On Monday, January 1st, as most of the country welcomed in the New Year with parties and family gatherings, a different type of gathering was taking place in the heart of the country. Over twenty-four thousand college students descended upon the city of St. Louis to take part in a week-long SEEK Conference hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).
From Monday evening until the following Friday morning, students attended prayers, daily Mass, adoration, talks, and also had an opportunity to meet with over forty religious orders that were present. Which is where Fr. Nathan and Fr. Trenton come into this story.
Fr. Nathan Ford, SJC (the newly appointed Vocations Director of the Canons Regular) along with Fr. Trenton Rauck, SJC spent the week not attending talks, joining in break-out groups, or being interviewed by famous podcasters (of which there were many), but instead, they spent over eleven hours each day standing at the Canons’ Vocation Booth speaking to hundreds of young people interested in their order.
“I really think this year was different,” said Fr. Trenton. “We have a much greater notoriety as a community than we did in the past. People just kept coming up to us!” A big part of this is the publicity of the Canons through their live-streamed Masses as well as their growing online presence.
“I literally had a group of young guys come up to me and say, ‘Hey! I recognize the back of your head!’” said Fr. Nathan.
For three full days Fr. Nathan and Fr. Trenton passed out brochures, handouts, stickers, and little packets of incense, all with information about the Canons Regular. But the greater gift that they were able to share with the groups of young men that they met were the conversations; conversations about the Church, religious life, the Canons, and the possibility of God calling them to something more in their lives.
“My favorite part of the whole week,” said Fr. Nathan, “was the conversations that we had with the guys who came up to us. Missionaries, college students, grad-students, and vendors alike would walk by our booth and say, ‘Hey! It’s the Canons!’ and sure enough a great conversation would ensue!”
It was a long week, but a very grace-filled one for those who were present. Those who attended left by bus, plane, and car feeling spiritually energized, encouraged, and perhaps even having found some answers to the questions they were seeking after.
“We’ll see what comes from this!” said Fr. Trenton. “It’s in God’s hand. We’re just planting the seed.”
The Canons intend to attend the annual SEEK Conference for years to come. Next year’s conference will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah. So, if you know a young man considering attending, tell him to look for the Canons. Tell him that they’re the ones with a booth that looks like the inside of a church, a golden thurible, and a long line of young guys interested in the possibility of giving themselves to something more.
Are you Called?
Is your call to the religious life and the priesthood? Only through prayer and exploration, can you find the answer. Your most important qualification is the desire to do the Will of God.
Reach out to Fr. Nathan Ford, SJC our Vocations Director at email@example.com