By Carly York | Correspondent
“Here I am Lord! Is it I, Lord?” more than 900 students of Christian Brothers Academy, sang as they welcomed Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., with a gathering hymn before the start of Mass dedicated to vocations.
“Of all the titles that I hold as Bishop, ‘Successor of the Apostles’ is one of the most important,” Bishop O’Connell said in his homily, discussing the unbroken line of apostleship that has been passed down to all Bishops since the establishment of the Church.
Photo Gallery: Vocations visit at Christian Brothers Academy
“Through Christ, we have received the grace of being an apostle,” he said. “We are inviting you to consider the grace that St. Paul discusses in Romans to become a priest. I believe that some of you here may have a special calling.”
In addition to celebrating Mass Oct. 16 in the Lincroft school, Bishop O’Connell was joined earlier in the day by priests of the Diocese in talking with students about vocations and the priesthood. Among them were Father Michael Wallack, diocesan director of vocations; Father Brian Woodrow, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown; Father Garry Koch, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, and an assistant vocations director; and Father Roberto Padilla, parochial vicar of Sacred Heart and Christ the Redeemer Parishes, both Mount Holly.
“Students who are looking for a sign from God need to look no further than those who have gone before you here at CBA,” Bishop O’Connell said. “Do me a favor, guys. Think about it. Maybe Christ is calling you.”
In speaking to a class of 16 sophomores about discerning the call to the priesthood, Father Wallack said the process can be long. “It starts as just a small idea, or a little voice in your head. Then it becomes so strong you can’t deny it.”
He also discussed some of his daily work, pointing out the important role a priest fills in people’s lives. “Imagine waking up in the morning and hearing about all the bad that is going on in the world today, and knowing that, as a priest, you can do something about it to make the world a little better.”
He ended his talk by encouraging the young men to consider the priesthood. “No matter how much you sacrifice, God always gives you back 100 fold.”
Father Woodrow captivated a different class of sophomores with the story of his own calling to the priesthood. He told the students that in high school and early adulthood, he had been a competitive mixed-martial arts fighter. In many ways, he said, his competition and training as an athlete prepared him for the priesthood. Instead of staying out late with his friends when he was younger, he would leave parties early because he needed to be up early to train for competition.
“Fast first, and then feast when you win,” he explained about the discipline needed for both athletics and the priesthood.
Student Eros Bottino asked Father Woodrow if his experience in mixed-martial arts had influenced his call to the priesthood. With a big smile, Father Woodrow told the story of a completion in which he took a great victory over his opponent. However, he later found himself in the hotel elevator with the man he had just defeated in the ring. During that awkward elevator ride, he thought, “‘What am I doing? Why am I doing this?’ I realized that I was fighting the wrong battle.”
In that moment, he said, he began to truly hear the call and changed his goals. “My goal now is to get to heaven and to bring as many people with me as possible.”
“If God calls you to the priesthood, don’t be afraid,” he added. “I am happier today than I ever imagined I would have been when I first started out in the seminary.”
Examples of Faith
School principal Ross Fales and president Brother Frank Byrne expressed gratefulness for the Bishop’s visit. Each year, priests from the Diocese and religious brothers from the order visit the school to discuss vocations, and having the Bishop celebrate Mass, they said, helps stress how important vocations are to the school.
Reflecting on the day, CBA senior Christian Bordak-Roseman said he was encouraged by Father Koch’s small group discussion. “I really liked when Father Garry said that the call to the priesthood is a fluid process, and that it can come at any age,” said Bordak-Roseman, an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and head altar server at his parish, St. Ambrose, Old Bridge.
He said he enjoyed the day’s focus on vocations, because “it is important to inspire faith in young men like me.”
Sophomore Aidan Moran of Holy Cross Parish, Rumson, said it was a proud day for CBA to have the Bishop visit. “It is great that we have a day to focus on the religious success of the school.”