A Vincentian Seminarian looks back… and forward!

“Get ready to walk on paths along you never thought you would walk.” A Vincentian Seminarian looks back… and forward! 

On Sunday, February 17 at the 5:30 Sunday student Mass at St. Thomas More Church on the campus of St. John’s University, Vincentian seminarian Jose Alex Palacios share the following reflection after communion on his vocational journey.

 

A journey begins

I am Jose Alexander Palacios, a Vincentian seminarian and a senior at St. John’s University in New York City. I want to share my journey in discerning a vocation to the priesthood with you. As I reflect on a journey of following Christ. I concluded that if you start following Christ Jesus, get ready to walk on paths along you never thought you would walk.

I am from El Salvador, and grew up in a family that was fervent in living Catholic faith. It is, for me, a joy to remember my childhood, as during those years I received so much love and taught Christian values that these have marked my life. However, in my adolescence, things began to change. My interest in the faith declined. I stopped participating in the life of my Church community, although, I continued going to Sunday Mass. I began to think going to church was for older people and in time, I put aside the enthusiasm I had for the things of God.

Unfamiliar roads… and a familiar one

When I was seventeen years old, I came to this country for a better life. My goal was to work for five years, make money to help my family, and return to El Salvador. Once I came here, I worked hard.  The first two years in the USA were challenging for me. I did not know anything about American life. It was a shock to me, coming from a communal view of life and family and living in a highly individualistic way of life. So after living with the support of a family in El Salvador, I was alone in a country very different from mine.  I experienced for the first time what loneliness is like. I felt I had lost almost everything; the only thing that I had left was my faith.

A few months later my arrival, I returned to practice my faith with a great desire. I attended Sunday Mass at St. Mary’s Church in Roslyn, NY. Shortly after, I became involved in the Hispanic community and remained active for seven years.  It was during those years I felt a desire to know more about my faith. I also I wanted to meet a good woman, get married, and start a family.

It was then that I started reading encyclicals such as The Splendor of Truth, Faith and Reason, and The Theology of the Body, all the works of Pope St. John Paul II.  In his various works, John Paul wrote about vocations and different states of life. I began to read, in detail, about the vocation of marriage and holy orders. I was so happy because it was exactly what I was looking for; I wanted to know more about God, the human person, and to discover God’s plan for me.

Me?

From that time on, I began questioning myself about my vocation; wondering what state of life, God was calling me to live. At the same time, my relationship with Jesus was growing. I realized the importance of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. From that, I began to feel an appreciation for a vocation to religious life. At the same time, I denied that possibility as I thought that it was only an idea without any basis. I felt unfit for such calling. When my friends at the parish saw my enthusiasm and involvement in the church, they began to tell me “you should consider the vocation to the priesthood.”  They said they saw in me potential to be a good religious. However, I just laughed and told them that type of vocation was not for me; all I wanted was to serve God and be a good Christian.

What held me back was that I felt unqualified and unworthy for such calling; however, the curiosity to know more about priesthood did not go away. Yet, I chose to say and do nothing. Time passed and I started dating a girl. Everything was going well but a curiosity for the priesthood was still there. I felt divided and only then did I decide to speak about my situation with a priest.

The priest explained to me the different types of religious orders and asked me if I had an interest in any particular one.  I told him that I did not know.  As far as I could recall in those prior years of my life, I had never thought of or even considered the idea of becoming a priest. Because of that, I was skeptical about my thoughts.

An invitation

In 2013, a young man whom I used to see at the parish youth group, entered the Vincentian Formation House near St. John’s University to discern his vocation. A month after he entered, he visited the youth group at St. Mary’s and invited me to attend a vocation discernment meeting at the Vincentian House.  Because of his invitation and because of my curiosity I went to the meeting.

To bring you up to date, in 2014 I entered the Vincentian formation program to discern my vocation with the Vincentians. Despite my up and downs, I can honestly say the last five years with the Vincentian Community have been the best years of my life. For that, I am so thankful to God and my brother seminarians and Vincentian formators who have supported me all these years.

Today

Today I continue in my discernment to see even more clearly if God is calling me to this way of life.  In May, I will graduate from St. John’s with a B.A. in philosophy. My next step is to enter a program of spiritual formation, called the Internal Seminary (also ‘novitiate’. It focuses on the Vincentian vocation of following Christ bringing God’s love to the poor. If this way of life and calling continues to ring true to me, I will move on to a four-year program to study theology and continue my formation for Vincentian priesthood, with a goal of ordination in the spring, 2024.

In conclusion, I want to invite you, if you have curiosity, questions, or desires to know more about the vocation to religious life, to put those thoughts in God’s hands and give yourself a chance to discern what the plan of God for you is. And do not forget, if you start fallowing Jesus; get ready to walk on paths along which you never thought you would walk.

Thank you and please keep my brother Vincentian seminarians and me in your prayers.

A Seed Cultivated 48 Years Ago

Fr. John Maher of the Eastern Province tells the story of a seed of vocation cultivated 48 years ago by Fathers Gleason and Brandenberger. His encounter reminds us that what one sows another reaps.

Frs. Gleason and Brandenberger. (See below to enlarge this page from the booklet celebrating 100 years of our service in Panama.)

(After one of the World Youth Day Programs in Panama) I ran into Sr. Lourdes, a Daughter of Charity who is in charge of Hogar de San Jose, which serves disabled and abandoned children. Beaming with quiet joy, she told me how grateful she was to be a Daughter of Charity, and how she loved this ministry. I asked Sister how she came to know the Daughters. She pointed to me and said, “Mi vocación vino a través de tus hermanos vicentinos!”  “My vocation came through your brothers- the Vincentians!”

Sr. Lourdes said that as a young girl, both Fathers Jim Gleason and Bob Brandenberger took an interest in her when she was a member of our parish in Puerto Armuelles, They encouraged her to go to school and introduced her to Daughters who worked in a nearby health center. Forty-eight years later, Sr. Lourdes can look back with gratitude not only at her life of service as a Daughter of Charity, but to the inspiration and encouragement she received from two Eastern Province Vincentians who seemed to know something of promoting a culture of vocations why back when!

Further context

The Vincentian Youth Encounter, held January 18-20 at Hogar de San Jose, Malambo, Panama before World Youth Day (WYD) had as a goal to promote a culture of vocations for young people gathered from across the world. This is the theme developed by Fr. Tomaz Mavric, C.M. Superior General of the Vincentian Family. He has written and spoken on the need for a culture of vocations in the Congregation of the Mission, Daughters of Charity, and branches of the Vincentian Family.

There was a panel discussion devoted to this topic at the Vincentian Youth Encounter. A group made up of a Vincentian priest, a Daughter of Charity, an AIC member (Ladies of Charity), Society of St. Vincent DePaul, and MISEVI members all shared ideas and insights on a vocation based on the Vincentian charism of following Christ in the poor. They answered questions and overall, it was a worthwhile time of discussion and reflection.

After the program, I ran into Sr. Lourdes, a Daughter of Charity who is in charge of Hogar de San Jose, which serves disabled and abandoned children. Beaming with quiet joy, she told me how grateful she was to be a Daughter of Charity, and how she loved this ministry. I asked Sister how she came to know the Daughters. She pointed to me and said, “Mi vocación vino a través de tus hermanos vicentinos!”  “My vocation came through your brothers- the Vincentians!”

Sr. Lourdes said that as a young girl, both Fathers Jim Gleason and Bob Brandenberger took an interest in her when she was a member of our parish in Puerto Armuelles, They encouraged her to go to school and introduced her to Daughters who worked in a nearby health center. Forty-eight years later, Sr. Lourdes can look back with gratitude not only at her life of service as a Daughter of Charity, but to the inspiration and encouragement she received from two Eastern Province Vincentians who seemed to know something of promoting a culture of vocations why back when!

-John Maher, C.M.

Flash! Look for Men On a Mission!

Have you ever seen “Men on a Mission”, Vincentian priests and brothers, members of a Congregation devoted to the mission of Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor.”

If you visit this site you have seen many men on a mission, (along with those who contribute their time, talent and treasure to support this mission of serving Christ in the poor.) Now you can learn more about the men on a mission serving in the Congregation of the Mission in the USA on our new vocation website.

“Men on a Mission, Serving Christ in the Poor”

This is the theme of a new national website in the United States debuting today to promote Vincentian vocations to the priesthood and brotherhood.

In line with the annual Vocation Awareness Week (November 4-10), Vocation Directors of the Eastern and Western Provinces of the Congregation of the Mission have created a new national website to promote vocations to Vincentian priesthood and brotherhood in the USA. Entitled “Men on a Mission” (https://www.menonamission.net), it highlights “the men, mission, and ministries” of the Congregation of the Mission across the USA. It provides a digital platform for information and access to learning about the Vincentian Community in the United States.

Fr. John Maher, C.M. Director of Vocations for the Eastern Province, and Fr. Jim Osendorf, C.M. Director of Vocations for the Western Province joined forces with Bill Rose, proprietor of Joyful Films, to develop this new website. It provides a contemporary view of the young men who have entered the Congregation of the Mission; ministries the Vincentians sponsor; resources to discern a vocation; the history, spirituality, and charism of St. Vincent de Paul; information on the international presence of Vincentians; and the laity who comprise the wider “Vincentian Family.”

“Both Jim and I felt that a national website to promote vocations to the Vincentians is a project that will benefit both our provinces in the long run,” stated Fr. John Maher. “We also believe that this is a practical way to promote collaboration between our provinces to invite the next generation of vowed young Vincentians to join us.” Fr. Jim Osendorf said, “It’s time vocation promotion be a common project for our provinces to undertake for the good of all our confreres and ministries.”

The website features videos of Vincentian seminarians briefly reflecting on their vocations, and profiles two missions sponsored by each province: Panama (Eastern Province); and Kenya (Western Province.) It also provides reflections by Vincentians on the varied aspects of spirituality and the charism of St. Vincent de Paul, providing inspiration in ministries to evangelize and serve the poor. Plans are also in progress for a Spanish language version of this website to reach Latino men who may be interested in learning more about the Congregation of the Mission.

“Men on a Mission serving Christ in the poor” is not only a theme of this new national website but the story of the Congregation of the Mission in the United States for over two centuries. The inspiration for the theme of this new website comes from the motto St. Vincent de Paul chose for his Congregation in 1625: “He has sent me to preach the Good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18)

See how many “men on a mission” you can recognize not only in the website but in your life.