Samuel Group helps young adults discern God’s call

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Thursday, October 19, 2023

Samuel Group helps young adults discern God’s call

Participants gathered for the first session of Samuel Group, a discernment group for young adults at St. Alphonsus Parish, 1429 W. Wellington Ave., on Sept. 17, 2023. The group, which is sponsored by the archdiocesan Vocation Office, meets once a month for seven months. Each session includes talks and small group sharing with time for Mass, confession and adoration. (Cynthia Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Father Patrick Gorman leads a group talk during the first session of Samuel Group at St. Alphonsus Parish,1429 W. Wellington Ave., on Sept. 17, 2023. (Cynthia Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Matthew Pluta listens to a speaker. (Cynthia Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
A participant prays in the chapel. (Cynthia Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Father Tim Monahan, vocation director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, joins participants. (Cynthia Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Women meet in a small group. (Cynthia Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Thomas Goble listens as Franciscan of the Eucharist of Chicago Brother Matt De Angelis leads a small group discussion with the men’s group. (Cynthia Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Men meet in a small group. (Cynthia Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Young men listen to a speaker. (Cynthia Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)

Young adults who are trying to figure out what they are called to can get some help from a discernment program of the Vocations Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The Samuel Group is for people between the ages of 19 and 25, men and women, and includes seven monthly meetings. Participants also commit to daily prayer and spiritual direction.

“We teach some basics of prayer and discernment understood as listening to Jesus’ voice and trying to follow his will in major life decisions, and even in smaller life decisions,” said Father Tim Monahan, director of the Vocations Office.

It is appropriate for young men discerning whether the have a vocation to the priesthood and young men and women discerning whether they have a vocation to religious life, but it is also for young adults who do not believe they have that kind of a calling.

As for men who are further along the path of discernment to priesthood?

“We have plenty of programs for them,” Monahan said. “But this fits very well into our overall program. In terms of vocation ministry, it’s helped some of the guys I’m working with  say, ‘I’m afraid I don’t want to be a priest.’ And that’s good.”

The Vocation Office began offering the Samuel Group in the fall of 2021, and for the past two years, had groups of 30 to 35 participants meeting in two locations. This year, there is one group meeting at St. Alphonsus Parish, 1429 W. Wellington Ave., since the priest who was running the second group was reassigned and is no longer available, Monahan said.

Meetings start at 1 p.m. and include speakers, prayer, adoration, an opportunity for confession, small group discussion, a meal and social time, and end with 5 p.m. Mass.

Erin Stockdale, a project manager who is a parishioner at St. Alphonsus, participated in the group in 2021, and returned in 2022 as a small group leader.

She especially enjoyed the opportunity for spiritual direction, she said.

“I think that can be a little intimidating to do that on your own,” she said. “But I loved it. I think it was one of the best parts of the program. It was a wonderful experience  to share with somebody what’s on your heart and what’s in your prayer life, and help you understand what’s going on in your conversation with God.”

She said the monthly meetings were like “mini-retreats,” and the group helped her form friendships with young adults from her parish that before she had only known by sight.

Monahan said that when the group started, he did not expect the enthusiasm for spiritual direction among the participants, or for the small groups in which members discuss whether they have been doing the things they said they would.

“I’m surprised by the gratitude and the need for quality spiritual direction,” he said. “And accountability. I’m hearing from the young adults, ‘We want to be challenged but we don’t want to be challenged,’ like all of us. The surprise for me has been the spiritual fruitfulness that comes from having some healthy accountability, and the same thing with spiritual direction.”

Stockdale said what she learned in Samuel Group is still valuable.

“The tools I learned in Samuel Group with regards to prayer helped me understand how I need to bring day-to-day pieces of my life to God, how to integrate those in my prayer life,” she said.

This year’s sessions started Sept. 17. Participants pay a fee of $45 to register.

That fee covers some costs, but not most of them, Monahan said.

“It’s accountability again,” Monahan said. “We’ve seen this over and over again. When we offer something for free, people will sign up and not show up. It weeds out people who are just going to ghost us.”



  • young adult ministry
  • vocations

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