Vocation advocates working hard to make others aware of God’s calling

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor

FALL RIVER, Mass. — National Vocations Awareness Week, which in the U.S. Catholic Church runs this year from November 6-12, is a call for all Catholics in this country to pray, volunteer, educate, and strive for a greater awareness of God’s call to young Catholics to consider a vocation to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life.

The week-long observance began in 1976 when U.S. bishops dedicated one week a year for a greater focus on vocations.

The Diocese of Fall River has always taken NVAW to heart through the diocesan vocations office, parish vocation teams and in the diocesan Catholic schools and Faith Formation programs.

This year is no different. On November 6,  Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., will preside over a Holy Hour for Vocations at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River, beginning at 3 p.m. All faithful are invited to join the bishop and others to pray for a greater awareness of God’s call to young men and women to a religious life.

Father Kevin A. Cook, diocesan director of Vocations and Seminarians, will be the celebrant of the November 6 TV Mass on WLNE Channel 6 at 11 a.m.

Prior to the 3 p.m. Holy Hour at the cathedral, Dominican Sister Paulina Hurtado, associate diocesan director of Vocations, will conduct a workshop for members of diocesan Vocation Awareness Teams.

Also, during the week, Father Christopher M. Peschel, associate diocesan director of Vocations, will visit some schools in the diocese to talk to students about vocations.

Regarding the current status of vocations in the diocese, Father Cook told The Anchor, “This year we have nine seminarians, up from the six last year: one at Our Lady of Providence Seminary, seven at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, and one at Christ the King Parish in Mashpee. Frank Fagundes from St. Anthony Church in Taunton is a junior at Our Lady of Providence Seminary. Juan Carlos Munoz and Matt Gill are in third theology; Ryan Healy is in second theology, and Steve Booth is in first theology, Matt Laird is in his second year of pre-theology, and Greg Quenneville and Bill O’Donnell are in their first year of pre-theology. Dan Nunes is at Christ the King in Mashpee. 

“In May we will be having a diaconate ordination but this year we will not be having men ordained priests. Also we have several men actively seeking to apply to the seminary for next year.”

“Vocation Awareness Teams a growing across the diocese,” Sister Hurtado told The Anchor. “They are becoming very active throughout the diocese.”

The workshop will be held at St. Mary’s Cathedral prior to the Holy Hour, and incorporate the Holy Hour into the day’s events.

The workshop will begin with a registration period from 10:30-11:15 a.m. in Our Lady’s Chapel, on the Second Street side of the Church. Attendees are reminded that Sunday Mass will be taking place at that time in the main Church.

The event begins at 11:15 a.m. with opening prayer and introductions. The workshop will center on reaching out to teen-aged Catholics in diocesan parishes. The guest speaker will be Jennessa Terraccino, a dynamic speaker and author. Her presentation is titled: “Today’s Teen 101.”

Terraccino has spent a number of years serving as coordinator of Youth Ministry in the Arlington, Va. Diocese. She has made appearances on CatholicTV, EWTN, radio, podcasts, and online conferences. She resides in New England with her husband and children.

Following a break for lunch across the street from the church at the former school, Terraccino will present “Five Tips for Reaching Teens.”

Sister Hurtado said the workshop will be very informative and uplifting. “We welcome all of our vocation awareness team members. At present all five deaneries in the diocese are represented with a total of 32 parishes and 131 signed members.”

Sister Hurtado told The Anchor, “There will also be a Recollection for Girls, ages 14-18, November 11-12 at the Dominican Sisters Convent in Dighton.

Entitled, “Called By Name To Be a Star,” the overnight experience will help attendees realize what they have in common with the saints, and to “take some time to discover your true star quality.”

“We have nine young men in the seminary now, and thanks be to God, that number is up over last year, and will continue to grow as Father Cook and I are already working with several applicants for 2017,” Father Peschel told The Anchor.

Explaining why visiting area Catholic school students, Father Peschel said, “I think there is a genuine desire, particularly among the young, to be happy in life. I hope that any presentation given to school students would be helpful in recognizing that true happiness in life comes from doing the will of God, having that open, kind, and docile disposition to whatever He may be calling someone to do in life. 

“I usually emphasize a point in the Our Father prayer, which most of us had memorized by the time we were in first grade. I usually ask students, what do you think the line ‘Thy Will be done’ means? Sometimes I get blank stares back, but most of the time I see gears turning, most students know that phrase, because they pray it daily, but I think very few have ever taken it out of the context of the entire Our Father prayer to simply look at what saying ‘Thy Will Be Done’ to God actually means. 

“It can be applied to a number of situations in life. Trying to get into a particular college, ‘Thy Will Be Done.’ Praying for a sick or dying family member, ‘Thy Will be done.’ Or when someone is older, looking to land a particular job or salary, ‘Thy Will Be Done.’ There is a sense in which those four short words recognize that God is the One in control of every situation, and we in faith are asked to listen to Him in those times that His Will is made known.”

Father Peschel added that the context of a Catholic school is a very opportune place to bring up the vocation topic. “Most often students are at least familiar with what a priest is and some schools are still blessed with the presence of religious Brothers or Sisters. The idea that God wants the best for each person in life is not a foreign concept in most Catholic schools. I think when students hear about the ways in which they can serve God, it helps connect them to the overall mission of the Universal Church. It gets people out of the mentality of thinking that faith is a spectator sport and brings them to the idea that they are very much players who are part of a large team. 

“I am passionate about speaking on vocations in the schools because I attribute a lot of my own vocation to my time in the Catholic schools of this diocese. Even as a young student at St. Mary’s School in Taunton I remember a sense of calling to service at the altar. I loved serving Mass and over time I came to a deeper understanding of serving Mass as serving God, but it all started in the classroom of my grammar school.”

Father Peschel said he would be willing to speak at any diocesan school if contacted.

Fathers Cook and Peschel recently attended the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors. “One presenter made a point that stuck with me,” said Father Peschel. “He said if every parish in any given diocese in this country sent one man to the seminary, just one, every decade, then there would not be a decline, not even a stagnation, but a healthy growth in the number of priests available for missionary service to the parishes of that diocese. Vocations work is not really about the numbers, but clearly we’ve got some work to do.”

For information on the “Called by Name” retreat, visit contact Sister Hurtado at sr.paulina@dioc-fr.org, or call 508-675-1311. The Vocations Office website is fallirvervocations.org.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts