By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
He said they use the book To Save a Thousand Souls as a point of discussion for discernment and with that the men are given a booklet that lists topics to be covered, questions that relate to the topic and so on.
“It is a tool for guys who are looking at the priesthood to have questions answered and talk about aspects of the priesthood that they may not have considered previously,” the vocations director said.
Father Pelzel said this meeting is designed for men who are specifically discerning a call to the priesthood. He pointed out that this is not the first time he has held the meetings. The priest offered them two years ago and if enough possible participants are interested, he would like to do so every year.
Five men attend on a regular basis; three are Briar Cliff students and two are not. A couple of other men attend occasionally.
Spencer Leffler, a freshman at Briar Cliff University from West Point, Neb., is discerning a call to the priesthood.
“The meetings have provided great brotherhood and building together the solid foundation of our vocation,” he said. “Any questions that we have, Father Brad is right there. From A to Z, he has been through a lot so he can answer questions about the seminary and priesthood.”
Jeff Nemmers, Jr., of Fort Dodge makes a special trip to Sioux City to attend the meetings.
“It is about a two hour drive each way from Fort Dodge to Sioux City. Taking one day each month to come over is really a small sacrifice for the opportunity to meet and discuss with other men who are also discerning a vocation to the priesthood,” he said.
Nemmers, a member of Holy Trinity Parish, noted that he was invited to attend the meetings by Father Pelzel. He has already applied to be a seminarian with the diocese and this was a great opportunity to continue to be actively involved in the discernment process.
“The meetings provide a guided method to grow closer to God and see what he may be calling each of us to do with our lives. Some who attend may find that God is not calling them to the priesthood while for others it may strengthen this sense of being called to this particular vocation,” he said. “No matter which way we go we are doing the responsible thing by taking the time to pray and listen to God's plan for each of us. Regardless of where we end up going or what we end up doing, we are all called to be saints and attending these meetings helps us to grow towards this ultimate goal.”
Nemmers and Leffler recommend these meetings to any young man who is not sure what God is calling him to do with his life.
“You are not signing on the dotted line that you will be a priest the next day,” said Leffler. “It’s a chance to think about your vocation fully and completely.”
Father Pelzel agreed, adding, “This is not a future priests’ training program. It is simply a gathering for guys who are thinking about priesthood. We give them information so they can make decisions on their own. There is no high pressure.”
He noted that he doesn’t present sugar-coated answers to questions but gives them an accurate picture of what priestly life is like – the blessings and the challenges. From there, the men must discern if that “is a life option that they want to pursue.”
Nemmers noted that the meetings are a chance to grow closer to God and find one's vocation. “Many people are nervous about attending but they should not be. It is completely anonymous and we respect each individual’s situation,” he said.
Along with the discernment meeting, Nemmers said they have the opportunity to spend time in prayer with the Lord in a holy hour followed by the celebration of Mass after each of the meetings.
Father Pelzel said if there are individuals who are interested in the information and it is not practical for them to drive to Sioux City, he can provide them with a book and resources. If there were a number of guys who wanted to meet in another location of the diocese, he said he would make every attempt to address their needs.
“People shouldn’t shut out their vocation right away,” said Leffler. “They should keep all doors open and explore God’s will completely and fully. It will bring them to peace.”
If someone wishes to attend the discernment meeting they can call Father Pelzel for more information at (712) 233-7523 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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