Priests, Seminarians find annual VAP helpful in discernment process

By Jacqueline Burkepile

Correspondent

“Lord, open the hearts of many men and women to courageously consider a vocation to the ordained ministry or consecrated life.” This prayer, found on the Serra International website, sums up the purpose of the Vocation Awareness Program held every summer in the Dioceses of Fort Worth and Dallas since 1990.

Sponsored by the Serra Clubs of Fort Worth and Dallas, the VAP allows those discerning the priesthood or consecrated life to experience a reflective three-day weekend. Through the Serrans’ fundraising efforts and generosity, there is no expense for participants. Various priests and religious orders invite participants to hear them speak about this lifestyle, as well as ask questions. The VAP also offers the opportunity for prayer, adoration, and the sacrament of Reconciliation, as well as a private audience with the bishops of each of the two dioceses. The program occurred this year at the University of Dallas June 21-24.

Seminarians from the Diocese of Fort Worth said the Vocation Awareness Program played a profound role in their discernment before entering the seminary. Diocese of Fort Worth seminarian Maurice Moon from St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Lewisville said the program eliminated doubts he had had. Now in his fifth year of seminary, he said seeing so many religious people and having the opportunity to speak with them influenced him to enter after the weekend concluded.

“I was very timid and reluctant to give my complete will over to God. I thought it wouldn’t be fun or fulfilling,” said Moon. “But seeing their fulfillment helped me to eliminate that reluctance and give my will completely over to God.”

“Their lives helped me see that God was working in my life. I could picture myself like them: wearing a habit or a cleric and being a priest,” he added. “I was able to find out how they lived on a daily basis and how they were called.”

Ronaldo Mercado, originally from Holy Family Parish in Vernon, also said the presentations and panels were especially informative and inspirational when he attended in 2006.

“My reservation and anxiety to respond was gone and every presentation provided lucidity and clarity of what my vocation is in life,” said Mercado.

Mercado said he took advantage of everything the VAP recommended to assist him throughout the discernment process: a spiritual director, prayer, and Eucharistic adoration. He then entered the seminary in 2008 after three years of discernment.

Newly-ordained diocesan priest Father James Wilcox, parochial vicar of St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills, also attended the VAP in 2005 before entering formation. He said it affirmed his decision to attend seminary.

Fr. Wilcox added his advice to others considering attending the program in the future.

“It was extremely helpful to learn about religious orders in addition to the diocesan priesthood,” said Fr. Wilcox. “It puts a person in contact with the right people to help one discover God’s will.”

Seminarian Joe Keating, originally from St. Mark Parish in Denton, also said the VAP could be a good step forward for those who may be called to the priesthood or consecrated life.

“It will demystify some things and it will, at the very least, answer some questions for you,” said Keating. “You may not come out of it with a decision, but that’s OK. It’s a step along the process of discernment.”

Diocesan Vocations Director Father Jonathan Wallis said that attending a VAP in 1999 helped him to enter the seminary, and that as a seminarian, he worked the VAP that Fr. Wilcox attended in 2005.

“Many of the men who are presently in the seminary and are priests for the Diocese of Fort Worth attended the VAP,” Fr. Wallis said. “The VAP is a very important aspect of discernment in our diocese.”

“Lord, open the hearts of many men and women to courageously consider a vocation to the ordained ministry or consecrated life.” This prayer, found on the Serra International website, sums up the purpose of the Vocation Awareness Program held every summer in the Dioceses of Fort Worth and Dallas since 1990.

Published