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(Diocese of Baton Rouge)

A national discernment retreat for young adult Catholics has been announced for this summer in Louisiana, and two prominent Black Catholics are at the helm.

Fr Josh Johnson and Sr Josephine Garrett, CSFN will host the first-ever “Chosen Retreat” at St Joseph Abbey in St Benedict, Louisiana from June 3-5th, 2022.

“This is for everyone across the nation,” said Johnson, who serves as the vocations director for the Diocese of Baton Rouge and as a chaplain for multiple local schools and Louisiana’s Knights of Peter Claver.

“[It’s] for men and woman who are interested in learning more about the diocesan priesthood and consecrated religious life,” he added on social media.

The event will be held on the grounds of the minor seminary connected to the Benedictine abbey—which over the years has educated many of the nation’s Black seminarians—and will feature priests, brothers, and women religious from around the United States.

Vocations directors and seminarians from various dioceses will also be present, among which include Johnson's own diocese, as well as Jackson (Mississippi) and New Orleans.

Over a dozen religious communities are also confirmed to be in attendance, including multiple communities of Carmelite nuns, the Springfield Dominican Sisters, the Daughters of St. Paul (aka the “Media Nuns”), the Josephites, and the local Benedictine monks.

“They will be present throughout the entire weekend for community prayer fellowship, study, and worship,” Johnson said.

Also present will be the Holy Family Sisters of Nazareth, in which Garrett has been a vowed member since 2015. She previously served in the congregation’s vocations ministry and is currently a Catholic school counselor in Tyler, Texas.

Both she and Johnson have made names for themselves as public speakers and evangelists, and have more than 50,000 followers between them across social media.

Johnson is perhaps best known through his podcast ministry with Ascension Press, where his “Ask Father Josh” show recently added a video component on their YouTube channel (itself boasting of over 638,000 subscribers).

Garrett is known nationwide as a retreat speaker with the GIVEN Institute, wherein she ministers to young adult Catholic women. She has also spoken at youth conferences around the country, including a virtual collaboration with Johnson for this year’s National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC).

The pair has also joined up for anti-racism efforts in recent years, sharing the history of Black Catholics in the United States and advocating for more inclusion in the Church to heal abuse and neglect.

Their new vocations event is in the same vein and is perhaps the first of its kind, being a national event for Catholics generally but organized and led by African Americans.

Registration for the event is open now, available to all men and women age 18 to 40, and the suggested donation for registrants is $85.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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