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Spiritual summer camp
Young women pray, play and reflect on their vocation during the third annual Fiat Days discernment camp.
The days start peacefully at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. Retreatants wake early and eat breakfast before attending a lecture on “The Beauty of All Vocations.” After spending a Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, they go to confession and attend Mass before lunch.
And then they reconvene for a tug-of-war tournament.
It’s just a typical day at Fiat Days, a five-day diocesan-sponsored vocations camp for high school women, held July 15-19. Now in its third year, Fiat Days is a mix between a spiritual retreat and a summer camp and is designed to raise awareness about the various vocational paths available to young women.
“Whether (the girls) are aware of it or not, they are discerning their vocation,” said Father Brian Bashista, diocesan vocations director. “We want to assist them and give them the tools society does not normally give them.”
Throughout the week, the 85 young women at the camp hear various guest speakers on prayer, the religious life, discernment, marriage and the consecrated life. They also participate in morning and evening prayer, Holy Hours, rosary walks, small group discussions and daily Mass. Every afternoon, they compete in athletic tournaments and pick-up games of soccer and volleyball, and in the evenings, they have time for recreation, crafts and small group discussions.
“If they can get to know Jesus Christ better this week, they’re going to have a much easier time discerning God’s plan for their lives,” Father Bashista said.
The week’s program also introduces the young women to sisters from various religious orders, many traveling from other dioceses for the occasion.
Oblate Daughters of St. Francis de Sales Sister Joseph Anne Ricciardi is a teacher at Mount Aviat Academy in Elkton, Md. She came to Fiat Days for the opportunity to talk about the religious life with the young women and show what being a sister is all about.
“I think it’s good for the girls to intermingle with the sisters,” Sister Joseph Anne said. “It’s always the unknown for many of them, and they’re still afraid. This shows we’re just as human as they are.”
Sister Joseph Anne said she was impressed with how spiritually engaged the young women were.
“They are interested and they listen and they don’t look like they’re bored,” she said. “They really want to learn the spiritual life, to get to know God.”
Fifteen-year-old Serena Hoernig, a parishioner of St. John the Beloved Church in McLean, said this was her second consecutive year coming to Fiat Days.
“It actually clears up a lot of questions,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to ask sisters about their experiences.”
Hearing about Hoernig’s experiences was what inspired fellow St. John the Beloved parishioner Grace Murray, 15, to attend this year’s Fiat Days.
“It’s amazing to have this same experience with other girls like me,” Murray said. “I hope to get to know my own faith better and begin that relationship with God.”
Fourteen-year-old Gracie Lawler, a parishioner of Holy Spirit Church in Annandale, said she enjoyed being able to spend time with the sisters, especially while competing in the tournaments.
“I used to think sisters were more reserved,” she said. “Now I’ve learned they’re just like us. They can go out and see people and play sports.”
She believes the program is beneficial for high school women because it teaches them about their options and gives them time to hang out with other Catholic girls.
“It’s good to be around girls who might have the same hopes and dreams for their lives,” Lawler said.