Eastern Province Confrere Helps Indigenous Youth Take Center Stage at WYD

“Taking charge of their roots”: Indigenous youth take center stage at World Youth Day

“Marginalized take center stage at World Youth Day 2019”, reads the title of one of many articles written in response to the active presence of indigenous youth at WYD Panama. It was not by chance that indigenous youth and the realities that indigenous peoples face became one of the central news items at WYD, and one mentioned repeatedly by Pope Francis.

With the above words, Fr. Joe Fitzgerald of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, offers an overview of the historic moment when indigenous youth responded to the question first raised by Pope Francis at the end of World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland. “What does it mean to have WYD in this ancestral land, in the midst of countries with a high percentage of indigenous populations?”

Emilda Santo Montezuma, a young woman from the San Vicente de Paul ngäbe mission parish in Soloy who spent the past year working full time as a coordinator of the indigenous youth gathering.  Emilda presented the Pope a Ngäbe Chief´s hat, which he then wore for the official photos.

[See photo gallery below See also  Catholic Philly Vincentians laid seeds of strong faith in Panama]

He continues his overview

It was rather the fruit of the arduous work of hundreds of indigenous youth determined to share with the world their faith in Christ from the richness of their cultures and worldviews, to show the “indigenous face of the Church” during WYD. More than just a novelty at WYD, the voice and visibility of indigenous youth, with their struggles, joys and talents, bring us closer to living a “new ecclesial Pentecost” by opening spaces for encounters with indigenous peoples (Aparecida 91), and invites all to learn from those “who have so much to relate and recall from their culture and vision of the world ” (Pope Francis to Panamanian authorities).

The Eastern Province can truly be proud of the behind the scenes ministry of Fr. Joe Fitzgerald, CM.  He shepherded his beloved youth in our mission in Soloy. For fourteen years since his ordination in 2005, he has dedicated his ministry to serving his people. For the past two years, he served as a guiding light via his role as Executive Secretary and National Coordinator of Indigenous Ministry, Panama

Such a momentous event cannot be grasped in soundbites. So he provides us and the world the following reflection in 4 parts.

A little background…
Indigenous youth in action…
Pope Francis responds…
The road ahead…

A little background… At the end of World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, the announcement by Pope Francis that Panama would be the next venue for WYD provoked the question in indigenous pastoral circles and among indigenous youth … “What does it mean to have WYD in this ancestral land, in the midst of countries with a high percentage of indigenous populations?” The question was transformed into commitment and a vision to show the “indigenous face” at one of the largest gatherings the Church celebrates. After a consultation process at various levels, the National Coordination of Indigenous Ministry, Panama (CONAPI) assumed the responsibility of implementing a plan with indigenous youth with three main thrusts, a) social and ecclesial inclusion, b) strengthening the leadership of indigenous Catholic youth and c) the promotion of awareness in the Church and society of the indigenous realities. Thanks to the financial support of ADVENIAT, the Vincentian Solidarity Office and the inscriptions of the pilgrims at the pre-WYD indigenous gathering, the project officially started in August 2017.

Indigenous youth in action… The tradition of having experiences the days before the WYD began several decades ago and includes “days in the dioceses”, meetings of congregations and movements. Most international pilgrims come to the host country to live the local culture and meet other young people who live the same charism. In this same spirit, the first World Indigenous Youth Gathering (EMJI for its initial in Spanish) was organized by young Panamanian indigenous, who became involved in social and ecclesial leadership processes.  They invited young indigenous people of the world to share their faith from their indigenous identities through prayer, art, dance, song, pilgrimages and moments of strong testimonies about the situations experienced by the indigenous communities of the various countries. The preparation incorporated the youth from around the world in processes of reflection on there “living memory” and the richness of their ancestral traditions as necessary elements for a viable future.  The various traditions and rituals, based on common sharing and harmony with Mother Earth, where celebrated during the EMJI, forming a symphony of cultures united in their common values. The EMJI took place in the community of Soloy (Saint Vicente de Paul Parish), indigenous Ngäbe lands, with the participation of 2,000 indigenous people, among them 400 pilgrims from 40 distinct indigenous peoples.

Pope Francis surprised the youth at the EMJI with a video message at the beginning of the gathering, encouraging them to deepen their reflection on the prepared topics; value the living memory of their peoples, live in harmony with our Common Home and commit themselves to the construction of the “other possible world”. The Pope ends the video with an affectionate expression in the Ngäbere language, ” Jatuaida jamäräkädre” (see you later, my family).

At the end of the EMJI, the young people wrote a strong and precise message for the world, which demands that governments “recognize and delineate indigenous territories, and provide an education that respects our peoples as distinct cultures, with their own riches and wisdom”. The message also calls on the Church to open “appropriate spaces to live our spiritualities, from our worldviews, inheritance of our ancestors, and respect for the particular theologies of our peoples, fruits of the synthesis between our ancestral faith and the fullness of our hope in the person of Jesus Christ. The time has come to live with joy the indigenous face of the Church!”

After the EMJI experience, the young indigenous Catholics migrated to Panama City for WYD with a defined mission: to share with the world the fruits of the EMJI, their faith, their struggles, and to show with joy the indigenous face of the Church. The Indigenous Village, a space in the Parque de la Juventud, served as a wonderful space for the indigenous pilgrims to share their testimonies, dances, songs and art with the other non-indigenous pilgrims, in addition to sharing the messages of the Pope and the EMJI, promoting awareness of the “indigenous cause”. More than 3,000 pilgrims visited the Indigenous Village during the four days of the activity.

In addition to the indigenous village, there were several other moments of promotion of the indigenous cause in the ambient of WYD, such as: a several day program where indigenous Guna youth shared their faith, challenges, as well as cultural expressions such as songs and dances with German pilgrims; a conference on “The Church and Indigenous Peoples” organized by the French Bishops Conference at a theater; a forum at the Museum of the Interoceanic Canal, which focused on the main challenges that indigenous people face in society and in the Church; a testimony given by an indigenous youth from the Amazon region of Brazil to hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from the main stage about the effects of climate change on the Amazon and the peoples who call it home.

Pope Francis responds… Perhaps what called most attention to the active presence of indigenous youth at WYD came from an unexpected place; Pope Francis´ repeated emphasis on the importance of the indigenous pre-gathering and the indigenous presence in the WYD.  As previous mentioned, the Pope surprised those gathering for the World Gathering of Indigenous Youth in Soloy with a video message that stressed the importance of “taking charge of your roots”.  He took up that theme on several occasions throughout his speeches and in more casual moments.  In his first public discourse, to Panamanian authorities, the Pope stated that the “The genius of these lands is marked by the richness of its indigenous peoples”, naming each of the seven indigenous peoples.  He then shared his enthusiasm for the celebration of the EMJI in Soloy, stating that “it does not stop being a hopeful sign that this World Youth Day had begun a week ago with the Gathering of Indigenous Youth… I greet you from here and I thank you for taking this first step of World Youth Day.”

During his meeting with the Conference of Central American Bishops, Francis spoke of the importance that “none of the good that God has planted will languish”, that “caring for these roots means caring for the rich historical, cultural and spiritual heritage that this land has for centuries been able to harmonize”.  He connected the theme of caring for the “seeds of the Kingdom” that God has planted to the celebration of EMJI, saying “I congratulate you for the initiative that this World Youth Day has begun with the Indigenous Youth (Gathering) in David. It is a first step to show the plurifacetism of our peoples.” Acknowledging the reality of indigenous peoples during Stations of the Cross, the Pope said that the passion of Christ “is prolonged in the original peoples, who are stripped of their lands, their roots and their culture, silencing and extinguishing all the wisdom they have and can provide us.”

Perhaps the most emotional words of the Pope in reference to the indigenous youth gathering and their active presence in WYD were the simplest. During the first large gathering of the world´s youth with the Pope for the opening ceremony, he said, “I am thinking of you, starting to walk first in this journey, the indigenous youth. They were the first in America and the first to walk in this encounter. ¡A big round of applause!”  In later reflection, this was singled out as a pivotal moment by the indigenous youth, who were overcome with emotion that the Pope would speak so directly to them and invite everyone to acknowledge their presence and participation. It marked a “we are truly here” moment, a “we are a vital part of this” feeling amongst the indigenous youth.

In a more personal and intimate moment, the Pope had lunch with ten young people, representative of the world´s youth, where they were invited to share their concerns and hopes. One of the ten was Emilda Santo Montezuma, a young woman from the San Vicente de Paul ngäbe mission parish in Soloy who spent the past year working full time as a coordinator of the indigenous youth gathering.  Emilda was invited to represent the world´s indigenous youth at the lunch.  She presented the Pope a Ngäbe Chief´s hat, which he then wore for the official photos. She also gave him a copy of the “Message from the World Indigenous Youth Gathering” and spoke of the urgent need of the Church to accompany indigenous peoples in their struggle for dignity and land rights.  At the Pope´s final meal with local bishops before heading back to Rome, he spoke about Emilda and how impressed he was with her enthusiasm in speaking of the indigenous face of the Church and the rights of indigenous people in society, highlighting in particular her concern for the situation of particular Amazonian peoples of Brazil who are facing genocide due to government-backed extensive ecological destruction.

After his return to Rome, in his reflection about the experience in Panama, the Pope used the process of the indigenous youth meeting in Soloy and the posterior arrival of the world´s diverse youth for WYD as a prophetic sign of the hope that shows the “beauty of the multiform face of the Church”, and that with “their desire to meet they have given the world a true testimony of peace”.  He stated that the indigenous youth gathering in Soloy was a “beautiful gesture”, and “import initiative which demonstrated even better the diversified face of the Church in Latin America.” He continues…

Then, with the arrival of groups from all over the world, a great symphony of faces and languages was formed, as is typical of this event. Seeing all the flags displayed together, waving in the hands of young people who were happy to meet each other, is a prophetic sign, a sign that runs counter to today’s sad tendency toward hostile nationalism that builds walls and is closed to universality, to the encounter of peoples. It is a sign that young Christians are the leaven of peace in the world.

The road ahead… In his video message to World Indigenous Youth Gathering, the Pope says, “May your actions, the consciousness you have of belong to your indigenous peoples, be a reaction against the throw-away culture, against this culture that has forgotten its roots, projecting to a future more and more ´liquid´, without foundation”.  He continues, using the example of an unnamed poet, saying, “everything that blooms on a tree comes from that which is underground, the roots, but roots that grow towards the future, projected towards the future. That is your challenge today!” All signs show that young indigenous people are up to Pope´s challenge and will continue to bear fruit from the richness of their ancestral cultures in the “protection of our Common Home and the collaboration in the construction of the ‘other possible world’, more equitable and more human”.

Joe Fitzgerald, CM
Executive Secretary
National Coordination of Indigenous Ministry, Panama

February 8, 2019

St. Vincent would be truly proud of this missionary living out the missionary spirit so dear to the heart of Vincent.

Christ the King and the “Duck Test”

Christ the King and the “Duck Test”

The “Duck Test”

We’ve all heard the expression… “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” Sometimes it is referred to as “the duck test”. Another way of saying it is to fly a “false flag” or giving the appearance of something one is not. In either case, political figures have used it to identify who someone who wears one label but acts like a member of another party.

Jesus had his own way of saying it. “By their fruits, you will know them”. As I was thinking about the feast of Christ the King I wondered how the “duck test” might apply to followers of Christ the King.

First, let’s look at the characteristics of Christ the King

Characteristics of Christ the king

Christ the king breaks the mold of earthly rulers in at least three ways.

He Identifies with everyone

Christ the King identifies with each one of us no matter how badly disfigured. He identifies with everyone who is hungry, thirsty, sick, lonely, a foreigner, in prison, and a stranger. He is in the needy, whether rich or poor. He is in the discouraged loved one who cannot find a job; He is in our children, who need to be taught and encouraged. He is in the co-worker who just lost his wife; he is in the patient who was diagnosed with cancer. He is in the lost family member who needs instruction and to be drawn back to the Sacraments. He is in our struggles and needs.

He Serves all

To understand Christ as King we must remember what he did at his last meal. He washed the feet of disciples, something a lowly servant did for his master. He became their servant. Then he pointedly asked them. Do you understand what I have done? I, your Lord and Master (King) have washed your feet. I want you to wash one another’s feet in love. He even added, “Do this in memory of me!” Lest we miss the point.

Some of His ways are paradoxical. We can not reduce “care” merely to meaning “that which comforts and consoles.” It can be that, but not always! Sometimes the “caring” thing to do is to rebuke, warn. God never ceases to care for us. Think of the times his care took the form or correction of disciples. Sometimes his care manifests itself in the unwelcome package of challenges that lead to growth.

He deeply respects the freedom of all

Jesus is a King who respects our freedom to decide whether to have Him as our King and to accept the virtues of His kingdom—or not. Anyone who chooses not to live these characteristics creates a separate space outside this kingdom, space filled with isolation and fierce competition. He is a King who does not force His kingship and laws. Rather he offers his example to all and allows each of us to decide which space we choose.

Identifying followers of Christ the King

Invoking the “duck test” principle we seem to have a way to determine who understands the kingship of Christ the King.

Followers of Christ the King are those who understand that in this kingdom we freely serve each other because we see in each person no matter what scars a participation in being Christ.

Some members of this kingdom stand out. We call them saints and blessed. In our Vincentian heritage Saints Vincent and Louise are among those whose lives clearly embody these characteristics. By their fruits we know them.

But Pope Francis constantly reminds us that we are called to be the “saints next door.” In our lives people see images of Christ the King,  Together we manifest what the Eucharistic Preface of the feast of Christ the King describes as *an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.”

Do we, individually and collectively, look and act like people who serve one another because we recognize we are the body of Christ?

This post drew on a homily by Msgr Charles Pope

Catching Up on Vincentian Values in Lent – Week Two

St. Vincent de Paul encouraged five particular traits in his comrades: simplicity, meekness, mortification, humility and zeal. Come discover the stories of these Vincentian Values and how they are alive in the daily experiences of those around us.

Through the 40 days of Lent, a new story will be shared daily. Make it your Lenten challenge to dive into the five Vincentian virtues of simplicity, meekness, mortification, humility and zeal. See how the everyday practices of being honest, approachable, self-disciplined, realistic and hardworking, in the spirit of St. Vincent, can transform your own life and the lives of others.

The Journey Begins

Day 1 – First Step on the Vincentian Way – Thomas McKenna

Day 2 – In the Vincentian Way – Mary Gilbart

Day 3 – With a Good Heart – Ivette Detres

Day 4 – Waking Up – John Freund

Week One – Stories of Simplicity

Day 5 – Just Listen – Frank Sacks

Day 6 – Lifting up Spirit – Larry Huber

Day 7 – Open and Honest – Jack Timlin

Day 8 – Simple Providence  – Frank Sacks

Day 9 – Truthful – Mary Gilbart

Day 10 – Transparency – Thomas McKenna


Week Two – Stories of Meekness

Day 11 – Reflect – Katherine Cartegena

Day12 – SIlent Storm  – Al Smith

Day 13 – Open Door – Al Pehrsson

Day 14 – Available – Liz WIlson

Day 15 – Gentle Help – Robert Stone

Day 16 – Approachable – Thomas McKenna

Coming Week Three – Stories of Mortification, Self-discipline


Catching Up on Vincentian Values During Lent – Week One

St. Vincent de Paul encouraged five particular traits in his comrades: simplicity, meekness, mortification, humility and zeal. Come discover the stories of these virtues and how they are alive in the daily experiences of those around us.

Through the 40 days of Lent, a new story will be shared daily. Make it your Lenten challenge to dive into the five Vincentian virtues of simplicity, meekness, mortification, humility and zeal. See how the everyday practices of being honest, approachable, self-disciplined, realistic and hardworking, in the spirit of St. Vincent, can transform your own life and the lives of others.

The Journey Begins

First Step on the Vincentian Way – Thomas McKenna

In the Vincentian Way – Mary Gilbart

With a Good Heart – Ivette Detres

Waking Up – John Freund

Week One – Stories of Simplicity

Day 5 Just Listen – Frank Sacks

Day 6 Lifting up Spirit – Larry Huber

Day 7 Open and Honest – Jack Timlin

Day 8 Simple Providence  – Frank Sacks

Day 9 Truthful – Mary Gilbart

Day 10 – Transparency – Thomas McKenna


Coming – Week Two – Stories of Meekness

Father Maher To Serve As National Media Correspondent During Pope’s U.S. Visit

james MaherFather Maher To Serve As National Media Correspondent During Pope’s U.S. Visit

Drawing on his background as a Catholic and Vincentian priest, and scholar on social justice, Father Maher will offer commentary on The Tavis Smiley Show, which airs on PBS, the WCBS-TV (Channel 2 in New York City) news broadcast from Washington, D.C., and Telecare TV, a 24-hour Catholic news network that is available on cable systems nationwide.


Building a Vincentian culture of collaboration

culture collaborationHere are some new material on building a Vincentian culture of collaboration. The video is available in many languages.

The Year of Vincentian Collaboration: Let’s Get Started

Here are some new materials published today on the .famvin network. The Vincentian Family Collaboration Commission asks that you release the information through your networks as soon as possible. Thanks!

El Año de la Colaboración Vicenciana: Vamos a Empezar

Aquí están unos nuevos materiales publicados hoy en la red .famvin. La Comisión para Colaboración de la Familia Vicenciana pide que distribuya la información a través de sus redes tan pronto como sea posible. ¡Gracias!

L’Année de Collaboration Vincentienne: Començcons

Voici du nouveau matériel publiés aujourd’hui sur le réseau de .famvin. La Commission de Collaboration de la Famille Vincentienne demande que vous distribuez l’information dans vos réseaux dès que possible. Merci!


ENGLISH: Year of Vincentian Collaboration: Let’s Get Started https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKy2SdY_joE

ESPAÑOL: Año de Colaboración Vicenciana: Vamos a Empezar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YZUu9nLNrw

FRANÇAIS: L’Année de la Collaboration Vincentienne: Commençonshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMoCMTlG5nc

POLSKI:Rok Współpracy Wincentyńskiej https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i8xTDIaZsg

PORTUGUÊS: Ano de Colaboração Vicentina https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpml6CT-eDU



Prior brothers in the Slate Belt

Prior brothersUnder the banner “The brothers Prior are perfect fit as Vincentian Fathers in the Slate Belt” Tami Quigley writes of their ministry in the Allentown Diocese…

The two Vincentian (Congregation of the Mission, CM) Fathers – who happen to be brothers – who serve Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Roseto, have long been the fabric that weaves together aspects of life in the Italian parish nestled in the heart of the Slate Belt.

Vincentian Father James Prior, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, has been at the parish for more than 50 years, and pastor for 22 years, since 1993. His brother, Vincentian Father Thomas Prior, has been assistant pastor for 16 years.

The brothers’ ministry in the Slate Belt is a varied one, according to Father Thomas Prior. “We have the usual parochial duties which are enhanced by a special ministry to the sick because of six hospitals and four nursing homes in the area.

“It’s a practical ministry – the hands on ability to bring Christ to the people.”

The brothers were born in Bayonne, N.J., and were inspired to follow a Vincentian vocation by their cousin, Father Frank Hinton, a Vincentian priest. The brothers liked that for Vincentians, “ministry wasn’t only in the parish, it was in different areas,” Father Thomas Prior said.

The brothers attended Vincentian Seminary Minor, Princeton, N.J. for six years, then spent two years at the novitiate at Eastern Province USA Vincentians in the Germantown area of Philadelphia. They then attended the former Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, which was run by the Vincentians, for six years.

Father James Prior was “loaned,” Father Thomas Prior said, to the Diocese of Allentown in 1964 to be principal of Pius X High School, Bangor, across the street from Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He served as principal for 18 years before becoming assistant pastor, then pastor, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Father Thomas Prior ministered in different areas before coming to the Slate Belt, including teaching at St. Thomas More High School, Archdiocese of Philadelphia; and St. John’s Preparatory School, Queens New York. He also worked in a parish mission church in Panama.

Father Thomas Prior was then part of the Miraculous Medal Novena Band for 28 years, traveling the eastern United States giving novenas in honor of the Blessed Mother. For the last 14 years of this ministry he was stationed at St. John’s University, Queens, N.Y.

When he became assistant pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel 16 years ago, some of his fellow priests wondered how the brothers would get along working together. “We get along well,” Father Thomas Prior said. “Jim does all the paperwork, and he works hard. This frees me up to be able to take care of the hospital visits.

“There’s a variety of parish work. There’s so much opportunity for contact with the kids on up.”

There’s also a special time each July for faith, fellowship and fun with the Our Lady of Mount Carmel-sponsored Big Time Celebration. This year will mark the 122nd celebration, which famously features processing with an image of Mary on Garibaldi Avenue, the crowning of a queen, sausage sandwiches, rides and fireworks.

This year’s Big Time Celebration is slated for Wednesday, July 22 through Saturday, July 25. The public procession and crowning of the Blessed Mother will take place Saturday at 2 p.m.

Read More: About the Vincentian Fathers – See more at: http://www.allentowndiocese.org/blog/the-brothers-prior-are-perfect-fit-as-vincentian-fathers-in-the-/#sthash.FzkSJFfC.dpuf

Seminarian learns to serve at NU

Serrano cookingVincentian Seminarian Spends Month At NU, Serves Local Community Michael Freedman


David Serrano, a Vincentian seminarian who recently spent a month living at NU, prepares guacamole during a cooking class at the Heart, Love and Soul food pantry and dining room .

If you blinked, you probably missed David Serrano. The quiet-but-affable Vincentian seminarian wrapped up a 33-day stay at Niagara University on March 2.

Serrano was on Monteagle Ridge to perform one month of apostolic mission work, a requirement of the internal seminary process (formerly referred to as the novitiate) to become a member of the Congregation of the Mission.

Under the pastoral care of the Rev. William Allegretto, C.M., ’81, Serrano shared in community living in the university’s Vincentian Residence. He said that he particularly enjoyed engaging with Niagara students, opportunities that arose during meals, classes (when he would serve as a guest speaker) and after Sunday night Masses.

“I think you are awesome!” Serrano exclaimed during a 45-minute conversation on a brisk February afternoon. “Unlike the winter weather, the people here are very warm. There is something at NU, and I think it’s the people, that makes you really feel at home, really welcome. That’s what I felt right away when I came here.”

Serrano lived in a guest room in Niagara’s Vincentian Residence. He fit right in with the Vincentians through participation in daily communal activities. He was present for house meals and celebrations with different groups of people. It was almost as if Serrano had always been there, according to Father Allegretto.

Serrano-servingMost of Serrano’s weekdays were dedicated to assisting at the Heart, Love and Soul food pantry and dining room in downtown Niagara Falls. There, he would serve guests breakfast and lunch from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., and provide numerous “as-needed” services, such as stocking the pantry, surveying guests, cleaning, retrieving food donations, even translating. By all accounts, Serrano’s authentic guacamole was an HLS favorite, almost as popular as his relentless work ethic and disarming personality.

“When I first met David, I was impressed with his quiet and unassuming demeanor. As time passed, I found that my first impression remained true, yet I also experienced his quick wit and delightful sense of humor,” noted Sister Beth Brosmer, executive director of Heart, Love and Soul. “David pitched-in with just about everything. This included food prep, serving meals, unloading trucks, stocking groceries and cleaning. Mostly, though, I will remember the way he listened with his heart to the stories of our guests. It was a pleasure to have David at Heart and Soul and we wish him many blessings in his ministry.”

Serrano’s journey to the Vincentian priesthood began in Veracruz, Mexico, where he was born and lived until middle school. His family moved to Gastonia, N.C., in 2001 and became members of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Charlotte, the only Catholic parish in the area that conducted all its Masses in Spanish.

It was at Our Lady of Guadalupe that Serrano first encountered the Congregation of the Mission. The Vincentians offer numerous outreach programs within the Hispanic community near Charlotte, including catechism, food pantry assistance and raising funds for those in need.

As a church youth group leader, Serrano got to know the Vincentians and developed a mentor-mentee relationship with the church’s pastor, Father Vincent Finnerty, C.M. After graduating from high school, Serrano decided to enter the discernment house and live in community with the priests there. He was also attending community college.

“I saw guys who were living simply and were very happy with what they were doing,” Serrano explained. “I saw that they were simple men living and working together – and they were happy. They were genuinely happy with their ministry. I said (to myself), ‘I think I can do that.’”

Serrano spent one year in the discernment house before leaving, at the request of the Vincentians, to ponder whether or not the priesthood was for him. For the next five years, he landscaped, cleaned professional offices, worked in the promotions department for a local Hispanic radio station and even performed as a clown.

“I know some pretty good mind tricks and can make a few balloon figures,” Serrano joked.

Still, something inside him was pulling Serrano toward the priesthood. Serrano moved to Queens, entered the Vincentian formation and enrolled at St. John’s University to study philosophy. Once he earned his bachelor’s degree, he was off to Germantown, Pa., to commence the internal seminary process, part of which requires each candidate to perform one month of apostolic mission.

That’s where Niagara came in. Serrano chose to come to Western New York in February – yes, you read that correctly – to work with the Vincentians on and around Monteagle Ridge. He was originally scheduled to arrive Jan. 26 but weather-related delays pushed his arrival back two days.

Serrano’s plane landed in Buffalo on a Thursday evening. The next day, he was working diligently at Heart, Love and Soul with 2009 NU alumnus Mike Daloia, who manages operations and personnel at the food pantry.

“I think the experience at Heart, Love and Soul and the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store really opened David’s eyes to the needs of the area, especially the poor and homeless he was serving,” said Father Allegretto. “Having lived in New York and Philadelphia, he didn’t fully understand that Niagara Falls faces many of the same challenges as those larger cities.”

Father Allegretto added that the 28-year-old Serrano was an exceptional role model for Niagara students, having observed Serrano speak during a religious studies class and on several other occasions. “It was wonderful for them to have this young person so involved in religious life,” Father Allegretto said. “David is a powerful witness, even to his own confreres.”

Although Serrano has returned to the Philadelphia area, the month-long imprint he made at Niagara is sizeable. Several people have expressed a desire to see him back on campus once he completes the internal seminary process in July.

It sounded like Serrano, as an aspiring Vincentian, would certainly be open to the idea.

“I am inspired by the ability of Niagara University to not only prepare students to be educated professionally, but to be good human beings who help others and really understand themselves so they can go out and be who they are with the people they are going to serve. They are really well prepared for what’s out there. I hope to see more of that someday.”

Eastern Province in Kenya – Asset management and planning

DSC00506The Eastern Province was well represented in Wise Asset Management and Strategic Planning initiatives for the newest region of the Congregation. Frs. Bob Maloney, Joe Agostino and Sr. Marge Clifford, DC just returned from Kenya where they presented workshops and in-service training to the Confreres and the local Vincentian Family as well as some members of the local clergy including the seminary rector.

Some 125 people gathered for a 4 day workshop followed by a 2 day strategic planning session for Kenya which became a “Region” as of January 25, 2015.

The following stories represent the summaries of the various days and photo galleries courtesy of Fr. Gary Mueller, CM the first Regional Superior. Gary spent some time in the Eastern province during his formation program.

Wise asset Management and Strategic Planning in Kenya

Final wrapup in Kenya

Sister Marge, based in Philadelphia,  is part of the team that offers these workshops to many provinces in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.


100 Years – Central Association of the Miraculous Medal

CAMM 100Dear Friends,

May Christ’s Peace be with you always!

Here in Germantown we have begun to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal.

The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal has given itself faithfully to the promotion of devotion to Mary Immaculate through the Miraculous Medal each year since 1915.  Truly the association has been a font of God’s grace to so many over its 100 years.

The CAMM has also been a major apostolate of the Eastern Province and so I thank all of the Vincentians who have worked there over the past 100 years. I thank, as well, the many confreres who preach at the Shrine on Mondays. You offer hope and share faith Monday after Monday to the devotees. The confreres of St. Vincent’s Seminary have served as celebrants and confessors to the Shrine since the beginning of the devotion. Again thank you.

I thank as well the many folks, all dedicated women and men, who work at the Central Association. We can never forget the promoters of the Medal who year after year support the pious causes of the Association.

Today I share with you part one of a history of the CAMM which was written by Anne Pryce.


Michael Carroll, CM

CAMM_Centennial History_part 1 PDF