Bishop O'Connell preaches his homily during the Mass he celebrated for seminarians of the Diocese Dec. 4 in the Diocesan Chancery chapel.
Bishop O'Connell preaches his homily during the Mass he celebrated for seminarians of the Diocese Dec. 4 in the Diocesan Chancery chapel.
The gift of the call to priesthood was celebrated in a special way when three seminarians marked a major step in their priestly formation the evening of Dec. 4.

During a Mass in the chapel of the Diocesan Chancery in Lawrenceville, Wynne Kerridge, Brian Meinders and Tomás Villacis, participated in the Rite of Admission to Candidacy, a special liturgical rite in which they stood before Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and their brother seminarians and officially declared their intention to pursue formation for the reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and serve as future priests in the Diocese of Trenton.

PHOTO GALLERY: Annual Advent Mass and Dinner for Seminarians

“My dear seminarians, God has called you, invited you to follow the Lord Jesus to the priesthood, as he did St. John Damascene,” the Bishop said in his homily, referring to the saint who is one of the great Doctors of the Church and whose feast was celebrated that day.

“I don’t know if we have any future ‘Doctors of the Church’ in this crowd, but each of you have been loaned gifts and talents to follow your call," the Bishop said. “At this point in your life, you realize you are part of something bigger than yourself. It’s called God’s plan. God always gives us everything we need to do what he has called us to do.”

The Bishop exhorted the seminarians to remember that they are “ambassadors of Christ” and are “created beings, placed into God’s created world to work at the pleasure of our Lord, and our work is to be driven by our love of our master.”

Each year during Advent, Bishop O’Connell brings the Diocese’s seminarians together for Mass and dinner, providing an opportunity for them to reconnect especially since the men attend two different schools – Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa. The Dec. 4 gathering, however, was the first time for new seminarians Kyle Holler, Julian Young and Pawel Derkacz to attend the annual event. Also present were several priests who concelebrated the Mass with the Bishop – Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life and director of seminarians; Father Jason Parzynski, diocesan director of vocations, and Father Daniel Swift and Father Garry Koch, both of whom serve as assistant directors of vocations for the Diocese. 

For Villacis, gathering with his fellow seminarians and the Diocese’s shepherd to celebrate Advent was a blessing.

"It is wonderful to see our shepherd, the Bishop," said Villacis, who is in 1st theology in Mount St. Mary Seminary. "His support and guidance are always a great source of consolation. What better way to remember the Birth of Our Lord than to come together as one Church?"

Noting how heartened he was to once again attend the Advent gathering, Anthony Gentile, who is in 4th College in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, appreciated how the Bishop “really makes himself present to us. He’s like a father figure, and the Advent dinner is a generous display of fatherhood.”

“These gatherings help to maintain great cohesion” among the Diocese’s seminarians, Gentile added.

“We all study for the same Diocese, and that’s something special. Being able to gather throughout the year reminds us that we are in this together. It really reminded me how much we are cared for, that we are really loved and appreciated, and that there are people in our corner rooting for us, who want us to do well and succeed.”