Come and See Experience
The discernment experience of “Come and See” is inspired by the way Jesus invited His disciples to discover their vocation in life. “When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.” (John 1:38-39)
On the weekend of October 7-9, nine inquirers entered the door of the Oblate pre-novitiate in Belleville, IL – just next to the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. They came from all over the United States to experience Oblate community and mission, to learn about the Oblate charism, to reflect and prayerfully listen for God’s calling.
The experience began with the visit at “Arctic Wings and a Shrine,” a multi-room exhibit focusing on the ministries of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, especially in the Arctic regions of Canada. The devotion to Our Lady of the Snows was brought to Belleville in the late 1930s by former Arctic missionary, Fr. Paul Schulte, OMI. In the evening Fr. Chava Gonzalez OMI, director of the shrine, shared a reflection on mission and vocation. “We are invited to allow that urgency of mission to burn in our hearts, and for that to happen to us, we must listen and hear the cry of the Gospel mandate to ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit’ (Mt 28:19-20). We cannot hear that ‘cry’ if we are not out with the people we are sent to live with and minister to.”
After so many inspiring thoughts to process, the inquirers spend some time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and took an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The next day we went to visit our Canada-US regional Oblate Novitiate in Godfrey, IL. Fr. Frank Kuczera, OMI (from our province who is serving as the Novice Master there) welcomed us to the house. “Accidently” we’ve also had an opportunity to briefly meet with our new General Councilor for Canada-US region, Fr. Jim Brobst, OMI who was on his way to the General Chapter. The scholastics, Pablo Henning OMI and Henry Zayamoe OMI made the creative presentation on the life and charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod. Then the inquirers enjoyed some time in the nature surrendering the novitiate, especially beautiful with the changing colors of the fall season. And the view of Mississippi River was just breath-taking!
In the afternoon, Fr. Steven Montez, OMI, assistant vocation director for the US province, reflected on the discernment to religious life. It was certainly lots of thought-provoking insights! After returning to the pre-novitiate, the inquirers took walks with one of the Oblates for one-on-one conversation in the spirit of the journey to Emmaus. In the evening there was lots of stories shared and questions asked, as they enjoyed a bonfire and some smores.
The ”Come and See” experience concluded with the Sunday Mass celebrating Hispanic heritage.
On a personal note, I appreciated visiting the places I’ve heard so much about, but have never seen. The experience also gave me an opportunity to connect with the formators and vocation directors from the US Province in a true spirit of collaboration and support in vocational ministry efforts. And the Oblate hospitality was exceptional! Thank you. Journeying with those young men discerning Oblate vocation, gave me hope that God continues the call to missionary religious life. I hope and pray that Canadians will also hear and respond to this call.
And here is my plea to the Oblates and Oblate associates from our province… Most of the time, for the candidate, the initial thought of the religious vocation happens because someone they trust and respect asked them, “Have you consider?” I believe there are Oblate vocations in our parishes, schools, and communities. As we’ve heard from the General Chapter reflections, the Church still needs us and counts on us. Please invite young men to come and see, and leave the rest to God. God’s grace builds on nature.
The next “Come and See” experience is planned for January 2023 and will take place in San Antonio, TX.
By Jarek Pachocki, OMI
OMI Lacombe Canada – Vocation Director