Transitional Deacon Patrick Russell was a senior in high school when he attended a discernment retreat at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.
He was a perfect candidate for the weekend retreat aimed at young men just graduating high school to those already in college or starting careers.
It was an opportunity to take time away to pray, said Deacon Russell, who — God willing — will be ordained to the priesthood in May. He’d previously attended a Come and See weekend for high school students, and the men’s retreat was an important next step in discovering whether God was truly calling him to the priesthood.
“I really got to spend a lot of time in prayer, especially with men who were more serious about discernment,” he said. “These were men who most of them had jobs or were in college, and they were really risking something in a sense to come here. There was a greater sense of sacrifice.”
The Men’s Discernment Retreat is one of several vocations events hosted by the archdiocesan Office of Vocations and the seminary throughout the year to help men learn if God is truly calling them to the priesthood. The retreat, which will take place the weekend of Feb. 15-17, is for men ages 18-40.
Vocations director Father Brian Fallon said it is for those men who, for the first time, are interested in learning more about seminary life; as well as for men who already have been in contact with the Vocations Office about possibly applying for the seminary.
“We’re looking for guys who are mature and already have some sort of spiritual life and relationship with God,” said Father Fallon. “It’s also a way for guys to go on retreat and have conferences geared toward what does it mean to be a priest.”
The retreat opens on a Friday at 5 p.m. with an orientation and tour of the seminary, followed by dinner. Afterward, there will be a conference on prayer. “We run through how do we sit in meditation? How do we spend quiet time with the Lord? How do we listen to His voice and how He sounds, opposed to the noise of the world and all the other distractions we have?” Father Fallon said.
The weekend will coincide with the seminary’s regularly scheduled 40 Hours devotion, which incorporates 40 hours of Eucharistic adoration. Retreatants will have extra down time to participate in adoration, talk with current seminarians, and walk the grounds in reflection and prayer.
Roughly half of the 43 seminarians currently enrolled for the Archdiocese of St. Louis previously attended the Men’s Discernment Retreat — which at one time was called the Archbishop’s Retreat. Other seminarians attended other vocations events at the seminary, including the Come and See weekend.
Father Fallon, who attended a discernment retreat in 2004, said one of the highlights was hearing vocation stories from other seminarians. Many of those stories come from pre-theology seminarians, who typically have attended college or spent time in the workforce before entering the seminary.
Father Fallon called it a “surreal” experience to now be one of the retreat’s presenters, but nevertheless “how wonderful it was to spend some time and let God speak to me” at that weekend almost 15 years ago.
Deacon Russell, who recently had been reflecting on the words of St. John Paul II from his pastoral visit to St. Louis 20 years ago, said the words “be not afraid” come to mind when thinking about men who are considering the priesthood.
“There can be so much fear and anxiety about the idea of entering the seminary — it’s a radical thing,” he said. “One thing I make sure I tell teenagers when I am talking about the seminary is to be willing to give your life over to Jesus is scary — it’s sacrificial. It is worth it. I am the happiest now that I ever have been. And part of that is because nine years ago I went on a retreat at the seminary.”
Men’s Discernment Retreat
WHEN: Feb. 15-17
WHERE: Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury
The free retreat is for men ages 18-40 who are considering the
priesthood. The retreat will include time for quiet prayer and
reflection on how God is at work in each person’s life.
REGISTER: Visit www.bit.ly/vocations19. Or contact Father Brian Fallon at (314) 809-0250 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.