Educators, others invited to focus on youth, vocations at Summer Institute

Following in the footsteps of Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops set for October, the Diocesan Summer Institute will also focus on youth and vocational discernment when Catholic school teachers and administrators, catechists and parishioners gather at the Peoria Civic Center on Saturday, Aug. 11.

The theme for the day is “Before You Were Born I Set You Apart: Leading Young People to God’s Destiny for Them.” It will open with check-in and a continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and end with prayer at 2:15 p.m.

The keynote speaker will be Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, a founding member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and the community’s vocation director. Her topic is “The Battle is On for the Millennial Generation: Just Who Are They Anyway?”

During her breakout sessions, she will look at “World Peace? Let’s Begin with Vocational Awareness and the Joy This Brings!”

Also presenting breakout sessions are Msgr. Steven Rohlfs, who will explore “Guidelines to Making Ethical/Best Decisions in Daily Life,” and Father Matthew Hoelscher, who will speak about “Teaching the ‘Why’: The Gift of a Catholic Education.” The former rector at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, Msgr. Rohlfs offers spiritual direction at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Father Hoelscher, who was chaplain at The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign for four years, now serves as chaplain at Alleman High School in Rock Island.

Participants will also hear from Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, who will celebrate Mass for them at 10:30 a.m. He will give the homily.


Reconstituted two years ago, the Diocesan Summer Institute had been held the first Saturday of June.

“The change in the date from June to August was in direct response to the requests of the educators to start the school year off with renewal and back-to-school energy rather than to end the school year with an institute when everyone is exhausted and ready to break for summer vacation,” said Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Peoria.

The event is a collaboration between the Office of Catholic Schools, the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation, and the Office of Priestly Vocations, working with the Office of Divine Worship.

While vocational discernment is this year’s focus, the talks are designed to go beyond getting more priests and religious women and men, according to Father Timothy Hepner, diocesan vocation director of recruitment.

“It’s more directed toward serving the young people themselves,” he told The Catholic Post. “They want to know, ‘Where am I going in life? What’s my direction? How do I know what’s going to make me happy?’”

Father Hepner recommended Sister Joseph Andrew after hearing her speak at the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors and said she will bring a lot of wisdom and experience to the Summer Institute.

“The way she speaks is very engaging, down to earth. She’s very straightforward and refreshing,” he said. “She knows her stuff with regard to young people and vocations.”

He also praised Msgr. Rohlfs and Father Hoelscher for their vision and leadership.

“This is a once-a-year unique event,” Father Hepner said. “I hope people from around the diocese, even if they’re not currently involved in a ministry like catechesis, see the good in this and come. Everybody’s going to learn something.”

The cost to attend the Diocesan Summer Institute is $20, which includes the continental breakfast, lunch and materials. Registration is required and must be completed online here, and then clicking the button for “Registration.”

For more information, call Karley Bates, programs coordinator for the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation, at (309) 671-1550.

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