Mercy On Line

       Anyone who has traveled by plane over the last month has surely had to deal with the daunting, almost never-ending lines through the security check points. Situations like that can easily lead a person to feel annoyed at the process, or get frustrated when the potential of missing their flights seems imminent. Having done a lot f traveling recently, I can surely understand those frustrations over the maze like journey.  Nevertheless, my recent participation at the Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta helped to remind me that there are many things in life that require the virtue of patience.

        There were also long lines at the Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta, Georgia held the weekend of June 3-4. I watched has many people waited on them for very long periods of time and not once did they get annoyed or frustrated. Why were they on line? To receive God’s mercy.  Hundreds in maze lines waited patiently to receive the sacrament of reconciliation after meeting Jesus in Adoration and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.  The theme of the Congress was in accord with the Jubilee Year of Mercy, “Be Merciful, Just as Your Father is Merciful”.  This theme and watching the intricacy of the lines for reconciliation move in the convention center helped to serve as a reminder that we must be patient to receive what God has for us. Whether it is to ensure safety for flying or to be given the grace of His mercy, having patience as we wait is a sign of our commitment and faith to let God work in our lives in His time.


     Br. Simon Song and I met ran the vocation booth offering opportunities for games, lively conversation, literature, and providing new souvenirs such as back packs and lanyards. Some of those who visited us came back as many as five times just to hang out. The family-like atmosphere created by the Eucharistic Congress made it that much easier for us to meet with and promote vocations. Many of those working in neighboring booths expressed their gratitude for all the effort and energy we shared with the youth.  


Seeking Vocations Through Our Lady

         Our faith teaches us that Mary, the Holy Mother, is always interceding for us, always guiding us to grow closer to God through the ways of her sacred son, Jesus. It is fitting when we pray, we ask the Blessed Mother to help guide those who are discerning to fully listen to and follow Gods call. Br. Sal Sammarco and I had the opportunity to do just that at a location quite appropriately named for Our Lady. We  drove to Ave Maria University from St. Philip Benizi Church in Belle Glade Florida to attend the annual Vocations Fest celebration on April 13.  This Catholic university located in sunny south Florida is a community-based school with an enrollment of 1,100 students. The admissions process brings in about 100 new students each year, but strives to maintain a more personal approach to higher education than many universities.

        The Vocation Fest helps to facilitate student intentionality in discerning a vocation to the priesthood, religious life, marriage, lay missions, or consecrated secular life.  Thirty religious and diocesan institutes attended the day to meet and greet students.  In addition, students from a local high school and some home-school students came to participate from the Ave Maria community. 

              By sharing an exhibit booth with the FMA vocation director, Sr. Theresa Lee, we kept the students engaged through conversation, carnival styled games, and faithful joy.

        Br. Sal’s friendly approach and creativity captivated audiences of all ages throughout the day.  It was enriching to witness how, like Don Bosco, he could strike up interest and conversations about life and faith through just a happy hello.    















         The Fest concluded with a barbecue, live music, testimonials, and brief talks by vocation directors and lay coordinators describing their founders, their charisms, and their ministries. For sure, the faith-based community of Ave Maria offered an environment that was essential to the promotion and nurturing of vocations.  Don Bosco once said, “Be devoted to Mary, most holy; frequently call on her. Never was it known that anyone who trustingly had recourse to her was not promptly heard.” This was feeling I left the campus of Ave Maria with has I prayed for an increase to vocations and the guidance in continuing to minister.


World Day of Vocations: Promoting a Shepherding Community

During the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis has marked April 17 as the 53rd World Day of Vocations.  The communal dimension of this day expresses how we as the Body of Christ respond to our particular vocation by promoting a shepherding community.  Each one of us is to serve God by caring for the world in all its needs.  Francis sees us on a con-vocational journey responding to the gift of our baptism.   


Faithful Steps During Holy Week

The Lenten journey brought the Salesian office of vocations to a very moving and rewarding Holy Week. As the Church set out to engage in the most holy days of the year, the vocations team offered a group of faithful young men the opportunity to journey with Christ as they discerned their vocations. The second round of discernment days offered in March brought together Jerry Rice and Mathew Rueda from Mary Help of Christians in Tampa, FL; Daniel Korenchan from the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL; and Ben Russo from Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, LA at Don Bosco Residence in Orange, NJ from March 24-27 during the Easter Triduum.  Fr. Dennis Hartigan and Br. Bernie Dube served as members of the team helping me to facilitate the vocation discernment presentations and discussions. 

During the Triduum, we attended several services at the following in communion with the greater Church to reflect on and honor the tremendous love of Christ’s sacrifice. Our group was fortunate enough to participate in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Orange, NJ; the Good Friday Liturgy at St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown; and the Easter Vigil at St. Joseph Provincial Center with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. The ability to spend those holy days in many beautiful places of worship allowed our group to physically and symbolically travel with Christ as He was on his loving journey for our salvation. We also made time to bond with the Salesian community in Orange to fully experience what communal religious life is all about.

For participants who were still around on Easter Sunday, we celebrated with local members of the Salesian family a festive meal  prepared by Br. Juan Pablo. Ben Russo, who was still with us on Easter Monday, participated in the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy by walking through the holy door at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ.

These sacred days provided the means for the discernment participants to experience our family spirit while communally preparing for the Easter event. Having celebrating the Paschal Triduum with them, let us pray during the Easter season, that they may entrust themselves to the Risen One and serve the Lord with joy! May they, and all of us, continue taking faithful steps as the Easter people we are called to be.


March Madness: Vocation Style

The Salesians at the Don Bosco Residence had its own version of March Madness with a young adult discernment group this past weekend.  Members of Reborn Young Christ, a Korean ministry located in Stony Point, New York came together for fun, faith, and discernment in true Salesian style from March 18th-20th.  The four participant- Rono Yick, Jae Kim, Peter Chang, and Woojin Chae- experienced days in the life of our formation house to get a chance to see what it means to live communal vocation. They were able to participate in Mass, in vocation formation sessions, work period, recreation, praying the rosary, community building games, a Korean noodle social, and hearing vocation stories from some of our guys in initial formation.  One of the community building games featured “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” an improvisational comedy show that originated as a British radio program and later aired in America.





 For sure, the Salesian faith-based Reborn Young Christ organization provided common ground for participants to understand a Salesian context for discerning religious life. Another take on our March Madness for a new group of discerners will take place over the Tridium with participants traveling from Champaign, IL/ Tampa, FL/ and the Westbank of New Orleans.