By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — What does God want you to do with your life? Right now, he wants to you pray about it, hundreds of fifth graders were told at the annual Vocation Days, held at Archbishop O’Hara High School Feb. 27-28.
That message was repeated by priests, sisters and Bishop Robert W. Finn himself on this edition, some 20 years after the first Vocation Days for fifth graders was piloted at St. Andrew Parish in 1994.
They are at an age when they are just beginning to decide what vocation God is calling them to, and that makes prayer and listening to God very important, Bishop Finn told the fifth graders at the Mass that opened each day.
He himself was an altar server, and he especially remembered the Holy Hour devotions before the Blessed Sacrament.
“Many times during that time, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I began to think that maybe God was calling me to the priesthood,” Bishop Finn said.
“It is very possible already you are beginning to think what if God is calling me to be a religious sister, what if God is calling me to be a priest or a religious brother,” he said.
“Ask God,” Bishop Finn said.
“Ask him, ‘Tell me what do you want me to do?’ It is a great prayer no matter what your vocation is,” he said.
Father Charles Rowe, now vicar general of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said he had already earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering and was prepared for a financially lucrative career, when he heard God calling him in another direction.
“I started praying a whole lot more,” he told small groups of fifth grade boys in a breakout session.
Through prayer and listening to God, he came to a realization about his once-chosen profession as an engineer.
“It wasn’t what God wanted me to do,” Father Rowe said.
His life as a priest has been full and rich, he said.
In 2002, three years after he was ordained, Father Rowe said, Bishop Raymond J. Boland sent him to Rome for four years to study moral theology with an emphasis on medical ethics.
“2005 was the year Pope John Paul II passed away,” he said. “It was a historic time in the life of the church, and I was right there.”
Upon his return, Father Rowe was assigned to Holy Trinity Parish in Weston, “the oldest church in the diocese,” with the additional task of forming a new parish in Platte City, 10 miles from Weston.
“We prayed hard, we worked hard and we built a beautiful church. It’s called Twelve (XII) Apostles,” he said.
In other breakout sessions, girls learned about the life of sisters, and both boys and girls, learned from Vocations Director Father Richard Rocha about the power of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, with Benediction and Adoration closing both days.
The message was heard.
“I learned about Adoration. There’s a gold monstrance and the priest puts the host in it. I thought that was pretty cool,” said Elisa McGowan of St. Charles Borromeo School in Kansas City.
Tori Allen of St. Gregory Barbarigo School in Maryville was fascinated by the story she heard about the Little Sisters of the Poor, founded to care for the poor and elderly.
“They are in 32 countries,” she said. “It was started by a saint (St. Jeanne Jugan). She saw somebody being thrown out in the streets, and she took them in.”
Charles Palmentere of St. Patrick School in Kansas City learned that priests do much more than say Mass on Sunday.
“They go to hospitals and pray with people. They go to people who can’t go to church,” he said. “They help people.”
That is why God could be calling at least some of the fifth-graders to a religious life, Bishop Finn told them. But a person must be tuned in to how God speaks to hear him.
“You should be a little suspicious if you hear God’s voice like you are hearing mine right now,” Bishop Finn said.
“God speaks to our hearts. We have to spend time talking and listening to God. We need to spend time in prayer,” he said.
“The more we listen to God, the more likely we are to understand when God is speaking to us,” Bishop Finn said.
Vocation Days is sponsored by the diocesan Vocation Office and Consecrated Life Office.
This year also marked the last one for a fixture.
Harold McDermed, a member of Knights of Columbus Council 2244 in Higginsville, has been in charge of organizing the Knights as they prepared lunch for the hundreds of fifth graders since the Vocation Days began 20 years ago.
“I’ll be 88, and it’s time for me to give it up,” McDermed said.
“I always have to have something to do, and I do this for the diocese,” he said.
“That’s what it’s all about.”