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FIAT Days invites young women to explore vocations

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It wasn’t very long ago that Sister Marie Notre Dame de l ’Espérance was a participant at FIAT Days, a camp for young women aged 13-18 hosted by the diocesan vocation’s office. First a camper, then a counselor, Sister Espérance was one of the six religious leaders at this year’s camp held July 18-22 at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.

“I think I had been looking forward to coming back to FIAT as a sister since before I was a sister,” said Sister Espérance, a member of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin Matará religious order in Washington, and a former parishioner of St. William of York Church in Stafford. “It’s the same camp except now I don’t have as many questions.”

The five-day camp began with Sunday Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who invited the 44 participants to take advantage of Jesus’ invitation to “Come away and rest for a while.” Throughout the week, the young women prayed, attended daily Mass and talks, and played a variety of sports tournaments, including soccer, badminton, ultimate Frisbee, bocce and volleyball.

The theme this year came from Romans 12:2, calling the high schoolers to “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God.”

Sister Espérance said her favorite part as a high schooler was getting to know the religious sisters. “It’s nice to be on the other side, trying to give that to the girls now,” she said. “(The campers) really get to experience what religious life would be like in some orders while having fun at the same time.”

The religious sisters mixed fun into the week. They worked with the campers on skits, telephone charades and song routines that engaged the entire group.

Meg Williamson, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg, returned to FIAT this year as a staffer, after attending when she was in high school. What brought her back was the experience with the religious sisters and “being able to be one of the staff people that I looked up to when I came the first four years.”

FIAT continues to attract young women because it provides a peaceful and relaxing environment for quality time with God, religious and peers, said Sister Jennifer Marie, a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary order in Philadelphia. She said the week is a great time for the teens to just be themselves.

“I love that it’s really relaxed in a way that the girls can just really find time to spend with the Lord,” she said. “It’s really helping them find the foundations in prayer.”

Anna Hsu, a returning camper from St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, said she appreciated the support she felt at FIAT. “You don’t feel pressure about the discernment process because everybody is going through the same thing. It’s really nice to take a step back from normal life and the whole world and just have this time to develop a relationship with God.”

FIAT also attracts many new participants every year. Despite reservations, Jacqueline Barbaretta of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ridge attended the camp for the first time and was surprised at how quickly she adapted and enjoyed it. “I wasn’t really feeling like being here, but it definitely got better as time went by. People I had literally just met … were so friendly, like we had known each other for years. And we get to spend a lot of time with God. I wasn’t very aware of how I hadn’t prayed until I came here.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021