A window into a vocation

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While many teens spend the summer playing video games and watching TV, 111 young women disconnected from technology for one week to consider their life's vocation at FIAT Days discernment camp at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md., July 12-16.

Hosted by the diocesan Office of Vocations, FIAT Days is a five-day overnight camp for young women between the ages of 13 and 18 that provides the opportunity to recognize a call to holiness within their lives that will guide them throughout the discernment process.

This call to holiness is uniquely illuminated by religious sisters from various orders that lead large group meditations, provide structure to small group discussions and even join the girls in sports tournaments throughout the week.

"The beauty of FIAT Days is that the young ladies of our diocese get an opportunity to live in an environment that gives them a window into what it would be like to live as a religious sister in formation," said Father Joel D. Jaffe, the director of the Office of Vocations. "The goal is to spend five days living together with religious sisters and other discerners to create an openness to God's call, whatever that might be."

Although discernment can be very challenging for some, 15-year-old Cecilia Haislmayer believes that FIAT Days eliminates some of the stress associated with choosing a vocation.

"You didn't think discerning could be this simple," said Haislmayer. "I always thought of discernment as something really challenging and hard that takes so much time and that you won't figure out until you're too old. FIAT showed me that it doesn't have to be that way. This experience has been life-changing for me."

Sister Maria of Abba of the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary emphasized the importance of allowing young women to learn about religious life from members of religious orders.

"I think the main thing that helps girls discern in these FIAT camp days is the presence of other religious sisters joining them in their activities, telling their vocation stories and helping them to see that the religious are not superhuman," said Sister Maria. "They are just like them, and God chooses whom He will. He chooses all different kinds with all different personalities."

Kateri Christe, 15, returned to camp for a second year because she enjoyed seeing a new side to religious sisters.

"Everyone thinks sisters are so holy because they spend all their time praying and never do anything fun, but they get out here and they play sports with you," said Christe. "Being able to play soccer or basketball with the sisters is just so awesome. You realize there's actually a person behind the habit."

For Maria Carneckis, 15, FIAT Days provided her with the tools necessary to escape a sense of complacency in her faith.

"Before coming to FIAT, I was doing everything necessary to be considered an OK Catholic - I would attend Mass and I would say the rosary, but my heart wasn't in it," said Carneckis. "Throughout this experience, the sisters have helped me see that there is something out there that is bigger and that could be more fulfilling than my selfish goals. By making prayer the center of my day, I have become much happier. FIAT has been a huge turning point in my life."

While some girls were initially fearful of attending the camp because they believed they would face pressures to enter the convent, camper Cecilia Bockrath said that FIAT Days gave her an opportunity to consider all her options away from the distractions of the modern world.

"FIAT has helped me step back from where I am and who I am and what I'm doing in order to take a look at where I am and who I am and what I'm doing," said Bockrath. "By providing me with the tools necessary to understand all vocations, the camp has helped me take the first steps in figuring out how I am meant to help the world. It's an amazing opportunity and no one should miss it."

Willis can be reached at jwillis@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015