By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor
Children, teens, young adults, parents and grandparents in St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, heard a personal account Oct. 14 from their parochial vicar, Father Augusto Gamalo, when he told the story of his journey to the priesthood, and how the older generations can encourage the young in the life of the Church, particularly during this Year of Youth for the Diocese.
Photo Gallery: Youth event in St. Gregory theGreat
“The little ones hold a very special place in the heart of Jesus Christ. We do, too. The children are the future, right?” Father Gamalo said, pointing to that Sunday’s Gospel reading, in which Jesus places a child among his disciples and tells them they need to become like children. “But they are also the now, they are the present – they need to be welcomed, to feel important, so that they can grow as men and women in the Church.” The day’s events incorporated a youth-focused morning Mass, with children leading the Liturgy of the Word, singing and assisting during the Offertory, followed by a Communion breakfast hosted by the parish’s Altar Rosary Society. Children of the St. Gregory the Great Academy choir offered the reception’s opening prayer and hymns, followed by Father Gamalo’s talk in the parish hall.
A common practice in the Philippines, Father Gamalo’s home country, is for boys to attend seminary high school after the sixth grade, for the discipline and academics as well as the potential spiritual calling. For Father Gamalo, however, the inspiration toward his vocation didn’t come right away.
“I’m not gonna lie to you, I did not want to become a priest at the age of 13,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t even want to go to church! … I was following my best friend … I found out that basketball was part of the daily schedule. So that was a win-win for me. Plus you get to live in the seminary away from your parents, so it was an adventure!”
Things did not go as he planned, however. “Unfortunately, Jesus is a joker sometimes,” Father Gamalo continued. “My best friend did not pass the interview, so I ended up going alone.”
He ended up feeling a pull toward the priesthood. Unable to attend his desired seminary in Manila, Father Gamalo heard of an opportunity to study for the priesthood for the Diocese of Trenton. “There were many times I felt unworthy of the calling… But you know what got me through? Prayer … and conversations with my spiritual director. You need friends, somebody to talk to. But most importantly, it’s your personal relationship with Jesus.”
To the older generations, Father Gamalo said what young people of today need is not criticism about the way they dress and what music they listen to, but support and reasons for why Church is important.
“We should accept that the youth of today are different from us,” he said. “We, the older generation, are more advanced in wisdom. We have the experience … and hence it is our job to guide and to teach.”
Ethan Kohn, a teen attending with his family, appreciated what Father Gamalo had to say. “I see that the Year of Youth is important to draw in new students and children who are not involved in the Church or drawn away from it.” Seventh-grader Gretchen Kohn and third-grader Bridget Kohn also enjoyed the message. “A kid’s voice needs to be heard, and we’re part of the parish, too,” Gretchen said. “Kids matter to Jesus, and they need love and help to live,” Bridget agreed.
Video taken by photographer Joe Moore contributed to this report.