Vocations Event Highlights Jesus’ Mercy

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John Sherwood Photo

Guy Gruters, a Vietnam veteran, speaks about his time as a prisoner of war at a vocations gathering at St. James Parish in Charles Town.

By Colleen Rowan

CHARLES TOWN—Boys who partake in the annual summer Quo Vadis Camp came together in Charles Town recently for a three-day gathering, learning about Jesus’ mercy and seeing that “strong vocations come from strong families.”

The gathering was sponsored by the diocesan Office of Vocations and St. James Parish in Charles Town. It began with an evening gathering the boys, who are middle school-age, and their fathers at the parish.

The featured speaker for the gathering was Guy Gruters, a Vietnam veteran, Air Force, who was shot down twice during the war. He spoke about his capture and subsequent six-year imprisonment in a communist prison camp. He and other prisoners of war were tortured multiple times a week and he saw many friends killed. However, he told those gathered that it was in the prison camp that he was able to forgive his captors and pray for them.

“He gave a very powerful message about how Jesus’ mercy endures forever,” Post said, “and that he was able to finally overcome his deep hatred for these people and start praying for them. He said that the last two years of prison camp were the most peaceful time he had in his entire life. He was able to find joy within tragic circumstances because he was with God.”

Gruter’s wife Sandy waited for him the six years he was in the prison camp, and they went on to have six children. Friday the boys and their fathers visited the U.S. Air Force base in Martinsburg, where Gruters spoke about leadership and patriotism. Having the boys attend with their fathers and listening to Gruter’s story and being reunited with his family shows that “from strong families come strong vocations,” Post said, a notion in which he and Msgr. Paul Hudock, director of the diocesan Office of Vocations, strongly believe.

During the three-day event, four area priests—Very Rev. John Ledford, V.F., Father Derye Azcuna, Father William Linhares, TOR, and Father Eric Hall—attended the gatherings and celebrated an hour of adoration and heard confessions on the second night.

“The Vocations Office is happy to co-sponsor this event in the parish and outreach to the local community,” Msgr. Hudock said. “We especially want to thank Father Ledford, Father Linhares, Father Hall and Father Azcuna for volunteering their time for the sacrament of reconciliation and attentively listening to Guy’s story.”

The Vocations Office hopes to support more events like this  with St. James and other parishes in the diocese.