Young men learn more about joys, challenges of priesthood at Diocese’s discernment gathering

June 18, 2024 at 12:00 p.m.
Men attending a June 11 vocation discernment event gather for a group photo with diocesan priests and seminarians outside the rectory of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Mike Ehrmann photo
Men attending a June 11 vocation discernment event gather for a group photo with diocesan priests and seminarians outside the rectory of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Mike Ehrmann photo

By MARY STADNYK
Associate Editor

Updated 6-18-2024

“Priests are set apart by God to bring God to others,” Father Kevin Hrycenko said.

And though the thought of being set apart can be scary and intimidating, “it is also amazing and wonderful,” he said. “There are joys and difficulties in the priesthood, but I don’t do it for me. I am not a priest for myself. I am not a priest for fame or a paycheck. I am a priest for my people. I try to be a light so that my people can glorify our heavenly father better.”

Father Hrycenko shared some of his experiences of priesthood during a June 11 vocation discernment gathering where 16 young men between the ages of 15-40 heard from priests and seminarians of the Diocese. 

PHOTO GALLERY: 2024 Discernment Mass and barbecue

The early evening event began with a Mass celebrated in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, by Father Christopher Colavito, diocesan director of vocations, with Father Hrycenko serving as homilist. After the Mass, a BBQ was hosted on the deck of the Co-Cathedral rectory.

In his homily, Father Hrycenko reflected on the past year in his first priestly assignment as parochial vicar in St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford. He said it’s been meaningful to bring healing and consolation to those about to die and their families.  

One example he shared was receiving a late night phone call on the parish emergency line requesting him to anoint a woman in U Penn Hospital in Philadelphia. Though he was a bit apprehensive at first since he wasn’t familiar with the city’s landscape, he made the visit. “I was happy I did because she passed away in the morning,” he said.

Father Hrycenko added, “I am also blessed to be at a parish with a school. I love going over to the school and seeing the students and teaching them about the faith. Being with them is one of the greatest joys of my priesthood so far.”

Along with giving the inquirers a chance to meet priests and seminarians of the Diocese and hear stories on how they arrived at their own decision to become a priest, Father Colavito said it was equally important to let the inquirers know that they are not alone in their thoughts and questions about the priesthood.

“I want them to ask their questions and hopefully we might help them discern God’s will in their life,” Father Colavito said.

At 22, Christopher Casey said that while he just graduated from college with a degree in chemistry and had enjoyable experiences with research projects and internships, he feels “there might be something else I am even better at and more attracted to” such as a vocation to the priesthood.

“In this past year or two, I’ve largely been coming into my faith in my time at college,” he said, noting that along with having a series of “major conversion experiences” he’s witnessed many friends getting married and “giving their lives to Jesus and that has really changed everything for me.”

The priesthood is now something he wants to explore, he said.

“So, it’s still a bit of a surprise to have been there” at the discernment gathering,” he said. “But I thought I’d go to just check things out … It was a good experience.”

William “Billy” Attardi, a 2022 graduate of Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, found the gathering to be helpful as he discerns a potential vocation.

“It’s always great to see people come together in faith and especially at an event like this” where men have a shared interest, Attardi said. For his own discernment, he added that he has been working in St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, where he serves in various capacities as a way to learn more about parish life and become more involved in ministry.

Tim Bergin of St. Justin the Martyr Parish, Toms River, accompanied his 24-year-old son, Liam, to the discernment gathering. The elder Bergin said that his son has talked about a possible vocation to the priesthood. “While I’m pleased about that, the ultimate decision is between Liam and God. I want to support Liam and his decision – whatever that may be.”


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Updated 6-18-2024

“Priests are set apart by God to bring God to others,” Father Kevin Hrycenko said.

And though the thought of being set apart can be scary and intimidating, “it is also amazing and wonderful,” he said. “There are joys and difficulties in the priesthood, but I don’t do it for me. I am not a priest for myself. I am not a priest for fame or a paycheck. I am a priest for my people. I try to be a light so that my people can glorify our heavenly father better.”

Father Hrycenko shared some of his experiences of priesthood during a June 11 vocation discernment gathering where 16 young men between the ages of 15-40 heard from priests and seminarians of the Diocese. 

PHOTO GALLERY: 2024 Discernment Mass and barbecue

The early evening event began with a Mass celebrated in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, by Father Christopher Colavito, diocesan director of vocations, with Father Hrycenko serving as homilist. After the Mass, a BBQ was hosted on the deck of the Co-Cathedral rectory.

In his homily, Father Hrycenko reflected on the past year in his first priestly assignment as parochial vicar in St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford. He said it’s been meaningful to bring healing and consolation to those about to die and their families.  

One example he shared was receiving a late night phone call on the parish emergency line requesting him to anoint a woman in U Penn Hospital in Philadelphia. Though he was a bit apprehensive at first since he wasn’t familiar with the city’s landscape, he made the visit. “I was happy I did because she passed away in the morning,” he said.

Father Hrycenko added, “I am also blessed to be at a parish with a school. I love going over to the school and seeing the students and teaching them about the faith. Being with them is one of the greatest joys of my priesthood so far.”

Along with giving the inquirers a chance to meet priests and seminarians of the Diocese and hear stories on how they arrived at their own decision to become a priest, Father Colavito said it was equally important to let the inquirers know that they are not alone in their thoughts and questions about the priesthood.

“I want them to ask their questions and hopefully we might help them discern God’s will in their life,” Father Colavito said.

At 22, Christopher Casey said that while he just graduated from college with a degree in chemistry and had enjoyable experiences with research projects and internships, he feels “there might be something else I am even better at and more attracted to” such as a vocation to the priesthood.

“In this past year or two, I’ve largely been coming into my faith in my time at college,” he said, noting that along with having a series of “major conversion experiences” he’s witnessed many friends getting married and “giving their lives to Jesus and that has really changed everything for me.”

The priesthood is now something he wants to explore, he said.

“So, it’s still a bit of a surprise to have been there” at the discernment gathering,” he said. “But I thought I’d go to just check things out … It was a good experience.”

William “Billy” Attardi, a 2022 graduate of Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, found the gathering to be helpful as he discerns a potential vocation.

“It’s always great to see people come together in faith and especially at an event like this” where men have a shared interest, Attardi said. For his own discernment, he added that he has been working in St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, where he serves in various capacities as a way to learn more about parish life and become more involved in ministry.

Tim Bergin of St. Justin the Martyr Parish, Toms River, accompanied his 24-year-old son, Liam, to the discernment gathering. The elder Bergin said that his son has talked about a possible vocation to the priesthood. “While I’m pleased about that, the ultimate decision is between Liam and God. I want to support Liam and his decision – whatever that may be.”

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