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'Men in Black' vocations sporting event draws a crowd


Reciting evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours is not what most people associate with the habits of typical teenagers on a Friday evening. And yet that was exactly what some 40 young men did on Friday, June 24, after playing sports for a couple of hours in the sweltering heat of Raleigh’s early summer.

They came together from parishes throughout the diocese for the Summer Vocation Invitational, also known as the “Men in Black” gathering. The event, organized by the diocese with the help of the Knights of Columbus, has become an annual tradition that allows young men considering a vocation to the priesthood to share time with seminarians and priests. The event is held on the grounds of the Father Thomas Price Council of the Knights of Columbus.

“We want for them to see a different side of priests’ life,” said Father Bill John Acosta-Escobar, Director of Vocations for the last three years. “To see that all is not prayer and celebrating Mass, but that there are activities for fun and good health.”

Father Acosta-Escobar was joined by the man who that very day succeeded him as director of Vocations, Father Philip Tighe, who also happened to be celebrating the 16th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. One of his parishioners at Saint Catherine of Siena Church in Wake Forest is Joshua Arteta, newly graduated from Heritage High School.

In August, Arteta will enter Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, located near Philadelphia. Covered in sweat after playing soccer in hot, high-humidity weather, he said the afternoon was a great experience. “I knew it would be fun, and a chance to bring others,” Arteta said.

He first thought about the priesthood during his sophomore year in high school. He put those thoughts aside for a while, but realized the call was still there. The opportunity to give himself completely to God, and to help the poor, the imprisoned and the sick, led him to join the diocesan discernment group last February and, eventually, to apply to the seminary.

Like Arteta, many of the attendees were either recent high school graduates or rising seniors or juniors. But there were also a good number of older men in discernment. Michael Cerretti, an N.C. State graduate who spent three years at Cardinal Gibbons High School, also joined the discernment group last fall. “It is a great group,” he said.

After not practicing his faith very actively through his first few years in college, a personal crisis during his senior year forced him to reevaluate what he believed. Thus started a journey that led him to be accepted to postulancy by the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province; but he is still trying to figure out whether he should be a priest.

After games of soccer, ultimate frisbee, kickball and horseshoes -- and lots of watermelon -- everyone gathered for evening prayer and dinner. Bishop Burbidge encouraged the young men to pray for the seminarians by name, to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and to set aside some prayer time daily so that they could find the answer to the big question: What do You want me to do?