Campers and their seminarian-leaders prepare for an afternoon activity.
MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Young men explore vocations at Quo Vadis Camp
In a Mass he celebrated for the three dozen campers at Quo Vadis, newly ordained Rev. Oscar Rojas had some words of advice.
"If you feel He is calling you, He will do His part," Father Rojas told the teenage boys who came to the camp to learn more about vocations.
"Don't be afraid to say yes to the Lord," he said. "It's not by coincidence you are here. It's because God called you," he said.
"Here" was the Diocese of Oakland's Youth Retreat Center in Lafayette, where Quo Vadis Camp convened for its third summer, with the seminarians of the Diocese of Oakland as camp leaders.
"Be a good kid with your family," Father Rojas told the boys. "God will guide you.
"In the end, it is He who will confirm your vocation."
Discerning a vocation is a process. "Don't be afraid to keep growing in this call," he urged the young men. "Only God knows."
Father Rojas, who serves at St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord, was not the only new priest to celebrate Mass for the campers. The previous day, Rev. Matthew Murray, who now serves at Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont, said Mass in Lafayette.
Mass and prayer were part of the activities, as were carpentry, sports, games and music. Campers were invited to bring their musical instruments. During a poolside break, a ukulele was played by one camper. Another promised to bring his guitar next year.
Campers also pack their rosary beads. One popular activity has been the nighttime rosary walk, led by seminarian Jimmy Jimenez.
Several of the campers had been invited by their parish priests. In the case of three young men from Las Vegas, it was their former pastor, Rev. Quang Minh Dong, who now serves at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood, who invited them.
Michael Le, 16, was one of them. He had been to a "come and see" event with the Redemptorist order earlier in the summer. He has been leaning toward the religious orders, he said, but remained open to the prospects of diocesan priesthood.
Finding common ground with their fellow campers was important. "I like the activities and the people who are respectful about our religion," said Leo Sweeney, 16, a parishioner at St. John Vianney Parish in Walnut Creek.
Some of the campers were proud to point out that they were "three-timers" at Quo Vadis. After they finish high school, they are no longer eligible to attend the camp, but are invited to discern their vocations through other activities sponsored by the diocesan vocations office.
In prayer, rosaries and time together, the campers heard vocation stories from priests and seminarians, and were fearless in peppering the diocesan seminarians with questions. Many of the questions centered on academics. They also watched a film about life at St. Patrick's Seminary & University in Menlo Park, which included interviews with seminarians who had become familiar to them.
Campers were fueled by a steady stream of meals prepared by Knights of Columbus. The Knights of St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish in Antioch prepared platters of sandwiches for lunch, and were moving on to mass quantities of lasagna for dinner for the growing boys, declaring it a pleasure to be there, to serve the church.
The camp was under the direction for the first time by Rev. Wayne Campbell, who became vocations director in June, and staffed by all but one of the diocese's seminarians. Deacon Jimmy Macalinao is studying Spanish in Latin America for the summer.
For the seminarians, it was a rare chance to be together. They attend four different seminaries — two in Boston; one in Oregon; and St. Patrick's in Menlo Park. They participated in a retreat and several lived in community at St. Bede Parish in Hayward, and did various service projects throughout the diocese.
Manfredo Ocho-Aragon, 17, of St. Anne Parish in Byron, said he was attending the camp, inspired, in part, by his sister's expressed interest in becoming a nun.
Thomas Murray, 17, had similar inspiration. He and his brother Joseph, 16, were attending Quo Vadis Camp for the first time.
"I'm from a family of 11," Thomas said, "You see your older brother become a priest and another brother join the Navy.
"Maybe we are not all called to be priests," he said, "but we are all called to do service."
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