COLUMBIA—Many kids feel the first call to the priesthood or religious life in the fourth grade. About 40 people who attended a special day of training for vocations club leaders on Aug. 6 hope to help them learn how to answer.
The clubs, part of the diocesan strategic plan for vocations, started in Aiken in 2008 and are active in 14 schools.
Youth learn about becoming priests or women religious, but also hear from married couples and people who choose to remain single.
Boys belong to clubs dedicated to Father Maximilian Kolbe, and girls have St. Cecilia as their patron.
Two Aiken students, Nina Adams and Kyle Free, both 13, dressed in costume and acted out their stories.
The Office of Vocations offers a curriculum each year, but individual clubs can change the program as they see fit.
The theme for 2013-14 is “The Kingdom of God is at Hand,” with meetings centered on the Beatitudes.
Club leaders traded ideas about activities. Writing letters to seminarians has been popular in recent years, and organizers hope to soon start a “Support Our Sisters” program so kids can write to diocesan women who join religious orders.
Peggy Wertz, principal at St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken, and one of the clubs’ founders, said it is important to reach out to students of all faiths.
“We need to help students learn that everybody has a call, God has a plan and God loves you,” she said.
The clubs are mainly for fourth-through eighth-graders, but some schools are interested in beginning earlier. High schoolers can join discernment clubs.
At Our Lady of the Rosary School in Greenville, even students in the pre-K and kindergarten classes have talked about vocations.
“We see small children who talk about having devotion, small children who have a real state of grace about them,” said Stacy Marie Stately, a K-5 teacher. “Why not help them begin to nurture the idea of a vocation even at that young age?”
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