REV Vocations Retreat draws teenagers from around Maine

What differentiates the diocesan priesthood from religious order priests? What makes marriage unique among all vocations? What does pretzel making have to teach us about our relationship with Christ?

Those were among the questions explored at “Revitalization of the Eucharist and Vocations” (REV), a retreat for teenagers held at St. Joseph Church in Brewer on Saturday, January 27.

“We’re all given that common call to holiness in life, but within that, we all have a unique role to play within the life of the Church,” said Msgr. Andrew Dubois, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor, which presented the retreat in cooperation the diocese's Office of Vocations. “By bringing youth together, hopefully, they get to encounter Christ within the context of the community, to embrace him, and then to really engage him for what he offers them in this life and the life to come.”

“The main goal is to help young people tie their own vocation to the Eucharist because it is in the Eucharist that the answer to their true vocation really lies. So, the whole idea is to revitalize their relationship with the Eucharist, with Jesus Christ, in an intimate encounter so they can find the path for their life in a loving way,” said Deacon Luis Sanclemente.

During the retreat, teens attended four workshops, each representing a different vocation: the diocesan priesthood, women religious, religious order priests and brothers, and marriage.

With a little soccer ball balancing, juggling, and personal ping pong, the Salesians of Don Bosco shared with the teens how they serve youth through providing a welcoming home, education, faith, and play.

“We’re always working with young people, trying to mentor, accompany, help them to live this life, to be joyful. We can have fun. Our faith can be fun, but it’s also serious -- our prayer life and relationship with Christ,” Father Steve DeMaio told the teens.

The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist used pretzel making to help share their message that Jesus is with us in the ingredients of our everyday lives.

“Our main message was connecting baking bread with the Eucharist and vocations,” said Sister Christianna Hamman, FSE. “We really wanted to communicate to the group that Jesus is with us in our everyday lives. He desires to be with us in our everyday lives.”

“It’s about the transformation that Jesus calls us to in our lives and connecting that with each of the different ingredients,” added Sister Francesa Silver, FSE. “The other aspect is transformation, so going from the transformation of the ingredients into the bread and then to the much more miraculous change of the bread and wine in the Eucharist, transubstantiation.”

Father Brad Morin, director of the diocese’s Office of Vocations, shared thoughts about the diocesan priesthood, saying that while religious order priests are called to a particular charism, diocesan priests are like the stay-at-home dads.

“You have this love affair with the diocese, and your relationship is with the diocese,” he told the teens. “We deal with everyday life, and it’s such a blessing in many ways. We proclaim the word of God in so many different ways, and we spend time preparing for and celebrating the sacraments – Eucharist, reconciliation, baptism, funerals, marriage, the sacrament of the sick. Each one invites us into people’s lives in such an intimate way.”

It was a message echoed by E.J. and Jennifer Hikel who spoke about the importance of having God be intimately involved in your marriage.

“He wants us to know that we’re looking to him for those answers, and that’s what it took for both of us to find each other,” said E.J. “All other vocations you’ll see, it’s about God and the individual, but marriage is God and the man and the woman. That’s three, and it really does take three.”

More than 40 teens attended the retreat, some traveling from as far away as Fort Kent and Saco to attend.

“I’ve always loved participating in retreats in general. It’s just a nice community to build with,” said Phoebe Sension from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor. “I’ve taken away just a deeper understanding of what living your vocation is and discerning it.”

“I want to do what is God’s will most of all, and I really have no idea where that is going to lead me, so I wanted to get some ideas,” said Lexi Hikel, also of St. Paul the Apostle Parish.

“I am discerning the vocation of priesthood, and I was invited by Father Brad Morin, and also, I wanted to come to see about religious life, and married life, and all the different vocations that are offered, to see what they’re about,” said Ezekiel Ellis from St. Benedict Parish, Benedicta.

“I think what it shows us is that there are so many different ways to pursue God for the rest of your life. It’s doing a good job of showing me and showing us what they are, and how different they are, and how there is a place for everybody,” said Jack Derosier, also of St. Paul the Apostle Parish.

This was the first REV Retreat, but Deacon Sanclemente, who helped to organize it, said he doesn’t want it to be the last. He said it’s important for parishes, especially the larger ones like St. Paul the Apostle, to work with the diocese to help youths discern where God is calling them.

“This is definitely something that can’t be a one and done. It calls us for continual support in all the parishes. When they go back, they need the parish to continue to help them prayerfully, actively discern their vocation, and this sort of event, we need to continuously have them in our diocese to develop vocations,” he said. “We need to think regionally and help the diocese connect to all the parishes, help parishes connect to one another, and do these annual events that we can count on to come together.”

Teens standing in a group
Teens listening to Deacon Luis Sanclemente.
Teens sitting
Teens sitting in a row.
Deacon Luis Sanclemente
Brother Bernard Dube
Father Steve DeMaio
Jen and EJ Hikel
Teens listen to Fr. Brad Morin
Teenage girl
Teenaged girl  plays personal ping pong.
Teenagers make pretzels.
Teenagers make pretzels
Group of teens and Franciscan sisters make pretzels.