Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Fr. David Jaspers dons his old football helmet to tell students at a vocations rally that God calls regular people to priesthood and religious life.
Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Fr. David Jaspers performs card tricks for sixth graders during a break at vocations rally.
Ed LangloisThey met a priest who played college football and nuns who’ve taught school, counseled and lived among the desperately poor. That’s how 250 sixth graders last week learned that life has interesting options.
Of the Catholic Sentinel
Vocation directors from around the Northwest teamed up with the vocations-promoting Serra Club of Portland to sponsor a rally at St. Pius X Parish in Cedar Mill for students from Catholic schools.
The youths sang, danced and chatted. Mostly, they listened to stories about how God draws out the best in people.
“I was a normal kid,” Father David Jaspers told the rapt youngsters.
Ordained in 2009, the 34-year-old priest explained that he played football in high school and college, dated girls and dreamed of marriage. As he matured, he felt an abiding urge to tell people about God’s extravagant love. People began to ask if he’d ever considered being a priest. A post-college mission trip to Peru — where he did things like lead prayer over the body of an 8-year-old boy hit by a truck — convinced him of his calling, even though he knew it would entail sacrifice.
Now he’s parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Salem.
“God will strengthen us in whatever vocation he calls us to,” Father Jaspers told the sixth graders.
“It was inspiring,” Jacob Small, a student at St. Pius School, said of the talk. “It shows how God leads us on a journey.” Andrew Martinez, also of St. Pius, said Father Jaspers made it clear that regular people can be priests and religious.
“It simply gets the kids thinking and gives them an understanding,” says Father Kelly Vandehey, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Portland. He knows that sixth graders ought not yet have their lives planned out, but it helps if they know the importance of all the vocations — consecrated life, priesthood, marriage and single life — and how they complement one another.
Many Sisters were on hand as personal examples of their calling.
Franciscan Sister Patricia Novak says that because women Religious do not staff schools so often any more, events like the rally are vital. In a talk, she said that God communicates through prayer, quiet time, events, circumstances and other people.
“God will probably not knock you off a horse or hit you with lightining, but God speaks in many ways,” said Sister Patricia, who taught school for decades before becoming a vocations director.
Mary Harp, a 39-year-old in formation for the Benedictine Sisters in Mount Angel, was delighted to tell her story. A longtime preschool teacher in Maryland, she sensed the call and started doing research on the Internet. That’s how she found the Oregon Benedictines and began discerning the monastic life of prayer, service and simplicity.
“Kids need to know their options so they can listen appropriately to where God is calling them,” Harp says.
The sixth graders came from Archbishop Howard, Cathedral, Holy Cross, St. Pius and St. Therese schools in Portland, St. Cecilia in Beaverton, Christ the King in Milwaukie, St. Francis in Roy and Visitation in Verboort.
Jim and Terry O’Hanlon, a married couple and longtime members of Serra Club, helped organize the day.
“We need people to create a culture of vocations so young people can at least think about it,” says Jim. “God will call them, but they need to be able to respond.”