By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer
Approximately 50 people gathered for an afternoon of faith and fun at “God Calls” April 29 in the parish center of St. Patrick, Pottsville.
Everyone was invited to the family event of faith-filled activities, talks for children and parents, a family Holy Hour, dinner and crafts, concluding with a vocation prayer.
“God Calls” was open to families of all ages and sizes, and hosted by St. Patrick and the Diocesan Office of Youth, Young Adult and Family Ministry (OYYAFM).
Special guests spoke about prayer, and the priesthood and religious life. All priests, deacons and sisters were welcome.
There was also a special track for parents and adults.
Father Mark Searles, chaplain at Allentown Central Catholic High School (ACCHS) and newly appointed Diocesan director of vocations promotion, and Father Kevin Lonergan, assistant pastor of the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown, spoke to the boys.
Sister, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Rose Bernadette Mulligan, directress of vocations for the IHMs at Immaculata, spoke to the girls. Deacon Lawrence Lonergan of St. Patrick and St. John the Baptist, Pottsville and his wife Sharon spoke to parents and adults.
Msgr. David James, Diocesan director of vocations, presided at the Holy Hour.
The majority of Father Lonergan’s talk explained that you do not have to have visions of God or great miraculous events occur for you to be called by God to serve him in the priesthood or consecrated life.
“Father Searles and I both had very typical high school experiences – played sports, had friends and enjoyed life – and yet we both responded to God’s call in different ways. I felt like I should discern in a seminary right out of high school, Father Searles went to the University of Scranton and then entered the seminary from there,” Father Lonergan said.
“All in all it’s important to be open to the possibility of a call, and to realize that ‘if I’m just a normal high school guy/girl’ – it doesn’t mean that God isn’t calling you.”
Father Searles reflected on the Gospel of John 1:35-42 where St. John the Baptist exclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
“In this passage John points others to Christ and one of our newest applicants to the seminary for the Diocese of Allentown reflected recently on his own vocational discernment and prayer with this Gospel passage,” Father Searles said.
“He wants to be a ‘John’ for others in the world pointing them to Christ. Many of our young people have a hunger for this. To seek and to behold the truth and beauty of our Eucharistic Lord and the exciting challenge of pointing others to him as well.”
Father Searles said the world needs more “Johns” to point them to Christ and to exclaim in every corner of the world: “Behold the Lamb of God!”
“In a world that is hungry for the truth and substance that we can only find in Christ, it is helpful for us to reflect on who has been a ‘John’ in our own lives. Who has pointed me to Christ? And how have I been called to point others to him as well,” Father Searles said.
“The vibrant young families and vocations that have come from Schuylkill County and St. Patrick’s Parish are a great testament to a faithful dedication to the Eucharist and seeking the Lamb of God’s presence in our daily lives.
“The time spent in front of the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament, the family rosary, and the dinner and activities with the youth of Pottsville were a great success and I believe it will leave a lasting impression and a deep love for our Lord and his Church in the hearts of all who participated.”
Sister Rose – a native of Jim Thorpe who graduated from Marian High School, Tamaqua – first defined a vocation in her talk.
She asked the girls to raise their hand if they were involved in activities such as sports, music and drama. She asked them about subjects in school that they like. Finally, after they had all raised their hands several times, she asked them if they have a vocation.
But most girls realized they needed a little more information and didn’t know exactly what a vocation is. Others may have felt that if they raise their hand, it automatically meant people would assume they are becoming a religious sister.
Sister Rose asked them to envision their vocation as a gift being given to them by God, and to imagine it being delivered in a UPS truck.
“The initials "UPS" give a good overall definition of a vocation,” Sister Rose said.
- U – universal. We are all called by God. Because he created us, he has a plan for our lives, a plan for us to flourish and to find the most joy possible.
- P – personal. We are encouraged to pay attention to what we like to do. God wants us to use our personal gifts and talents.
- S – state-in-life. All of us will be called, eventually, to live our lives in commitment to a state-in-life, whether that means the married life, single life or priesthood/consecrated life (religious life).
“The ‘best’ vocation is the one that each person is called to. Prayer is so important,” Sister Rose said, encouraging them to listen to God by creating some quiet time each day and to also talk to God, about hopes fears, dreams, desires.
Sister Rose shared a little of her own vocation story, “how God gently invited me through different people in my life, books, movies, songs on the radio, and involvement in activities in high school.”
“Pay attention to God’s call in your life,” she said.
Sister Rose mentioned how young people today are entering religious life. She spoke about the process – attending discernment retreats, entering as a postulant, the next two years of study as a novice and, after that, about five to six years as a temporary or junior professed.
“It takes about eight to nine years before a young woman would profess her final vows. It can be likened to a long engagement period and gives the person a chance to live the life to see if it is really meant to be.”
Deacon and Sharon Lonergan
The Lonergans described their experience observing Father Lonergan’s vocation story.
The described how Father Lonergan came to them in the eighth grade and asked them if he could consider Nativity BVM High School, Pottsville instead of the Pottsville Area High School.
“We were both teachers in the Pottsville district. It turns out that the principal, Father Ronald Jankaitis, became a great mentor for Kevin as he continued his investigation into the priesthood,” Deacon Lonergan said.
“Father Kevin’s experience at St. Charles Seminary, Philadelphia was filled with beautiful memories of liturgies, family gatherings, and wonderful new and solid friendships. We looked forward to going to visit as much as having Kevin come home for vacations,” the Lonergans said.
“We saw him grow academically. And we also saw him realize that the priesthood was the life for him. He could hear and follow ‘the Call’ and still be the fun-loving young man, talented musician, and Studebaker-loving mechanic that he envisioned.”
The Lonergans said after ordination, they have seen the result of the combination of formation, the mentorship of many and varied priests, and the individuality of his own, become this vibrant, people-loving, witty, and astute man of God.
“We still recall with swelled pride attending Mass at his assignments and seeing the reaction of the people to his prayerful attention to the details of the Mass, his powerful singing voice, the heart-felt message in his homily, and his warm personality,” they said.
“We wish other parents can experience this feeling of satisfaction in knowing that, in sacrificing his life for the people of God, their son can affect so many other lives in such a meaningful way,” the Lonergans said.
“We believe that God is calling many young men to the priesthood. We pray that these men and their family and friends will support them as they answer and walk boldly on this path that follows our savior, Jesus Christ.”