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Annual men’s camp dives deeply into vocational discernment

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Fosston – The annual men’s vocation camp, Esto Vir, was held at Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp near Fosston, Minnesota from August 6-8. Nine men attended the camp and were able to spend time with two diocesan seminarians and four priests.

In addition to fun and games, the camp included daily holy hours, Mass, witness stories from the seminarians and conferences focused on vocational discernment. Father Matt Schmitz, Promoter of Vocations, led the camp. Father Vincent Miller, Rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, delivered four vocations presentations. Father Xavier Ilango, Director of the Office of Vocations and the newest diocesan priest Father Michael Arey, Parochial Vicar at Holy Rosary, Detroit Lakes, spent some of August 7 at the camp. Diocesan seminarians John Wilebski and Joshua Johnson assisted with the camp.

Father Schmitz invited Father Miller to be the main presenter because he was Director of the Office of Vocations from 2002 to 2016 and recently completed his doctorate in sacred theology. Father Miller shared his vocation story in one presentation and spent the others discussing three areas of discernment: personal discernment, community discernment, and the discernment of the Church.

His morning presentation on August 7 focused on three parts of personal discernment; the first was prayer.

“We don’t pray so we get to know what we are supposed to do. We don’t even pray so we can get smarter. We don’t pray so we can help other people. We pray so we can have a sense of how much God loves us,” Father Miller said.

Additionally, he highlighted the importance of living a moral life by finding a good confessor and frequenting the Sacrament of Confession. He also spoke about gaining self-knowledge, especially in the spiritual life.

Throughout Esto Vir many opportunities were provided for participants to get to know seminarians and priests and to ask questions about seminary or priesthood. Seminarians also shared their vocation stories.

Lawrence Wirries of St. Joseph, Moorhead, will soon become the newest diocesan seminarian. On August 7, he shared his journey with Esto Vir campers.

Gradually realizing the importance of faith led Wirries to attend daily Mass, which led to an invitation to attend Eucharistic Adoration and praise and worship for the first time. Praying with the Blessed Sacrament deeply impacted him, and he began inviting his peers to come to daily Mass. The tug to consider the priesthood he felt for some time also greatly increased. It took a lot of courage to share the call he was experiencing with others.

“Last year here I had a chance to talk to Father Matt one-on-one,” Wirries said during an interview after his testimony. “It was the first time I had a chance to have a conversation with him. It really helped me to grow in my faith and further along my discernment.”

He said that discussion led him to begin the application process for seminary.

“You have to be open and eventually you have to take that first step,” Wirries said. “You can’t go anywhere just discerning in your head, eventually you have to take a step forward.”

John Wilebski finished college seminary at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Winona, and will begin studying theology at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana this fall. He had an increased role in planning this year’s camp and said the spiritual preparation that began months ago – especially praying for the men who would attend and over the practical details – has highlighted for him that the camp is God’s work, not theirs.

 “We’ve had a smaller number of guys, but the guys who are here are really engaged and involved and they are really becoming friends with one another,” Wilebski said.

Joe Revier of St. Lawrence, Mentor, attended Esto Vir for the third time, and is grateful for the fellowship with other faithful Catholic men.

“It’s a really fun time to be with my brothers,” he said.

Revier recently graduated from high school and will be begin training as a missionary with National Evangelization Teams (NET) soon.

He said each year has given him something new to think about as he progresses in discernment. Time spent in Eucharistic Adoration each day has been fruitful for him.

“Father Matt gives us something to meditate on a bit and it’s a really good time to sit with the Lord and think deeply,” Revier said.

He is unsure of where discernment will lead him but is grateful for Esto Vir.

“You’re not signing up for the priesthood if you come here,” Revier said. “A lot of people think it’s a vocations camp so it’s only for if you’re thinking about the priesthood right now; that’s not the case at all. It’s a really good time and it will help you figure out your vocation either direction.”

For more information about vocations in the Diocese of Crookston, visit www.crookston.org/vocations or contact Father Matt Schmitz, Promoter of Vocations at 218-773-0877 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

CLICK HERE for additional images from Esto Vir.

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