Canons Regular of St. John Cantius


Here I Am Lord
By Br. Jonathan Ryan, S.J.C.

From March 4 to 6, Brother Mark and I had the opportunity to represent the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius at the “Here I Am Lord Vocations Conference.” This remarkably extensive annual gathering included dozens of religious communities, several nationally-renowned speakers, and thousands of youth in attendance. As it was held at St. Patrick Parish in St. Charles, IL, just across the Archdiocesan boarder lines in the Diocese of Rockford, Br. Mark and I commuted each day from St. John’s, and were reminded of how fortunate we are to rarely experience Chicago morning rush-hour traffic!

A number of school, parish, and religious education groups, as well as families, attended the conference, providing Br. Mark and I a perfect setting to cultivate the secondary charism of the Canons Regular, catechesis. The young people we spoke with at our booth ranged from daily communicants to those rather green in the faith. We took advantage of the short time we spoke with these young adults to encourage their continued growth in the Catholic faith and develop a habit of daily prayer, especially for their own vocational discernment. We also reminded many of the importance of strong devotion to Our Lady and the power of her intercession by handing out the Miraculous Medal with its promise of many graces from Our Lady. Additionally, I was happy to see several talks given in the course of the Conference on chastity, especially as youth today grow up in a world which attacks this vital virtue so aggressively.

Our table space included information about the Canons Regular, our 2009 calendar, as well as a TV playing our DVD from of the Tridentine Christmas Midnight High Mass, which drew quite a bit of interest not only from the conference attendees but also the other religious, as well as a few memorable conversations! While the young people we encountered weren’t by and large seriously discerning a vocation to religious life, nonetheless, simply being present and exposing the youth to brothers, sisters, and religious priests has value in itself. One never knows how the Holy Spirit will work.

An unexpected element of this Conference that proved grace-filled for me was the time with fellow religious. Though, of course, not the reason we went, the “down time” in between events spent with our fellow brothers and sisters in consecrated life gave us occasion for everything from fruitful spiritual conversations about living with zeal for Our Lord and the challenges we all face in religious life to light-hearted sharing of humorous stories, and even some of the school sisters throwing a freezbie on Saturday morning in between booths while everyone else was at a talk! The presence of numerous communities served as a kind of visualization of how the Holy Spirit imparts so many gifts for the building of the Kingdom of God, with charisms from education and health care to the poor and preaching. It also reminded us in the Canons Regular of our unique place in the life of the Church with the charism of the solemn, public celebration of the liturgy and catechesis in a parish context.

A few communities brought some of their members in formation to the conference, including one sister who was accompanied by six postulants who had just entered their order a few months ago. Seeing and speaking with these courageous souls willing to give up their very lives for Christ and His Church brought to mind the importance of praying for vocations, even as Our Lord said, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest that he may send laborers to his field” (Matt. 9:38).

Thanks to Br. David Michael, for the photos.