ROCHESTER — Fifty years have passed since his high-school graduation, yet memories from that transitional time of life still register strongly for Bishop Matthew H. Clark.
“I can still remember some of the feeling, some of the concerns, some of the doubts — all of the excitement,” the bishop told a group of approximately 250 soon-to-be graduates at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Many attendees at the first-ever “Senior Scene” are surely wondering what’s in store during this time of change and uncertainty. Bishop Clark and other speakers urged them to leave their hearts and minds open to God — and by doing so, they’re more likely to find their respective vocations.
“There are vocations in this room — to the priesthood, religious life, marriage, the single life. I know it,” emphasized Father Joseph Marcoux, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart. He said God’s call to a vocation might not be clear just yet, but that the voice should be acknowledged.
“Trust God. Let him come right through you,” Father Marcoux suggested. “If you have that gnawing in your gut, don’t ignore it — because you’ll never really be happy in this world if you do.”
Father Marcoux described the steps that led to his becoming ordained a priest in 2001. Similar presentations were made by Laura Bishop, who is currently in formation with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester; and Shannon Loughlin, diocesan director of young-adult and campus ministry, who reflected on her vocation of marriage.
The day’s youngest speaker, Jesse Malgieri, will enter the University of Indiana this fall as a vocal-performance major. He conceded that being uprooted from family and friends will be a major adjustment, but that pursuing a vocation often requires substantial change.
“The word ‘vocation’ scares some people, I know … it’s a call to something else, something different,” said Jesse, a McQuaid Jesuit High School senior who belongs to Rochester’s St. John the Evangelist Parish (Humboldt Street).
Michael Martinez, from Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s parishes in the Tioga County area, will soon begin at Broome Community College to pursue a possible career as a psychologist. Asked how he would define a vocation, Michael responded with a profound play on words.
“If you change the ‘o’ to an ‘a’, it’s kind of like what a vocation might be — taking a vacation from what you wanted to do, and doing what God wants you to do,” he said.
Sometimes God’s call may come through somebody else. For Tony Melendez, the day’s keynote guest, that person was the late Pope John Paul II. Melendez — who was born with no arms and plays the guitar with his feet — recalled being greeted with a kiss by the pope at World Youth Day in 1987, as well as John Paul’s words, “Use what you have.”
“That was the day my life changed,” said Melendez, a nationally renowned performer.
Whatever one’s vocation, Father Marcoux said it is ideally “where you find the joy and the perfect fit.” He noted his strong, ongoing love for the priesthood, whereas Bishop Clark said he has “no doubt that the I have found the call the Lord held up for me.” The bishop added that 43 years after becoming a priest, “it’s still beautiful.”
Bishop Clark said today’s young people may have a tougher time plotting their future than he did in his teen years — when, prior to the explosion of modern technology, life was “fairly predictable.” Yet the bishop said one aspect that hasn’t changed is the desire by young people “to live a life that means something to them — that has direction, challenges.” He added that his greatest hope for Senior Scene participants is that they return home “with the deep conviction that Christ the Lord will always be your friend, and be with you wherever you go.”
Senior Scene lasted nearly five hours and drew strong attendance from across the diocese, including many people from the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier.
“We were very pleased. We didn’t know what to expect for the first time,” said Carol Dady, diocesan coordinator of priesthood vocations awareness and discernment. “It was a great team of experienced people, and Tony (Melendez) was just what we hoped he would be.”
Dady said there are no current plans to make Senior Scene an annual event, but that “it certainly feels it would be worth doing it again.”