Compiled from Staff Reports
A Mass and tour in New York City's St. Patrick Cathedral and a prayerful visit to One World Trade Center to remember those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, were highlights of a July 5 trip taken by several priests, a seminarian and seven high school students from the Diocese who might be described as “priest hopefuls.”
The trip was organized by Father Daniel Swift, an assistant vocations director for the Diocese and pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, as part of an overall effort to foster vocations to the priesthood by allowing priest prospects to spend time with priests and learn about their lives. The connection that develops through such trips, Father Swift observed, allows priests to “make a one-to-one ask” of any young man who may seem to be open to the possibility of a vocation.
The group included Father Roy Ballacillo, parochial vicar of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish; Father Christopher Colavito, chaplain of Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, Delran, and parochial vicar of St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, and St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Marlton; and seminarian Bill Clingerman.
Describing July 5 as a perfect summer day with sunny skies and low humidity, Father Swift and the lively group, which included high school boys who had previously attended visits to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa., as well as other inquirers, arrived in New York in time to attend the noon Mass in St. Patrick Cathedral.
“I had a really great time meeting other young men who shared my interests and priests who were encouraging and helpful,” said Jack Pangaro of St. Dominic Parish, Brick.
Kyle Holler, a junior in Holy Cross Preparatory Academy and member of St. Katharine Drexel, Parish, Burlington, said for them, to pray for one another and, most of all, to spend time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament,” Clingerman said.
Father Swift, in reflecting on the potential impact of “one-to-one asks,” explained that he and staff members had recently completed four seminars on “millennial discipleship” with Parish Catalyst, a Los Angeles nonprofit that engages and challenges successful parishes “to take their ministry to the next level, however one wants to define it.”
One of the takeaways from the seminars, Father Swift said, is the effectiveness of “one-to-one asks,” whether it is an attempt to encourage more parishioners to become involved or effectively reaching the faithful, especially those who are of millennial and post-millennial generations.
“Hence was the reason why I [regularly] encourage my brother priests, and all Catholics for that matter, to approach young men and ask if they’ve ever considered the priesthood,” Father Swift said, noting that three of the seven young men who traveled on the New York pilgrimage were from St. Mary of the Lakes Parish.
While they may not be immediately ready to answer the call to a vocation, “by the same token, they are open to receiving the call,” said Father Swift, recalling his own “one-to-one ask” experience and the impact it had on his own vocation to the priesthood.
As a college student, he said that although he had been thinking about the priesthood, it wasn’t until he was directly asked by his godfather’s wife if he had ever thought about becoming a priest.
Until then, he said, “she was the only one who ever asked me that question. Even though I had been thinking of the priesthood, her question was what I needed to hear to give me the courage to approach my pastor,” who at the time was Msgr. Armand Pedata of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton.
“All of us can ask that simple question to see where God will lead the young man,” Father Swift said, adding that another powerful tool used to encourage vocations is prayer.
“Often we say, ‘Well the least I can do is pray for…,’” he said. “Rather, let’s say, ‘The most we can do is pray.’”