Ember Day: A Time for Discernment
Do you know what God has in store for you? Are we doing enough? Are we doing what He has called us to do?
Young adults both ponder these questions for themselves and are often asked them by others.
For young men discerning whether priesthood is their calling, Ember Day, a seminarian-led retreat, provides a relaxed, casual opportunity for exploring these questions.
“Ember Day is for any young man who is considering the call of God for his life, for those seeking something more than the world can give,” said seminarian Daniel Jasek, in Second Theology in formation for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. “It is a day of fellowship with other young men discerning their vocation, and a chance to spend time with priests and seminarians. The day features Mass, adoration, talks, sports, games and more.”
Father Ethan Hoying, who helped launch Ember Day in 2022, noted that, for most men considering priesthood, having a mentor is an integral role.
“The number one factor [in my priesthood discernment] was my childhood pastor, Father Frank Amberger,” said Father Hoying. “I cannot emphasize the role he played enough. He planted in me the seeds of a vocation in a way which was perfectly suited to me. It wasn’t so much that he talked about discernment of vocations—although I know he did from time to time—rather, he presented discernment and priesthood by the way he lived his life.”
During the retreat, young men meet other priests to learn more about their lives inside and outside the church walls. For those seeking a mentor in discerning the call to priesthood, they can connect with one here.
The retreatants also meet the archdiocesan Director of Vocations, Father Dan Schmitmeyer.
“[I] know when I finally met with the vocation director, I was scared he would hand me a collar and pressure me to become a priest,” said Father Schmitmeyer. “Obviously, that doesn’t happen. The young men who attend will learn about seminary, priesthood and discernment. They will also have good food, social and sports time.”
“Just because you attend Ember Day does not mean that you must pack your bags and be shipped off to seminary,” agreed Father Hoying. “There is zero commitment and expectation. Ember Days exist to help young men, not to put pressure on them.”
The hope is that by attending an Ember Day, those wishing to learn more about priesthood will feel more confident in answering that call from God, said Jasek.
“Too many men are sitting on the sidelines when God has a crucial mission for them,” said Jasek. “The Church today needs fathers and spiritual fathers, and the goal of these Ember Days is to raise up men willing to respond.”
“I hope the young men learn that they all have a vocation, and they should be praying about their vocation and asking God, ‘Who do You want me to be?’” concurred Father Schmitmeyer. “That all vocations (single life, married, diaconate, consecrated, and priesthood) need to be discerned and prayed about. No one should just fall into a vocation, but instead should be praying about their vocation. When people talk about a call to a vocation, it usually isn’t a voice or bright lights or anything like that. It is typically something very natural. You are drawn to the life and want to find out more about living the vocation.”
This article appeared in the June 2023 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.