God Is Calling
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On June 12-14, the Diocean Vocations Office hosted its first Priesthood Discernment Retreat for young adults after emerging from the pandemic. Held at the serene St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo, CA, the retreat welcomed 12 discerners from various parishes within the Diocese. The theme of the retreat centered on “The Call.”
During the three-day retreat, participants immersed themselves in the prayerful experience of the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office, which echoes the collective prayer of the People of God. The hymns and litanies drew from the psalms and the Word of God, creating an extension of the Eucharistic celebration. Each day, the discerners came together for the Holy Mass and spent time with the Lord in Holy Adoration.
St. Andrew’s Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery, provided a unique opportunity for the young men to observe the life of a religious priest and monk. Early mornings commenced with the morning vigil prayer alongside the Benedictine community at 6 am. Following that, they engaged in silent prayer and Lectio Divina from 6:30 to 7:30 am, culminating in the morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours at 7:30 am. Sharing meals with the Benedictine community also became a cherished experience, as they relished the serene and spiritually uplifting practice of eating in silence, while a monk read from a selected contemplative book. Many discerners expressed their gratitude for this newfound sense of peace and reverence during mealtime.
The primary focus of the retreat revolved around the Diocesan Priesthood, with the guiding priests offering insightful talks to the participants. Additionally, the discerners were afforded the opportunity to receive spiritual direction and confession from the priest of their choosing. For some, this marked their first experience with spiritual direction, making it a transformative experience.
In the evenings, discerners enjoyed socializing and connecting with one another and the priests. Engaging discussions ranged from philosophy and theology to sports and life experiences, while some individuals preferred to dedicate more time to prayer. Everyone had the freedom to discern and socialize in a manner that resonated with their individual calling. The overall schedule thoughtfully balanced activities, rest, and prayer, encouraging participants to discern with their mind, body, and spirit.
As the retreat concluded, many participants shared their reflections, revealing the spiritual and personal fruits harvested during their journey. Here are some of their heartfelt remarks:
Oscar Montalvo: “This retreat was truly exceptional. The silence and extended prayer time were the highlights for me.”
Isaiah Valenzuela: “The priests’ insightful talks and meaningful conversations with fellow discerners helped clarify my questions. The spiritual moments, like daily prayer and Mass, were immensely rewarding. And being in the company of the Benedictines was a true blessing! It was an amazing experience, and my first retreat ever.”
Cesar Caldera: “I cherished the conversations with the priests, hearing their stories and personal experiences that shaped their journey through seminary and priesthood. A beautiful retreat. I only wish it could have been longer!”
Brian Donaldson: “Having ample free time to reflect and engage with others on the retreat was truly special. Thank you for organizing this wonderful experience, and having four priests present was fantastic.”
Matthew Jaeckle: “The group discussions after the presentations were particularly meaningful to me. It allowed us to better understand one another’s discernment journey and share valuable advice for continued discernment.”
The success and resonance of this Priesthood Discernment Retreat pave the way for its return on June 10-12, 2024. For further details, please contact the Vocation Office.

Fr. Hau Vu is the Director of Vocations in the Diocese of San Bernardino