by Deacon Tom Picciano
sun contributing writer
BINGHAMTON — Father Joe O’Connor was running short on business cards after a week-long visit to Seton Catholic Central High School. The Diocesan Director of Vocation Promotion found the cards were a big hit with the students.
One card handed to a visitor had a Roman collar graphic on the front and included these words: “HIS LOVE. HIS GRACE. YOUR COURAGE.” It’s one of four versions, all of which have the same contact information on the opposite side, including the Vocation Promotion Web site address. Students told Father O’Connor they’d checked out the site, including one young man who told him he read through the qualifications for a priest. “I see them in my life. I don’t know,” O’Connor was told by the student. “He kind of looked a little nervous. But it got him thinking,” O’Connor added.
The November visit was the second Vocation Promotion week in a Catholic high school in the diocese. Father O’Connor was at Bishop Grimes before Seton Catholic Central. He’ll go to Rome Catholic in December, Bishop Ludden in January and Notre Dame in Utica in March. He’ll also make shorter visits to elementary schools.
The week at SCC started with Mass, including a homily that involved the students, which impressed sophomore Katherine Skojec.
“Most priests just like to talk and hope that they listen,” she said. “It’s nice to have one that will come and take someone and say, ‘Here this is what I need you to do,’ and try to interact with us.”
Freshman Mary Clare Kane also enjoyed the homily. “He taught in the homily to hold up the church and hold up vocations,” she said.
Father O’Connor took one day to speak with each class, putting some youth ministry background to use “with activities, games and skits, videos that some of the priests to keep it interactive, to keep it fun,” O’Connor said. The focus was first on holiness, then on vocations. “Each one had a different theme, a different angle in activities and how we unpacked it and the discussion unfolded.” he said.
Junior Donald Castellucci remembered the concentration on sharing gifts during the presentation to his class. “It was about the more you share, the bigger your gifts become. But if you don’t share them, they become smaller and no one gets to know.” Castellucci said it’s difficult to share the gifts sometimes, “because of peer pressure and friends. Really with prayer and trying your best, I think a lot of it can get done and it’s helpful to people and I think that’s a good thing.” When asked if he’d consider a call to priesthood, Castellucci said, “I think you really have to take it to heart and pray about it. I don’t believe I’ve had a call yet. I haven’t noticed a call yet, but with prayer I might someday have that call.”
Father O’Connor spent time with students after hours in a coffeehouse setting and at practices, even playing a little basketball. The Vocation Promotion Week ended on a prayerful note, with Eucharistic Adoration in the SCC chapel.
Freshman Bryce Farrell was one of the many students who took free time for adoration. When asked what brought her to adoration, she answered simply, “God.” Fellow freshman Mary Continetti also attended adoration. “We did it when I attended St. Joe’s school. I thought it would be good to come again.”
SCC Principal Kathleen Dwyer said Adoration was so well attended that it may be offered more often. Dwyer said it was “a very positive, spiritual week.”
“Father O’Connor is an engaging priest. he was able to become comfortable with the students quite quickly,” she said, noting that they’re working on what more can be done with Vocation Promotion. “We would welcome Father O’Connor anytime.”
Father O’Connor already has plans to return to Seton Catholic Central. “(I’ll) come back over here and catch a basketball game and see the kids I know who had a real interest. ‘How’s it going? You praying?’” he said. “Keeping tabs on some of the young men who are considering vocations and the girls who are considering religious life.”
Office of Vocation Promotion Web site: www.vocations-syracuse.org