Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating
Students from St. Cecilia School cheer at vocations rally.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating
Students from St. Cecilia School cheer at vocations rally.
“What’s that word I told you to remember today?” Sister Beatrice LaFramboise called out to warm up the crowd. Like a tidal wave, 280 11-year-olds roar in response: “Vocations!”

Two rallies, one at St. Pius X in Portland and one at Queen of Peace in Salem, gathered sixth-graders from all over the Archdiocese of Portland to learn about the full range of vocations, including religious life and priesthood.  

After a successful pilot program in 2007, the archdiocese has run the program every year. Church leaders hope to emphasize the universal call to holiness through the sacrament of baptism, with the call to live out that commitment in married life, single life, ordained life or religious life, Sister Beatrice said.  

Father John Henderson, archdiocese vocations director, asked the crowd, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Children called out, “fireman,” “basketball player,” “teacher.”

If people had asked the disciples what they wanted to be, they would have said “fishermen,” Father Henderson said. However, when Jesus Christ, asked them to be leaders, he said, “they decided to follow him in a very real and close way.”

So the real question, Father Henderson said, is “Who is it that the Lord is really calling us to be?”

Students spent the day learning vocations-related vocabulary, and meeting religious bothers, religious sisters, seminarians, postulants and priests.

Franciscan Sister Christine Still started out by reassuring the sixth-graders that Religious were once children just like them, trying to figure out who they were called to be. Some youngsters seem to think Religious and priests come from another planet, Sister Christine joked.

“Well guess what? There is no planet of vocations,” she said. “The vocations come from you guys. It might be you, or it might be the person sitting next to you.”

Nuns eat pizza and play soccer, she assured the children.

“We’re normal people,” she said. “We do not sit in a chapel in a rocking chair, praying the rosary all day.”

The rally was broken into segments throughout the day, including a prayer service, various presentations, games and exhibits.

The goal is to let children know that people in religious life and ordained life are people of joy, Sister Beatrice

“The question always comes up, “Are you fulfilled and do you have a lot of meaning in life?” she said. “ We are able to talk about people like Óscar Romero, or tell about our own life.”

Sister Beatrice tells students about the 12 years she worked at a homeless shelter for women and children. Though she has never given birth to a child, she knows she has given life by providing a safe shelter for people in need.

“We are living out God’s abundant love for us,” he said.