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Seminarians Complete Their Fall Studies, Look Ahead to Spring

Posted on January 10, 2022 in: Vocations

Seminarians Complete Their Fall Studies, Look Ahead to Spring

How great is it that we have a new priest? Father Larry Barile, ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Cote on December 8 at the Cathedral of St. Patrick on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It’s wonderful.

Check out the video recording of the Ordination Mass on the Diocesan website if you haven’t watched it already. It was beautiful. I was also blessed to concelebrate Father Larry’s first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Mary’s Church in Coventry the following evening with several priests of our diocese. That was splendid too. Praise God! I couldn’t be happier for Fr. Larry Barile and the people he is now called to serve.

In other news, our seminarians successfully completed another fall semester of seminary studies. As they gear up to return to the seminary for the start of the spring semester, I would like to highlight one of our seminarians, Mark Johnson, who received admission to Candidacy to Holy Orders with his classmates in November of 2021. In early December of 2020, I asked Mark to reflect on his experience of receiving admission to Candidacy for all of you. Here is what he had to say:

On November 19th, I received admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders. The significance of candidacy can be described by this nice image: if priesthood is like marriage to the Church, candidacy is the engagement whereby the candidate formally and publicly expresses to the Church his resolve to finish his formation and become a priest (this is done, interestingly enough, by actually saying “I do” during the ritual). The peak of the ceremony is the words the bishop speaks to the new candidates, saying, “May God who has begun this good work in you bring it to fulfillment.” I would like to meditate on the significance of this phrase.

“May God who has begun this good work in you…” The day after I had received candidacy, I was asked to share my vocation story as the beginning of a Confirmation retreat at Blessed Sacrament Parish. This opportunity brought to the forefront God’s actions throughout my life, particularly in drawing me from the world of chemistry to the world of future ministry. As I mentioned to the retreatants, it is difficult to see God’s hand in the present moment, but looking back allows one to more easily see the gentle nudges of the Holy Spirit. These nudges truly were more like gentle taps than awe-inspiring epiphanies; however, as I mentioned to the retreatants, God uses whatever you are willing to give Him in prayer no matter how small.

In my recent work as a sports chaplain for the women’s rugby team at Mount St. Mary’s University, some players asked questions about why I chose to give up a potential career in chemistry for the priesthood. I was not able to explain it in a way that made sense to them. They unknowingly picked up on a very important instinct: without God, a vocation does not make sense. God has to be the one who initiates this journey by the gentle acceptance of His grace. On the part of each person, one has to pray to be open to those divine promptings that draw one towards one’s vocation on earth and sanctity in heaven.

“…bring it to fulfillment.” By these words, it is important to understand that this journey towards sanctity is not yet finished. Although I may have taken another step towards the priesthood, I must still recognize that it is one step of many. I have been deemed worthy enough to express my resolve to become a priest, but there is still much that needs to be done before I am ready to accept priestly ministry: years of study, years of prayer, years of growing in virtue, years of ministerial practice, and especially years of patience. However, it is ultimately not my own work or my own resolve that will make my time at the seminary worth it, it is God’s work. Just as the Lord has worked in several ways throughout my life in bringing me to this point, He will continue to work (and He certainly has been working throughout this semester) in His gentle and loving way to bring this journey to completion if He so wills.

Please pray for God’s will to be done in the lives of all of our seminarians and all those God is calling to start this journey to priesthood for our diocese.

--Father Jonathan Ficara, Director of Vocations


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