On the evening of Feb. 7, St. James Church in Syracuse hosted a Holy Hour where many people prayed for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. The gathering was the first of nine First Friday Holy Hours for Vocations that will be held throughout the diocese this year.
In his Year of Faith Pastoral Letter, Faith: A Gift Received, a Treasure to Be Shared, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham emphasized the need to pray for vocations. “I ask you to pray daily that the Lord of the harvest will bless our diocese and the universal Church with men who will respond to the call to priesthood and with men and women who will accept the invitation to follow Christ in the consecrated life. I hope you will join me in prayer and fasting for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life on the First Fridays of each month,” he wrote.
The Holy Hours for Vocations were designed to give people time to come together in prayer. “There is power in prayer,” said Bishop Cunningham in an email following the Holy Hour. “In stillness and quiet, the Lord speaks. Praying for vocations is a specific request form Our Lord Jesus in which he states, ‘the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.’”
At the beginning of the Holy Hour, Father John Manno, St. James’ pastor, urged everyone to ask God to inspire many to the religious life.
Bishop Cunningham presided over the Holy Hour, an hour of Eucharistic adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. In his homily, he noted three priorities that he said the people in the diocese should be working on.
The first priority is to pay close attention to the participation and sharing of Sunday Mass. “It’s the center of our lives as Catholic people,” said Bishop Cunningham.
The second is to pay close attention to faith formation in Catholic schools and religious education programs. “We need to give all young people the opportunity to know and serve God, to hear His word and become His faithful followers,” said the bishop.
The third is to pray for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. “We need to have priests to make the Lord more present in our lives,” stated Bishop Cunningham. “We need to pray that our young people will open up their ears to hear the invitation of the Lord. I am convinced that God continues to invite them.”
Theresa Hess, a parishioner of Holy Family in Syracuse, came to the Holy Hour at the invitation of her godson, Peter Tassini, a seminarian who is completing his pastoral year at St. Joseph’s Church in Endicott. Tassini offered a Scripture reading at the special service that night, in his home church of St. James.
“It was beautiful,” remarked Hess, of the special Holy Hour. “It’s nice worshiping with other people. It’s more powerful.”
Tassini’s friends and family also attended. “I’m proud of my godson,” said Hess. She recalled the moment when he first told her of his intention to enter the priesthood. “I felt elated and I cried,” remembered Hess. “I was very excited and proud.”
St. James parishioner Kathy Gendron was also happy she had attended. “It was wonderful,” she commented. “I was drawn to it. It was peaceful and calming.”
As diocesan director of vocations, Father Joseph O’Connor is enthusiastic about the opportunity that the Holy Hours provide for increasing vocations. “I am also excited at the broad range of people who will be part of these Holy Hours,” he said in an email to the Sun. “Bishop Cunningham will be with young adult ministry next month. He will be at St. Joseph Nursing Home in May. He will be in each region of the diocese as the year goes on. All parishes and all ages can, and should, join in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, as together we spend an hour with Jesus and beg the Master of the Harvest to send more laborers.”