By David Karas | Correspondent
The ministry might be small in membership, but it is large in mission.
The vocations ministry within St. Dominic Parish, Brick, began three years ago after parishioner Dorothy Nocera began speaking with the pastor, Msgr. James Brady, about the DVD film, “Fishers of Men.” While she had originally hoped to show it to more of the congregation, Msgr. Brady had another idea in mind – launching a ministry to promote and support vocations.
“It is still a new ministry,” says Nocera, “It is growing.”
On the third Thursday of each month, a special Holy Hour is dedicated to vocations. Occasionly, a guest will come and speak about his or her vocation, while other times Father Dean Gaudio, parochial vicar in the parish, will deliver a homily focusing on a particular individual and sharing their vocation story.
“Mainly, it is a prayer ministry,” said Nocera,” but we do sponsor different events throughout the year.”
Father Gaudio and a visiting nun periodically deliver workshops and make presentations to students in the parish’s school, trying to give the students a better idea of vocations and life in the Church. Visits are also made to parish CCD classes, and even to the PTA.
“Our main objective was first to try to change the tide of thinking back to the way it used to be, when parents used to be proud if their son wanted to become a priest,” said Nocera. “It is really centered around prayer and trying to change the tide of thinking, encouraging parents and grandparents to pray for the children.”
Nocera said that the ministry encourages folks to pray for family members in any vocation that God might call them to, including marriage.
In addition, Nocera contributes content on vocations to the parish bulletin, and encourages parishioners to participate in a small fast, or to perform a good deed, on Thursdays and to offer it up for holy vocations. In addition, they ask the homebound in the parish to offer up their sufferings and hardships to vocations as well.
Father Gaudio, who frequently speaks with students about vocations, said that the ministry plays an important role in the parish community – notably in helping students to become more open to the idea of their own vocation.
“Sometimes these vocations, I think, don’t come to fruition,” he said. “It is good to pray for them, and good to talk to the kids and let them know what the priesthood is like, what the religious life is like.”
He said that such messages can help young Catholics “hear the voice in (their) hearts,” and to be more open to God’s call and plan for them.
“It gives them the ability to think about it more,” Father Gaudio said.
Nocera said that Father Gaudio’s presentations to the students can go a long way in energizing them to play a role in the parish community, notably because he is young and shares how much he loves being a priest.
“My hope is really just that some of what I am doing will plant seeds that God’s grace will be available to the kids in the school,” she said.
While Nocera leads the ministry, she works closely with its three other members – John McGuire, Joe Cahill and Ted Gilsenan. While they constitute the core team, others frequent the Holy Hour each month.
She recounted the occasion of a CCD class, during which a nun visited to speak about religious life. The initial questions from the children related to her clothing.
“Some of the kids had never even seen a nun with a habit,” Nocera said.
Nocera said that some of the motivation comes from the fact that the parish has been around for 50 years, and has a school attached to it
“We have a Catholic school, but there are no known vocations that have come out of our school,” she said. “Something is missing.”
She explained that it is not up to the parish to impose priestly or religious vocations upon any of the students, but that she wants to expose them to the idea and show them that it is an option, and of course to provide support to those who express interest.
“We can teach them, and we can at least help them to understand that it is a choice that they have,” she said.