Story by Rose O’Connor, Correspondent
For Father Gene, as he is affectionately called by his parishioners in St. Anselm Parish, Wayside, service has been a favorite hallmark of his vocation to the priesthood.
Photo Gallery: Father Vavrick celebrates silver jubilee
“I’m very thankful I can continue to serve the people of God,” Father Eugene Vavrick said as he reflected on the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
Father Vavrick, a New Jersey native and local to the Diocese of Trenton, was born in 1957, one of five children of Eugene and Marie Vavrick. He attended St. Ann School, Keansburg, and graduated from Holmdel High School in 1975. He earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Kings College, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in 1979.
From 1981 to 1984, Father Vavrick taught religious studies and was the director of the Christian Service Program in St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel. He earned a master’s degree in liturgical studies in 1988 from the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., and a master of divinity degree, also from Notre Dame, the following year.
While discerning his call to the priesthood, he studied with the Holy Cross Fathers at the University of Notre Dame. He studied for a year at Seton Hall University’s Immaculate Conception Seminary, South Orange. As a seminarian, he returned to the Diocese of Trenton and served the faithful in St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake for a pastoral year.
He was ordained a transitional deacon May 9, 1992, by Bishop Edward Kmiec and was stationed in St. James Parish, Pennington. He was ordained to the priesthood May 15, 1993, by Bishop Reiss in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.
For the next dozen years, Father Vavrick served as parochial vicar in St. Mary Parish, Middletown; St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood; Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, and St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft.
During this time, he returned to St. John Vianney High School as the school chaplain.
In May 2005, then-Bishop John M. Smith named Father Vavrick parish administrator of St. Anselm Parish. In March 2006, he was named pastor of the parish.
Father Vavrick has spent the last 13 years serving the faithful of St. Anselm Parish and also reaching out in service to the poor in the area.
“We are a large, very active parish in the Diocese. We take to heart the vision of Vatican II and ‘Laudato Si,’ Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment,” Father Vavrick said.
He expressed pride in how his parish serves the less-fortunate, as well as the parish vegetable garden.
“We’re all about helping others and giving back. Our vegetable garden delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to local food banks,” he explained.
In addition to serving his parish community, Father Vavrick visits Jersey Shore Medical Center, Neptune, Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, and Riverview Hospital, Red Bank, once a week. He is an active member of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC), which is a national organization that meets annually and “advises bishops on liturgical issues,” Father Vavrick explained. He has also been a member of The National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) since 1981.
Father Vavrick has also served in a number of diocesan roles. Bishop Emeritus Smith appointed him as chairperson of the diocesan Liturgical Commission in 2005 and Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., appointed him to the Committee for the Review of Diocesan Policies in 2011.
In May, the parish celebrated Father Vavrick’s 25th anniversary with a reception after each Mass.
“I am very happy,” he said of his 25 years as a priest. “It’s been a blessing to be of service to people. To serve people in need, to come in contact with them at funerals and wakes, to help them when they need it. As a priest, it’s been a joy to serve the people.”.