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Vocations panel shares experiences with students


Steve Gutwiller (hand raised) asks a question of the students during the vocations panel. Mr. Gutzwiller and his wife, Joan, spoke about  their call to the vocation of married life. 

By Beth Murphy

Scecina Memorial High School recently hosted a vocations panel to introduce elementary and high school students to real people in our community who are happy, energetic and making a difference in their different vocations.

The idea grew out of the Eastside Catholic Schools Partnership (ECSP) as a way to help students understand that God calls us to specific vocations and how we discern that call. In vocation discernment, a person listens to hear God’s call to priesthood, consecrated religious life, marriage or a sacred single life.

“The experience was a great way for students to see smart, caring and funny people share examples of how their vocations bring them joy in daily life,” said Scecina President Joe Therber. “Doing so as an Eastside Catholic school community illustrates that we can do so much more for our students together rather than by acting alone.”

Scecina’s vocations panel discussion on Nov. 4 was attended by 128 fifth-graders from the ECSP (Our Lady of Lourdes, Little Flower and Holy Spirit) as well as students from St. Michael Greenfield and Scecina. The event was organized by Jean Donlan, Scecina’s director of community engagement, and Holy Spirit principal Rita Parsons.

The panel consisted of Father Juan Valdez, associate pastor of Holy Spirit; Sister Sheila Hackett, Scecina librarian; Deacon Mike Braun, parent of Scecina alumni and archdiocesan executive director of pastoral ministries Steve and Joan Gutzwiller of Holy Spirit Parish. They talked about the calls they received from God to enter their vocations.

Father Juan told the students that he was 12 years old when a priest invited him to consider becoming a priest, and so he entered seminary then. Father Juan even brought a photo of himself as a 12-year-old with the priest. Sister Sheila is celebrating her 60th year with the Dominican Sisters of Houston. She told students the most difficult part for her was making the decision to leave her family in Ireland, because she wanted to join the Texas-based sisters because of their commitment to the ministry of teaching and school administration.

“I’ve been very happy with my choice,” Sister Sheila said. “Life worked for me. Life was always good for me.”

The panel members pointed out that their vocations had helped them to grow in so many ways and added joy to their lives so they willingly made the required sacrifices.

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