The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales are preparing for a growth spurt.
Next weekend, Toledo native Alan Zobler will be ordained a priest in the religious order; three young men will profess their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and four others will take the first step to joining the Catholic community by becoming postulants.
"This is the largest group we've had in some time," said the Rev. Martin Lukas.
Father Lukas, who has been the Oblates' vocation director for eight years, said there are signs that the generation now graduating from college is more community-minded than previous age groups.
"Guys in this age group are looking for connection," he said. "Not necessarily with a religious community, but to be connected and to be involved in common tasks. And this generation seems to be very service-minded."
Mr. Zobler, 27, whose home church is St. John the Baptist Parish in Point Place, is the son of David and Christine Zobler.
He first got to know the Oblates as teachers and coaches while attending St. Francis de Sales High School, which is owned and operated by the religious order.
He then went to St. Francis de Sales University in Allentown, Pa.
"Through my relationships and interactions with the Oblates at St. Francis de Sales High School and University, their spirituality and charisma were very attractive," Mr. Zobler said. "And the community life was very appealing to me."
Father Lukas, a former principal of St. Francis High School, said the sense of community is strong among the Oblates.
"We see our vocation as a call to minister in the church, but within the context of community life," he said. "It's a hallmark of religious orders that we live together as brothers in the community."
In addition, all religious communities have a specific spirituality, he said. For the Oblates, it is to follow the approach of St. Francis de Sales, who was born in 1567 in Thorens, France. An author of many books, St. Francis was canonized in 1665 and in 1923 proclaimed by Pope Pius XI to be the patron saint of writers and journalists.
The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales religious order was established in the late 19th century and came to the United States in 1893.
There are two American provinces, and a dozen Oblates now serve in the Toledo area, according to Father Lukas.
Mr. Zobler earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics with a certificate in teaching from St. Francis de Sales University and a master's in divinity from St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto.
He will teach theology at St. Francis de Sales High School starting this fall.
"I started to think about [the priesthood] mostly in college. ... By my junior year of college I really began to think about it and talk about it on a serious level. And during my senior year, I came to a point where I said, 'If I don't try it, I don't know if I will be able to forgive myself.' "
Mr. Zobler will be ordained by Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair in a ceremony starting at 11 a.m. June 30 at Gesu Church, 2049 Parkside Blvd., and will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at Gesu at 11:30 a.m. July 1.
Father Lukas said not all members of the Oblates become priests; many join as religious brothers.
The four postulants, who will take their first step toward becoming Oblates, will be welcomed into the community on Friday morning. Three of them - Joseph Newman, Robert Lockwood, and Nicholas Suhocki - will teach at St. Francis de Sales High this fall, and the fourth, Eric Jorge, will be assigned to serve the Hispanic ministry in Adrian, Mich.
"They will live in the community and get an inside look," Father Lukas said.
After a year of living with the Oblates, and after "serious prayer and reflection and learning about the religious life," Father Lukas said, they can then choose to take the next step and become novices.
The three novices, Nathan Boltz, Daniel Lannen, and Rudi Scharzkopf, will profess their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience n a service at 7 p.m. Friday at Gesu.
"These celebrations speak to the health and vitality of religious life, particularly life as an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales," Father Lukas said.
"More and more today, the young men of high school and college age are open and willing to discuss, consider, and truly discern if God is calling them to a life of ministry."
More information on the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales is available online at www.oblates.us.
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