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Archives Middle schoolers spend a day at Guggenheim learning about vocations
Call and Mission

Nov. 22, 2017

By Cathy Russell
Diocesan Vocation Coordinator

Saranac Lake - The shores of Lower Saranac Lake at Camp Guggenheim were alive with the sights and sounds ofGuggenheim 115 energetic middle schoolers who had gathered for a vocation retreat in October.

The young people were from Catholic schools, homeschooled families and parish religious education programs.
The retreat was a joint effort of the diocesan Youth Department and the Vocations Office.

The day was planned around the theme of Call and Mission with emphasis on two scripture passages, Mark’s the Rich Young Man and Matthew’s passage on salt and light.

The program began with some ice breakers, giving the students a chance to meet young people from other schools and areas of the diocese. After that, everyone gathered on the beach for morning prayer.

Highlights included discussion of the two scripture passages as the students received a salt shaker with salt in it. They wrote on the salt shaker a gift they thought God wanted them to share with others.  At the end of the day, students took their shakers home as a reminder of the day.

Students then proceeded to a workshop in which presenters - Father Bryan Stitt, pastor in Canton St. Joseph Sister Mary Gregory Munger of Watertown and Paul and Samantha Poulin of Malone - led them to understand that they are loved by God and that God has a plan for each of them.

The second half of the day began with a lunch organized with the help of volunteers from the Diocese of Ogdensburg Vocation Society (DOVS). After lunch, students had free time before coming together for a panel discussion.

“We wanted the students to hear from people who had just gone through or were actually going through the discernment process from each vocational choice so we thought a panel discussion would work,” said Kelly Donnelly, diocesan youth director and one of the organizers of the program.

On the panel were a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Poulin; Sister Suanne Johnson of Ticonderoga, a recently professed  Sister of St. Joseph; Father Stitt, Father Thomas Higman of Ellenburg, assistant vocation director; Joey Izzo of Lake Placid, a professional musician; and Abigail St. Louis of Morrisonville, a college student.

The middle-schoolers were able to hear how important it is to choose a boyfriend or girlfriend to date who shares the same faith and values. They heard that married couples need to work things out, not run away.
The panelists shared a faith hero and briefly described discernment in their lives. Students were then able to ask questions.

GuggenheimThe day ended with opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and the celebration of Mass.

One of the larger groups to attend was St. Mary’s School in Ticonderoga.  A Ticonderoga parent chaperone, Heather Whitford, said, “The vocation retreat was an amazing gift to all who attended. Our youth may never have thought about what God wants them to do with their lives. This retreat certainly opened their hearts to listen.”

“It was a well- planned day and the kids had a great time,” said Sister Suanne, a teacher at St. Mary’s in Ticonderoga. “I am most grateful that not only did you talk to the kids about their personal vocation and tell them to pray for their vocation, but you followed it up with time to do just that! Beautifully done.”

“Thank you for putting this together for our middle school students,” she said.

Three St. Mary’s students also shared their reactions:
“Thank you,” said sixth grader Bayleigh Clark, “My favorite part was to talk to different kids from other schools. Awesome day.”

“I liked when we split into groups,” said Laura Zelinski, grade 8. “ I got to go with Father Bryan. He was funny.”

And from seventh grader Aurelia Leekkes: “Mass was amazing! And I liked how you offered confession. I learned that God has a plan for me and now I know that the choice that He makes is what is best for me.”

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