Year of Youth Discernment Sessions at Aquinas College

Year of Youth Discernment Sessions at Aquinas College

As we close the Year of Youth, with the theme “Open new horizons for spreading joy: Young people, Faith and Vocational Discernment,” we dedicated October and November to focus on the area of Vocational Discernment. In collaboration with Paul Kelly, Religious Education Co-ordinator at Aquinas College, Fr Mark Payton, Director of the Vocations Office, and CYM Chaplain, Fr Mark Baumgarten, had an opportunity to engage with Aquinas students on the topic of discernment last month 29th October and on 5th to 6th November.

The goal of this collaboration is to build a visible vocational presence among high schools and for students to learn about discernment (including vocational discernment). We hope to develop a proposal for high schools, so they can accommodate regular visits from priests and other religious and engage with students on the topic of discernment.

The discernment referred to here is not limited to vocational discernment, for example, entering religious life. Discernment can also help guide a young person in deciding situations of uncertainty in their life. Discernment is how to be in dialogue with the Lord and to listen to the voice of the spirit.

The session started with a talk and testimony, followed by Q&A, then a social in the end. We hope to develop this further so that we can bring this to more schools next year.

Below is Paul Kelly’s feedback on the initiative:

Was the vocational discernment session important for students? Why?

Yes, it was essential.  It was good to also focus on discernment, not just vocations per se, as many unchurched students would simply benefit from a practical guide as to how to make the right choices in life.

What are the benefits of having a priest going out to schools and doing vocational sessions with the students?

At a Life-Link Appeal Day a couple of years ago, a student asked Archbishop Costelloe why he had become a priest.  The Archbishop said that one of the reasons was a parish priest that he knew as a child.  This priest inspired him; his humility and public witness made a profound impression on the young Timothy Costelloe.  Sadly today, most young people attending Catholic Schools do not frequent their local parish and, consequently, do not have the same opportunity to be inspired by the priesthood.  Therefore, even one visit from a priest is a step in the right direction.

What is the school currently doing with the Vocational discernment module?

In addition to Religious Education classes, Aquinas College provides its students with a comprehensive Retreat Program, and each Retreat helps students in the discernment process.  Perhaps the Vocations Office and CYM could consider embedding vocations talks during school retreats as the audience may be more receptive to the topic of vocations at that time.

Does this enhance the experience of a student in engaging with the church?

Yes, but the degree to which students engage with the Church varies greatly depending on several external factors.

What are the students’ feedbacks? Did they find it helpful?

The consensus of the students was that the talks could have been more engaging.  Fr Baumgarten used music in a subsequent talk to good effect. Throughout a school year, students can be exposed to a variety of top-quality speakers, so anything that can be done to heighten engagement (e.g. prudential use of audio-visual material) should be considered.

What would you like to see more of this in the future?

Thorough planning.  The more thought that is put into this excellent initiative, the better it will become.

Would you recommend it to the other schools?

Yes, but, in its current state, if my recommendations are realised, it could be better.

We sincerely thank Paul for his feedback. This is a project that the Catholic Youth Ministry in collaboration with the Vocations Office will continue to improve on. It is our hope to have this program implemented in schools across the Archdiocese of Perth to provide a space to enhance their vocational discernment module in school.