Bishop Moore Catholic High School student Justin sat prayerfully at Holy Family Catholic Church, awaiting the start of Focus 11. Studies show that as a junior in high school, Justin is at the prime age of making important decisions about his future, a statistic the Diocese of Orlando has taken note of.
For the past six years, the diocesan Office of Vocations has hosted an annual Focus 11 event, a three-day event aimed at offering 11-year-olds and 11th graders the opportunity to learn about religious life and what God is calling them to do. More than 1,750 students from diocesan schools attended this year’s event, held Feb. 25-27 at Holy Family Catholic Church. An evening for young adults was also held Feb. 25.
“Research shows that at these ages, young people are making important decisions about their lives,” said Father Jorge Torres, director of the Office of Vocations. “Our goal is to encourage students to listen to the Lord and be open to the possibility of becoming a priest or sister. We want to foster a culture of vocations in the diocese and show that religious men and women are real people, too.”
While Justin has not made any firm decisions about his vocation, he said he hoped to deepen his spiritual relationship with God during the event and learn more about a vocational life.
“We get a lot of learning about faith in general but this is an opportunity to learn what it takes to be a priest and what it is like to live as a priest,” he said.
Each day’s event opened with the celebration of Mass with Bishop John Noonan. He encouraged students to discover what is truly meaningful in your lives, because by doing so they will truly understand God’s calling and will live their lives to the fullest.
“We want you to be happy,” Bishop Noonan said. “We want you to be successful, but above all, we want you be real. Real in the sense that you are people who not only have meaning but who have something to offer the rest of the world.”
During their daylong visit, students also viewed exhibits from nearly 20 religious communities and orders, thus interacting with priests, religious sisters, brothers and seminarians and participated in other activities.
“We had the opportunity to learn how the different priests and sisters ended up in their positions and what they had done leading up to the present. I personally found this fascinating,” said Delaney, a sixth grader at Sacred Heart Catholic School in New Smyrna Beach. “I was intrigued by the sisters and enjoyed talking with them. I loved learning about their relationship with God and the lives they live. It made me think about my future and how I might be able to serve God in many different ways.”