The “mystery of vocations” was shared with parishioners of Holy Family Church in Artesia on April 14 as part of a parish vocation fair.“I was trying to run away from God, until one day I listened,” Carmelite Sister of the Most Sacred Heart Grace Helena told the large assembly attending the noon Mass.After providing a short history of the Carmelite religious community, she explained that individual prayer is very important in the discernment process as well as interacting and asking questions to those already living a religious life.She also reminded parishioners that consecrated life is about “serving others,” and in the case of her order it starts “at home” in their own religious community.For Marian Missionary of the Holy Cross Father Raymond Decipeda, Holy Family’s pastor, the whole process “starts with faith,” which “is a gift.” And “vocation is also a gift,” he said.The second bi-annual vocation fair was put together by a 12-member committee in coordination with more than 50 volunteers from 12 parish organizations. In the parish’s parking lot, 24 religious orders and diocesan priests set up booths, where representatives provided information and answered questions from parishioners attending each of the nine Sunday Masses.During the first fair — held in 2011— there were 28 religious orders participating and at least one reported a parishioner who visited the booths at that time is in his first year of novitiate with the Salesians, said Connie Perales, chair of the fair committee.Father Decipeda imported the idea of the fair after being a witness of the success of a similar event at St. Philomena Church in Carson, when he served as an associate pastor. Having now served as Holy Family’s pastor for nearly three years, he said the goal is to inspire younger generations to consider consecrated life or at least expose them to religious life. “We want them to lose fear by engaging in conversations with those already living a religious life,” he said. “Now that society is in crisis, there’s a need for positive reinforcement; a need for younger people to have a positive experience. We are planting seeds that someday another person will harvest.”And Easter/spring is the best time to do it because “it’s the new beginning, a new growth,” he added.Scalabrinian seminarian Efren Rea said he was there to help promote vocations in gratitude for the support he received when he was in his initial discernment process.“I remember I asked a seminarian how was religious life,” said Rea. “And he told me that the only way I would find out would be by living the experience myself.”He attended talks with the Scalabrinians and a year ago decided he wanted to join the order that ministers to immigrants like himself. “The more I get to know the order, the more in love I am with it,” he said. “I’m learning to have another vision of the poor, of immigrants, and I’m learning to abandon myself in the hands of God.”Holy Family youth leader Aliedza Gungab, 17, said she has been considering religious life for some time.She was a “holiday Catholic” until the death of a cousin of hers who was a practicing Catholic left her thinking about “getting closer to God.” She joined a confirmation class and then was asked to join the church’s youth group.Fellow youth minister Sheena Hufana, a St. Joseph High School (Lakewood) senior, said that although she has never considered religious life because she wants to have her own family, she supports vocations and as a youth leader promotes it among her peers.Social Service Sisters Marie Lindemann and Chris Machado said the most frequent question they had at the fair was regarding volunteer opportunities with their religious order, which they viewed as a good start for people to test the services they provide to the community.St. Joseph of Orange Sister Mary Elizabeth Nelson said vocation fairs provide a good opportunity to check out the different offers. “And yes, Communion and confirmation are requirements to join [the religious community] because the Eucharist is very important to us,” she said, noting that a woman once told her she was considering joining the St. Joseph community, but had not completed the sacraments.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0510/spvocations/{/gallery}