Clubs and other extracurricular activities are a big part of life for many high school students, but Peter McMillan said one in particular stands out because it’s helping him figure out God’s plan for his life.
The 18-year-old McMillan is a senior at Bishop England High School in Charleston. He is a member of the vocations discernment club for young men, nicknamed the “Fellas.” A similar group for young women is known as the “Bellas.”
At weekly meetings, club members discuss issues they are facing related to faith and life, learn about prayer and the sacraments, and begin trying to determine what vocation they should pursue in life.
“We’re real open to each other about our faith, there’s a lot of support and no one is ever let down when there’s something they want to talk about,” Sullivan said. “The focus on different forms of prayer has also helped me learn different ways to get in touch with God.”
The BEHS discernment program is part of the growing vocation club movement in schools around the Diocese of Charleston. The popular groups started during the 2008-09 school year at St. Mary Help of Christians School in Aiken. Currently, eight schools have active vocations clubs, and startup programs are underway at several others. Boys’ clubs are named after St. Maximilian Kobe, and girls’ after St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. The discernment clubs for young men and women are up and running at Bishop England and Cardinal Newman School in Columbia.
The goal, moderators say, is to focus on the importance of vocations at an early age, so students can learn to look for God’s guidance at different stages in their education. Club members talk about the many callings available and hear guest speakers, including priests and religious sisters, seminarians, and lay people.
While the importance of the priesthood and religious life is a focus, students also talk about marriage or the single life.
“I think in the past, maybe when you said vocations that tended to scare some kids away,” said Lori Wiegel, moderator of the girls’ club at Divine Redeemer School in Hanahan. “We’re not telling them you absolutely have to be a priest or nun, but showing them what the priesthood and religious life is about, and how they can learn how to make choices in their lives.”
Sarah Rowell, a sophomore at Bishop England, said the club has helped her learn more about virtues such as prudence, and also opened her eyes to the many options available when it comes to a vocation.
“I never really thought about being a nun or religious sister, but now it’s something I’m looking into more,” she said. “We’ve also learned about the importance of marriage and why someone might want to choose that.”
Beth Newell, moderator of the club at St. Andrew School in Myrtle Beach, said they make an important contribution to the faith.
“I really feel like these clubs will play a role in increasing vocations for the church down the road,” she said.