Rev. Mr. Kevin Hrycenko, who served as deacon for the Mass, receives a blessing from Bishop O'Connell.
Rev. Mr. Kevin Hrycenko, who served as deacon for the Mass, receives a blessing from Bishop O'Connell.
Patrick Meehan has reached a “big fork in the road” as he decides his future plans. Right now, the member of Holy Innocents Parish, Neptune, isn’t sure if he wants to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a secular college or if he wants to enter a seminary and begin studies for the priesthood.

“One thing I know is I just can’t stand at this fork forever,” said Meehan, who recently earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Brookdale Community College, Lincroft. “I have to make a decision on the direction I want to take.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Vocations Discernment Mass & Barbecue

To help solidify his decision, Meehan has been spending the past couple of years gathering information, speaking with priests with whom he’s familiar about their experiences and attending events where he can meet other young men who are also considering a vocation to priesthood. That is what brought him to the Discernment Mass celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., June 16 in St. John the Baptist Church, Allentown, and to the barbecue that followed.

“When considering the possibility of a vocation, young men often ask me, ‘How will I know? How can I be sure?’” Bishop O’Connell said in his homily to the nearly 30 men who turned out, as well as to the dozen concelebrating priests and seminarians in attendance.

“Well, that is what the process of discernment is for. Thinking and praying about a vocation is not the same thing as making a permanent commitment as a priest. The process of discernment is just that: a process during which a young man thinks and prays about a vocation,” the Bishop said.

“My brothers, we are here tonight to pray and to give some thought to the possibility that God is calling you to a special service in his Church,” Bishop O’Connell said.

“There are so many wonderful things you can do with your life, so let’s open our minds and hearts to him. Maybe, just maybe, he is calling you to discern the possibility of priesthood in your own future. Listen for his voice!”

Following the Mass, the discerners gathered on the parish grounds where they enjoyed a BBQ dinner and engaged in some fun activities and discussions about others’ discernment experiences. Those who shared their vocation experiences included Father Walter Quiceno, parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, and seminarian Kyle Holler, who is studying in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook, Pa.

“I give this a two thumbs-up,” Meehan said of the evening, noting that he appreciated the opportunity to speak with seminarians and priests and get a better understanding of the discernment process.

Andrew Ulisse of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, and a rising senior in Florence Township High School, said that while he has not made an active decision to pursue a vocation, he is open to the idea of being a priest.

“I like the idea of being able to help people through their problems, talking with them and sharing with them about how much God loves them,” said Ulisse said. He added the gathering helped him realize he was not alone in considering a vocation and he also liked encountering other good Catholic men who are on the same journey.

 Father Jason Parzynski, diocesan director of the Office of Vocations, which hosted the event, regarded the Mass and barbecue as a “huge success in that it did what it was meant to do.

“The vocations discernment BBQ, like all our events and gatherings, aims at providing an opportunity for men open to the priesthood and beginning their discernment process to recognize that they are not the only one,” said Father Parzynski. He added that such events provide the opportunity for young men discerning priesthood to have the opportunity to interact with priests from across the Diocese as well as the seminarians.

“I would just like to encourage people to keep praying for young men to be open to God's will in their life.” Father Jason emphasized, “There is no vocation shortage, as that would imply God stopped calling young men to serve as priests for his Church,” he said.

“Rather,” Father Parzynski continued, “what we are experiencing is just how difficult it can be for a young man to not only hear God's calling, but to also be willing to respond to. They need courage and support and that is what collectively we need to pray for!”