Ever had the unfortunate experience of a Come & See discernment retreat gone sour because of one person’s bad behavior?

Maybe the person bad-mouthed your community among the other retreatants. Or he was just was an unbalanced person. Or maybe they just wanted a free weekend with meals.

It’s happened to other communities, if not yours.

Graphic of one retreatant gone bad.

Try to avoid the “bad apple” experience on your discernment retreat.

I recently spoke with the vocation director of a large men’s religious order. He is able to spend a lot of time in vocation work, including spending two hundred days a year on the road visiting candidates.

What happens, he said, is that once a man drops the bomb, the other guys think, “If they allow a guy like this to come to this retreat, what kind of community are they?”

My conversation with this vocation director went something like this:

“Many religious communities ask candidates to come on a vocation retreat as a first step,” he began. “We strongly disagree with that.”

“What do you do?” I asked.

“We have to get to know them and their background. If their emails seem legit, we move to phone conversations. Then we send literature. And then I make a personal visit. After personal visits, we keep track of them. Only then do we invite them to a retreat.”

“Then he has to learn how to pray as the community prays.”

He said that they use internet advertising to find prospects. But the first contact with the candidate needs to be informational – just get a feel for the person, he said. (Get our free ebooklet, How to Attract Vocations with Social Media.)

I would think that getting one bad apple probably doesn’t happen too often. But I would advise our communities to at least make a phone call or two with the candidate before approving of their coming to the discernment retreat.

Our communities here at Vocation Promotion are somewhat vetted in that our quiz asks for certain red flag issues, such as the use of psychiatric medication, or a difficulty in living with others, and so on. But further evaluation of the candidate is a good thing before you open your door. (By the way, when I described to this man our Come & See Vocation Promotion Program, he said that we were “definitely on track.”)

How has your experience been along these lines?

Enjoy this article? Read our take on the popular book by Sr. Clare Matthias, Discerning Religious Life.