Fr. Chris Valka, Fr. Frank Portelli and Sr. Helena Burns will answer questions about vocations on Nov. 10. Catholic Register file photos

Two priests, nun walk into a bar

By  Steven Travale, Youth Speak News
  • November 6, 2015

Q & A event to promote dialogue between youth and religious.

TORONTO - Two priests and a nun will be taking your questions. All of them.

On Nov. 10, Basilian Father Chris Valka, Fr. Frank Portelli, director of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth, and Pauline Sister Helena Burns will be at The Foxes Den, a pub in Toronto, the first of a speaker series which gives people the chance to ask clergy and religious questions they have always held, but never had the opportunity to ask.

“People don’t get a chance to have casual conversations with priests or religious like they used to,” said Valka, pastor at St. Basil’s Church, on the grounds of the University of St. Michael’s College in downtown Toronto. “We are being intentional about it. People have the opportunity to realize that there is a lot more we (clergy and religious) have in common with people than what they thought.”

The “Two Collars and a Habit” event is open to all, but particularly to young people. Burns, the “habit” of the event, believes that engaging with young Catholics is important because it provides them with insight into a potential vocation.

“We really have to seek out youth so they can be exposed to the beauty and possibility of considering a religious vocation themselves,” said Burns. “As a Catholic young person, it’s one of your options, so why not explore it?”

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. with the three guests seated together to take questions. Following the Q & A, there is a “Catholic Speed Dating for Vocations” session, also back by popular demand.

While most job fairs have the vocation seekers going around from table to table, this “speed dating” reverses that. Young vocation seekers will sit at a table as Valka, Portelli and Burns move around to them and give a seven-minute explanation of their vocation and particular religious order. Burns, who is also the vocations director for the Daughters of St. Paul, said she is keen on this activity, because she feels that not enough is being done by priests and religious to promote vocations.

“It takes two seconds, and it doesn’t have to be an automatic thing where you ask every young person, but if you feel inspired, go for it,” said Burns.

While Valka, Portelli and Burns are already engaged with young people in their ministry, it was the staff at St. Basil’s that brought the concept for this open dialogue event to life. Last month, they hosted an event called “Three Priests on a Barstool” with a similar theme.

“During the Year of Consecrated Life, we wanted to be able to highlight the three priestly religious orders that are around the University of St. Michael’s College,” said Valka.

Valka said St. Basil’s plans to host more events in the “Barstool Series” in the future, and with the success it has already had, he is sure to have a warm reception to these engaging and youth-oriented evenings.

“Everything starts with a conversation,” he said.

(Travale, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Sacred Heart High School in Walkerton, Ont.)

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