Sixth grade students from Catholic schools across the diocese shuttled to Holy Family Parish for Focus 11 to learn how to apply the grace of the Eucharist to discerning their future vocations.
Focus 11, an event led by Diocese of Orlando Office of Vocations, helps children begin thinking what God wants for their lives. The day, centered on prayer, helps them relax while considering their future. During his homily, Bishop John Noonan reminded the students that Lent is a time for us to “let go and let God” because through God we can do great things. He encouraged them to not be too proud to ask for help because we all need it while reflecting on the many times he has relied on Jesus.
Following Mass, Father Josh Swallows, Office of Vocations Director, asked students why most people don’t like their jobs. After listening to answers from the young crowd, Father Swallows revealed many people dislike their job because they feel what they are doing is not important or fulfilling. He then encouraged the students to ponder the question, “How do I invite the Lord in a deeper way and how do I serve Him?”
As students were separated into different sessions, each group participated in Eucharistic Adoration led by two of Diocese of Orlando’s transitional deacons.
“It’s awesome to be able to expose the Sacrament for the kids; to do [Eucharistic] Adoration and lead them in that to worship Jesus as they discern what Jesus really wants for them,” said Deacon Zachary Parker.
While sitting in prayer and worship, Sister Gianna Grace Perino, SCTJM, Associate Director of Vocations, led the students in reflection, asking what four things make a good friend. As they put their pen to paper, she told them to consider how those characteristics relate to their relationship with Jesus. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, students were asked to close their eyes and raise their hands if they were open to a religious vocation. Hands remained in the air as Sister Gianna Grace praised the Lord for their bravery and trust in Him.
During this year of Eucharistic Revival, the Office of Vocations highlighted the importance of growing closer to Jesus through the Sacraments. While giving her keynote speech, Sister Beata Fiedorczuk, MSF reminded students the Eucharist is a glimpse of heaven on earth because without Jesus, they cannot become holy.
The students were captivated as Father Blake Britton related their relationship with God to the main character in a popular ninja cartoon. The church erupted with chatter as students listened to the parallels between the character’s journey on the show and their spiritual journeys with Christ. Father Britton encouraged students to acknowledge how they are loved by the Father and to fulfill their vocations, they must know who they are, a beloved son or daughter of Christ.
Deacon Angel Garcia serves as a model for students to follow as he trusted in the Lord for his vocation.
“At this point in my formation,” Deacon Garcia said, “I’ve been assigned to several parishes in the diocese, and it’s been beautiful seeing a lot of the kids I served with and ministered throughout these years and seeing how much they’ve grown.”
He hopes his visible presence will continue to be a sign of trust for vocations. He enjoyed dancing with the children, playing games, serving at Mass, and exposing the Sacrament through Eucharistic Adoration.
As the day ended with games between the sixth graders and the clergy, the students were encouraged to speak with someone about their vocation and to pray. They were also reminded the best way to discern is to grow their relationship with Jesus by participating in the Sacraments, surrounding themselves with holy friendships and getting involved in their parish by altar serving, singing in choir, being an usher or other acts of service.
By Lana Kaczmarek, Special to the Florida Catholic, March 24, 2023