, including six junior counselors. The priest said Kenrick Glennon Days is a great way to demystify seminary life.
“I say ‘Look, it’s an opportunity for your to hang out with other guys who love their faith,’” Father Schneier said. “You’ll get to see seminarians live normal lives, who like to run around outside and play capture the flag, eat a bunch of pizza, play ‘Gloria’ after Blues games and then they’ll go and pray a Rosary afterward. When you see that the men here are normal and they came from places just like you, it helps to not make the priesthood as intimidating as a possible vocation.”
Father Tom Vordtriede attended his first Kenrick-Glennon Days as an eighth grader. This year, he helped lead a sacramental practice lab, where campers got to act out a priesthood ordination, vestments and all. He, too, now encourages young men from his parish, St. Joseph in Imperial, to attend. This year, there were 11 from St. Joseph in attendance, and a 12th from St. Pius X High School in Festus, who helped as a camp counselor.
“You can be prayerful and have a good time” here, said Father Vordtriede, who also serves as part-time chaplain at St. Pius X. “To be an authentic person means you do both. And this camp does both really well. I try to live my priesthood in that authentic kind of way. I want people to get a window into the joy I have about my vocation through this camp.”