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Brazilian missionary developed her vocation by following Pope Francis’ WYD events

July 31, 2023 Catholic News Agency 2
Daiane Silva Pereira, 29, has been to every World Youth Day that Pope Francis has attended. Each of them played an important role in her discernment of religious life and now she’s in Lisbon for WYD 2023 as a member of the religious community Comunidade Canção Nova. / Credit: Natalia Zimbrão/ACI Digital

ACI Digital, Jul 31, 2023 / 14:40 pm (CNA).

Daiane Silva Pereira, 29, is a missionary of the Canção Nova Community in Cachoeira Paulista state in Brazil. On July 30 she embarked for Lisbon, Portugal, for her fourth World Youth Day (WYD). During her WYD experiences, she saw the awakening and maturation of her vocation.

“I had never stopped to think about it, but I have really followed Pope Francis in this. I see that it is also a move of God. The speeches of Pope Francis, the themes of the days always fit like a glove within what I was experiencing,” she told ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese-language news agency, hours before boarding.

Pereira’s first WYD was in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. That was also Francis’ first WYD as pope and his first international trip after his election in March of that year.

“During Missionary Week, the week leading up to WYD, we welcomed 146 Norwegians in my city, Viçosa,” she recalled. “For me, it was an unimaginable experience, because I had never had contact with people from other countries and I could get to know their culture, their faith.”

She added: “For example, some shared with me that in my city, we could wear a shirt with a religious print, such as ‘Jesus Christ’ written on it, but in their city, some could not even say that they were Christians, they were persecuted … mocked. This was very shocking to me, because many times, we do not value what we have. It was an awakening.”

The theme of WYD Rio 2013 was “Go and make disciples among the nations.” 

“There, at the Rio WYD, I had my call to find out what God had for me,” Pereira explained. “… I was already walking in the Church but had not taken [further] steps. It was there that I began to realize that I needed to go deeper.”

Pereira recalled that she had already been to Canção Nova in Cachoeira Paulista in 2011 and in 2013, when she participated in the youth meeting Jesus Revolution, which took place in January. She returned for this meeting in 2014. 

“I came back and the Lord had already asked me: ‘Don’t you want to take steps? Then do it.’ But I didn’t think I could,” she said. 

In 2015, she said she felt God telling her: “Here is your place.”

“But I thought, ‘How can I let go of everything?’ It didn’t make sense in my head so I extended it another year,” she said.

In 2016, Pereira went with a small group to WYD in Krakow, Poland.

“We passed a shrine of St. Faustina where they had put up some awnings at the entrance with her story. One of them said that she was dancing with a boy and the Lord appeared to her, disfigured, and said, ‘How long will I have patience with you?’ I stopped at that moment and heard the Lord speaking to me: ‘Daiane, how long will I have patience? I have already called you.’”

She recalled that the theme of WYD Krakow 2016 was “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

“I experienced God’s mercy in a concrete way on that day,” she said.

After this experience, she decided to take steps and wrote to Canção Nova to begin the path of vocational discernment. In addition, she was preparing for WYD Panama 2019, to which she took a group of 17 young people from her city.

“The theme of Panama was: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.’ I went with many self doubts, whether I would be able to cope with this missionary life, with the demands,” Pereira said. “One day, I asked the Lord if that was what it was and the theme itself said so. Our Lady did not see the whole picture. When the Lord called her, she didn’t know if she would be able to cope, she didn’t know what it would be like, she didn’t know anything. And we often want to know everything, to have certainties. Faced with my doubts, I thought: ‘If Our Lady said yes and the Lord did everything through her, I am here too, Lord; do your will and not mine.’”

In 2020, Pereira joined the discipleship of the Canção Nova Community, which was founded by Father Jonas Abib in 1978 and follows the guidelines of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

“Now, WYD Lisbon will be the first one I’m going to be in the community, where we live by God’s providence. I thought I wouldn’t go, but I gave it to God as I wanted to go. By providence, Canção Nova won vacancies to send young people … a month ago, I learned that I would be one of those young people,” she said.

The theme of WYD Lisbon 2023 is “Mary rose and left in haste.” Pereira said she has been “praying a lot about it.” 

“I don’t know what awaits me on this journey. I am looking forward to it. But God has already put it very strongly in my heart that Our Lady heard God’s call, gave her ‘yes’ and left in haste to serve, to do God’s will. I also need to go out of myself, to have the boldness to bring the good news to other people, and especially in haste. Today’s times are very difficult, today’s young people are very difficult to evangelize. So I see that the Lord is in a hurry, he is in a hurry with the young people, because there are many young people getting lost today,” she shared.

“Jesus is coming back. And how many souls we still need to reach, how many young people we still need to reach, to evangelize so that the person can live the experience with God,” Pereira said. “As Father Jonas [Abib] used to say: ‘Let my life hasten the Lord and he will soon come.’ I also need, with my life, with my testimony of life, to run after these people to hasten the coming of the Lord.”

This story was first published by ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese-language news agency. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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‘Exciting time to become a saint’, says new rector of Pontifical North American College in Rome

October 4, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
Ordination of deacons of the Pontifical North American College Seminary in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on Sept. 29, 2022 / Evandro Inetti / CNA

CNA Newsroom, Oct 4, 2022 / 07:03 am (CNA).

“It is really an exciting time to become a saint,” Monsignor Thomas Powers, the new rector of the Pontifical North American College Seminary, told EWTN News ahead of the ordination of 23 deacons from his college on Sept. 29.

“We know from history, from Church history in particular, that the saints were risen up in times of persecution, in difficult times, within and outside the Church,” Powers said. Speaking about the men who would be ordained, he praised their readiness “to step up and to be called to heroic virtue, and to become the saints that that we’re all called to be.”

Monsignor Thomas W. Powers is the twenty-fourth rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. EWTN Vatican
Monsignor Thomas W. Powers is the twenty-fourth rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. EWTN Vatican

The 23 men from the North American College ordained to the Diaconate on Sept. 29 were joined for the ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica by over a thousand family members and friends. They prostrated themselves in front of the altar and dedicated their lives in service to God’s Church and to his people.

Monsignor Powers hopes others will follow the same path as these men and become seminarians. “Pray that young men hear God’s voice and decide to become priests,” he said.

According to a 2021 study from Georgetown University, enrollment in seminary programs has been quite steady in the last two decades. Still, Powers believes that the Church needs strong leadership now as much as ever. Speaking of his own students, he explained: “they’re about to embark on a life that’s very joyful. It’s fulfilling, it’s rewarding, but it’s also challenging, because we have challenges within the Church and outside of the Church.”

He praised the faith of his students, saying, “I thank God on my knees every day for the men that are here, because they’re superb, wonderful, joyful men. They want to be good, holy priests, and they want to be formed well in their faith.” 

Ordination of deacons of the Pontifical North American College Seminary in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, on Sept. 29, 2022. Evandro Inetti / CNA
Ordination of deacons of the Pontifical North American College Seminary in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on Sept. 29, 2022. Evandro Inetti / CNA

This formation, Powers believes, is integral to the development of strong Catholic priests. He recounted his own experience studying in Rome, near the residence of the Holy Father and at the center of the Catholic Church. But the formation vital for his development as a priest was the fraternal formation he gained through friendship and community with his fellow seminarians.

“For two years, we stayed here in Rome,” Powers recalled. “Maybe our families visited, maybe they did not. But, we really had to learn to develop a new relationship with Jesus Christ. Ties back home were cut, and we were formed as a men and as Christians who wanted to give our lives as priests,” Powers said. “I have wonderful friendships from my time here that continue to this day and I know the men being ordained today will say the same thing.”

He spoke of the calling received by each priest and each diaconate candidate: “I think it’s amazing that God’s voice still gets through, that these men still hear God’s voice, and they respond generously, and give that that Marian ‘Yes’ to what God is asking them to do, despite our complicated society and the very difficult and challenging times inside and outside of the Church,” he said. 

He said priests and seminarians “come from different backgrounds, experiences, family life, origins, and yet they all hear that same call. That’s an individual call from God, each one of them. And, so, it’s inspiring that they listen to that call.”

Monsignor Powers hopes that watching the ordination of these men will inspire others to become seminarians. “It’s really all the Church asks,” he said, “that a young man leaves his heart open, just as I did and just as these men about to be ordained did. Leave your heart open to the possibility, and let God surprise you.”



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Taking time to ask, ‘What is God’s will?’

December 24, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
A nun at the prayer vigil for consecrated life in St. Peter’s Basilica, Jan. 28, 2016. / Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA

Denver, Colo., Dec 24, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Discerning your vocation is about more than pursuing a celibate vocation alone, said Father Ryan O’Neill, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Denver. The purpose, he said, is to “increase the knowledge and possibility of vocation for anybody.”

“It gives us all a moment to be like, ‘Oh yeah, I do have a vocation. God does have a plan for my life, and I can find out what that is,” said O’Neill, who was ordained in 2012.

“We should all take a moment to ask, ‘How is discernment part of my daily Christian experience? How are we seeking the Father’s will?’” he said.

Everyone is created for marriage at the natural level because of their biological identity, O’Neill said, but to have a celibate vocation is “a supernatural vocation.”

“You have to pause, and say, ‘Okay, I know I’m created for marriage, but, Jesus, are you calling me to something different?’” O’Neill said.

For those considering a celibate vocation, O’Neill suggested reaching out to a religious order or a local diocese to go on a discernment retreat at the earliest opportunity. If no retreats are immediately available, meet with a priest or religious to talk about your interest in a celibate vocation.

“The first principle is, you cannot drive a parked car,” O’Neill said. “You’ve got to get in the car and you’ve got to drive somewhere. That means don’t sit in your bedroom asking God what He wants. Do something about it.”

O’Neill compared it with the idea of really liking someone, but never mustering up the courage to ask them on a date.

“You’ll never get an answer unless you drive the car in a direction you think you should go,” he said.

Reaching a “dead end” where the answer is “no” is okay, O’Neill said, especially on the first try. If you encounter a “no,” either from a spiritual director or in your own discernment, it does not mean you are not meant for a celibate vocation—it may mean that you need to try a couple communities before finding the right place.

“We have this pressure to find the right answer and to make sure it’s the exact fit, and that’s just not real,” he said. “The world works by you going out and driving into a dead end, being okay with it, and saying, ‘I found an answer, now I turn around and I go back the direction I came, and I go a different direction.’”

As a practical tip for discerning a celibate vocation, O’Neill suggested increasing the amount of time you spend in prayer and learning the Liturgy of the Hours, both of which, he said, will increase your relationship with Jesus.

“It’s only going to be beneficial if you spend more time in prayer,” he said. “If your life is going to be centered around a relationship with Jesus as a religious sister, as a priest, or as a religious brother, why would you not start working on that relationship now?”

O’Neill also said that it is important to not be actively dating when you are discerning a celibate vocation because it can cause additional stress and confusion.

“Either you are going to direct your heart toward marriage, or you’re going to direct it away from marriage, but to do both is actually torturous for your own heart,” he said. “Allow yourself to focus on one thing at a time. Let your heart relax in whatever direction you are focusing on.”

One of the greatest joys of O’Neill’s vocation as a priest, he said, is the freedom to seek what God wants.

“Our world puts so much pressure on young people to have it all figured out, to have a 5-year plan, a 10-year plan,” O’Neill said. “All those things really bore down upon me when I was in college until I was given permission by a priest to let all those things go, and say, ‘Jesus what do you think?’ and ‘Jesus what do you want?’”

“When I focused on that I felt more free than I ever had before, and I began to understand that that’s really what God wants. God wants us to have an experience of freedom,” he said.

Both marriage and celibate vocations are good things, O’Neill said, and each has a different kind of intimacy, whether that be spiritual intimacy with Christ or physical intimacy with your spouse.

“It’s okay to not get married for the sake of Jesus,” O’Neill said. “Marriage is good, but so is being celibate. What is your heart longing for?”