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Last weekend Downside Abbey welcomed about 35 young people for their second Vocation Discernment Weekend. The idea was to offer young Catholics an opportunity to think about vocation in the widest sense, and there were speakers to address a variety of topics.

The weekend began on Saturday morning with Sr Elizabeth Mary Mann, of the Bernardine Cistercians at Brownshill, who gave a presentation on the Universal Call to Holiness and Love, which led superbly into the talk by Fr Nicholas Crowe OP, on Discernment and Possible Obstacles to a Vocation. Participants were kept busy, and before lunch Fr Colin Mason, the Vocation Director of Clifton Diocese, spoke about the vocation to Diocesan Priesthood and the life of a diocesan priest.

After lunch they continued an overview of the charisms within the Church, with the Consecrated Life, introduced by Dom Anselm of Downside, and then the Lay Apostolate was discussed by Sebastian Morello, from the Centre for Catholic Formation in the Archdiocese of Southwark. This was a very full day, and full of great discussion among the group and with the speakers.

After Vigils in church that night, everyone was able to relax and discuss more informally, as well as watching Sister Act, a comedy film that also considers so many themes in the topic of Vocation: enclosed or apostolic life, the style of liturgy, types of work, marriage, evangelical counsels…

Sunday was more relaxed. The participants helped at the Sunday Mass by serving, reading and singing the Mass parts with gusto, especially Credo III. Sunday morning was also the opportunity to bring in other speakers, Fr Philip Thomas Edwards CSJ, from the Brothers of St John, and Sr Marian Sweeting-Hempsall OSB, from Stanbrook Abbey. All 5 religious gave a presentation of their congregation and answered questions, before a final Q&A.

This weekend was, for many participants, a rare opportunity to consider the topic of Vocation in the company of other people who are also seeking to discern God’s will, and to meet members of religious orders.

The next retreat on this topic will be from 22-24 November, and is a Monastic Experience Weekend for men thinking about a possible vocation to priesthood or religious life.