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02/23/2007
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Fifth Grade Vocation Days: 'God has a special plan for each one of you'
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

0223vocationsday.jpg
Lori Wood Habiger/Key photo
Fifth graders sing along to religious songs at the opening gathering of Fifth Grade Vocation Days on Feb. 14.
Once again, the message of the annual Fifth Grade Vocation Days came through very clearly.

"Money isn't everything," said Megan Neisus, of St. John LaLande School in Blue Springs, adding, "Happiness is good."

"If God tells me something, I have to follow it to be happy," said classmate Arielle Alwaiwat.

"You have to follow the light - God's word," said Devon Fairfield, also a St. John LaLande fifth grader.

Since 1994, the Diocesan Vocation Office has sponsored a special day for all fifth graders - enrolled in a diocesan school or homeschooled - to learn how God is calling all of them to a particular vocation.

That vocation, they learned from priests and religious order sisters and brothers, may be a call to religious life as a priest, sister or brother.

That's a pretty good calling, said Jacob Parks, from St. Thomas More School in Kansas City.

"I really want to be a priest," he said. "I think it would be a lot of fun. You get to serve other people and make sure they are OK."

"It's fun to be a priest," said Anthony Anello of Nativity of Mary School in Independence. "You get to enjoy life."

"You are doing what God wants you to do," said Nativity classmate Garrett Boin. "You tell other people about God."

Held at Archbishop O'Hara High School in Kansas City, Fifth Grade Vocation Days this year were held Feb. 14 and 15, with approximately 500 fifth-graders attending each day. The first day was held on the day after a major snow storm dumped upwards of six inches of snow throughout the diocese.

"Don't you just love the snow?" said Franciscan Sister Mary Clare Eichman in her keynote talk.

"It reminds me of God, the way it falls softly and silently," she said. "That's the way God talks to us."

God can only be heard in silence and by listening with the heart, Sister Mary Clare said.

"He calls you in the quiet," she said. "First, you have to turn off the TV, turn off the computer, turn off the cell phone. Then you'll begin to hear him."

Just as no two snowflakes are exactly alike, God made every human being differently, she said.

"He has a special plan for every one of you," Sister Mary Clare said. "He wants us to be happy, and the best thing you can do is to do whatever he asks of you. Things pass away. Even the snow will melt. But God lasts forever."

When she was growing up, Sister Mary Clare believed that she would be a mother.

"Then I stopped and listened, and he called me to something different, something I didn't expect," she said. "And I have never been filled with such happiness."

Answering her call from God took courage, as it does for every person who responds to God's call, she said. But happiness is found only in answering God's special call.

"Your true happiness is going to lie in stepping up, listening to God and following his plan for your life," Sister Mary Clare said.

"When I stepped up and listened to him calling me, how incredible that was," she said. "It was frightening, but I knew that if I stepped forward when the Lord was calling me, he will take care of me. Religious life and the priesthood are incredible gifts from god. If you hear that you are called, then listen and follow."

Bishop Robert W. Finn underscored that point in his homily at the Mass that ended each day.

"Many times when Jesus is speaking to those he wants to follow him, he says, 'Do not be afraid,'" Bishop Finn said.

The bishop said he heard those same words as a seminarian studying in Rome in October 1978, spoken by the newly elected Pope John Paul II from the balcony at St. Peter's Square.

"He was speaking as the representative of Jesus Christ on earth," Bishop Finn said. "This Holy Father would be with millions of people and many hundreds of thousands of young people, and very often he would say what Christ said, 'Do not be afraid.'"

Answering God's call means stepping into uncertainty and trusting that God will provide, Bishop Finn said.

"We don't know what might happen, so we have to be daring," he said. "There may be people who disagree with everything you say in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Do not be afraid. Give it your heart and soul."

Bishop Finn told the fifth-graders that all the priests and religious sisters and brothers who spoke to them that day heard God's call in a unique way.

"If you are open, if you are listening, then don't be afraid," he said. "Christ will keep knocking at that door. He'll give you everything you need if you only say, 'Yes.'" #

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