Bishop O'Connell and priests of the Diocese gather for a group photo with the young men who attended a Vocations Discernment Evening May 5 in Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, West Trenton. Courtesy photos
Bishop O'Connell and priests of the Diocese gather for a group photo with the young men who attended a Vocations Discernment Evening May 5 in Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, West Trenton. Courtesy photos

By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor

In order to promote vocations to the priesthood, one has to look for opportunities.

So say the priests who work diligently to encourage young men across the Diocese to discern following in the footsteps of the apostles.

Photo Gallery: Vocations Discernment Evening

“Young men need to know that priesthood is a possibility in their lives and that listening to an invitation to consider one’s vocation is a necessary step in the process,” said Father Garry Koch, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, and an associate director of vocations.

As such, a gathering was held May 5 for young men who may be discerning a call to the priesthood in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, West Trenton. The evening began with a Mass celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, followed by a dinner, video on the priesthood, and large- and small-group discussions with the priests in attendance.

Nearly 30 high school and college-aged young men attended the vocations discernment evening. Father Koch noted that the young men asked many questions, which ranged from seminary life and whether priests get to visit their families and how they are taken care of, to issues regarding celibacy and what a typical day-in-the-life looks like.

Father Jason Parzynski, diocesan director of vocations and chaplain in Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, said he was pleased with the number of young men who attended, explaining that the assistance of personnel who directly work with youth and young adults in all Mercer County parishes, Catholic high schools and college Catholic campus ministers and chaplains was enlisted and asked to identify young men who they believed might have a vocation to the priesthood or the qualities to be a good priest.

Once the names and contact information of the young men were received, about 90 in all, they were invited personally through letters to the vocation discernment evening.

While Father Parzynski limited the vocation promotion to Mercer County, he intends to contact the parishes, Catholic high schools and college campus ministries in Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean Counties going forward.

To have 29 out of a possible 90 men respond to the invitation for the most recent discernment evening, “says to me that something’s working,” Father Parzynski said. 

In addition to Father Parzynski and Father Koch, others present throughout the evening included Father Daniel Swift, pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, and associate director of vocations; Father Michael Hall, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish and director of the diocesan Office of Worship; Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, diocesan vicar for clergy and consecrated life; Father Christopher Colavito, parochial vicar of St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, and St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Marlton, and chaplain in Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, Delran; Father Michael Wallack, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, and former diocesan director of vocations, and Father Christopher Dayton, parochial vicar of St. Rose Parish, Belmar, and chaplain of Belmar’s St. Rose High School.