I had to prepare a brand new presentation for this event as I would not be speaking to only priests or Serra Club members but parishioners who could do the work of vocations. This was like an amateur runner being placed in the Olympics! I was going to speak in front of priests, religious, and parishioner from the Archdiocese of New York!
Fr. Enrique, the Vocation Director, met me at the airport and told me that 180+ people would attend tonight! Wow! The Holy Spirit was working over-time! Only one month prior at the NCDVD convention it was decided they would move forward with the summit, but only 50 people had signed up. Now, 60+ parishes would be represented. What an amazing turn of events!
We drove to St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, where Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had visited. It was built in 1892! Subsequently, St. Joseph's architecture was beautifully old. It harkens of a much simpler time of humanity.
The chapel's stain glass looked like a 3- D image with multiple layers. Extraordinary! The statues of St. Therese and busts of the popes inside rumored the beauty of the grounds outside. I love that the seminarians have lush grounds to spread out and think and discerns.
There are challenges whenever I am to present, and this event was no exception. A storm was headed to NY, and it was timed to hit around 5PM, when most of the people would be driving. I thought this would keep people away.
In Houston, when it rains, people will stay home unless it is truly important event, so, I was shocked that so many people were streaming into the seminary. Slowly they filled the refectory (cafeteria); some had never been to the seminary and gazed at the beautiful artwork. I was able to speak with some of them, and it is still strange for me to tell people that I am the speaker. I don't FEEL like I'm an expert on anything, and they treat me like an expert. These people seemed to come from all walks of life. They cared about the church and its future, exactly the type of people we need doing this work.
I have got say that I was a little nervous! Besides reading at Mass, I had never spoken to a group so large about vocations.
Fr. Enrique introduces to the crowd, which is surreal to have somebody speak about you in this way. All of this is so new and exciting! I asked,"God, do you have the right person?" "Are you sure?"
I made it through, and everyone was asking questions. Afterwards, Fr. Enrique spoke to the crowds, sharing his vocation testimony of when he was one week away from entering the seminary, and he went back to his home town in Nicaragua to see his mother. Before he could speak, she told him that when she was 15, she went before a statue of the Blessed Mother and told her that Our Lord could have her 1st born son as a priest! (God is so good to take her up on that offer as Fr. Enrique is a wonderful, spirit-filled priest.)
After his talk I made my way to the back of the room, but I only made it half way when a whole group of youthful high school students had a question for me and wanted my signature on their book. Looking at the crowd, I saw so many youthful faces that gives me such hope for the church.
I signed books and met people for another 30 minutes. Fr. Enrique's asked me, beaming, "It feels good, doesn't it?" God, it does feel good to see the Holy Spirit in action. I only played a small role in the Vocation Summit, but it does feel like we made a difference in New York!