By RON KUZLIK     2/27/2024

With the support of the Office of Youth and Young Adults, the Diocese of Orange’s Vocations team hosted a discernment retreat for young adult men and women earlier this year.

Bishop Kevin Vann recently launched an updated vision for the Diocese’s strategic plan, and among its initiatives is a concentrated focus on outreach and ongoing formation for young adults.

A dozen men and eight women engaged in prayer and discernment over the weekend of Jan. 19-21 at Forest Home Retreat Center in the San Bernardino Mountains in Forest Falls, Calif.

“We found it better to go to a place outside the Diocese, remote, in nature that would help with the clientele,” said Fr. Brandon Dang, who serves as director of Priestly Vocations for the Diocese. “Some of us at the Vocations Office had already had great experiences there with previous retreats.”

The average age was 24, and most had not attended a retreat since high school. The weekend was led by Fr. Dang, Joan Patten, AO, delegate for Consecrated Life and Fr. Cheeyoon Chun, assistant vocations director.

Additionally, representatives from the Sisters of St Joseph of Orange (CSJ), the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart (SDSH) and the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (SOLPH) were present and available for individual meetings with the participants. “The weekend was not too focused on vocations like the priesthood or consecrated life,” Fr. Dang said. “Instead, this was an opportunity to grow in relationship with the Lord and then help them discern further.”

A series of talks and small group discussions covered a variety of topics, focusing on general discernment tips to help retreatants grow in holiness.

In her “What is Discernment?” talk, Patten spoke about seeking the greatest good that God is leading us to and where we will receive joy and freedom.

Then Fr. Brandon asked the attendees to reflect on deepening their relationship with God through prayer, reminding the retreatants that prayer is not a transactional experience, but a relationship.

Next, Fr. Cheeyoon spoke to the young adult women about living their identity deeply rooted in holiness and the call to love. He used various female saints as role models of holiness so they too, can be saints for the future.

One young woman said afterwards that this talk led her to reflect on being God’s masterpiece and letting God reveal her to herself.

Patten also gave a talk to the young adult men about their identity as men of God. She reminded them that their lives are engaged in a spiritual battle, and they are called to guard the dignity of others, especially women’s dignity. She encouraged the men to enter into this spiritual battle by prayer, fasting and service.

Lastly, during the closing Mass, Fr. Cheeyoon invited the retreatants to reflect on “What are they leaving behind so they may follow Christ?” He encouraged them to seek greater freedom by trusting God and letting go of the things we carry around “just in case” what we think we need for our own comfort or security.

During the weekend, the retreatants also engaged in Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day, daily Mass and Holy Hour, as well as opportunities for spiritual direction and Reconciliation. Many of the participants took advantage of the opportunity and were grateful to be able to share about their spiritual journey and discernment.

There was even time for recreation and games, including some good-natured “Girls vs. Guys” competitions.

Retreatants shared their joys and experiences of the weekend.

“This has been wonderful,” one young man (whose name has been withheld for privacy) exclaimed. “To have intentional time to pray with our Lord and to listen to talks about discernment and prayer and what is means to be a Catholic man, I have been given much to further reflect on and apply to my life.”

Patten explained that this was the first time the Diocese has hosted a discernment retreat for young adults in this way.

“We plan to continue to offer discernment series and programs,” she added.

The Vocation Office has offered options for discernment accompaniment under the program titled “Vocations 101.” To learn more, visit https://www.rcbo.org/ocvocations/