"The Call" January 2021: The Joys of Pastoral Ministry
Happy New Year!
I hope that all of you had a blessed Christmas season and are doing well.
This month I am happy to share with you an update regarding the happenings in the vocation office, as well as a heartwarming piece written by Deacon John Larochelle who writes about pastoral formation, which is one of the four dimensions of priestly formation.
It was so nice to have the seminarians home during Christmas break and to be able to catch up with them. I was able to hear about their semesters, which looked very different due to the pandemic. A beautiful family who supports us gave us a monetary gift and asked that it be used for a fraternity building activity. With much of society closed due to the pandemic, our options for something fun and still safe were socially distanced were limited. We decided on candlepin bowling. Not every seminarian was free that night, but fifteen seminarians and I gathered (masked, of course) for what we hope can become an annual tradition.
January is the month each year when I distribute posters to all of the parishes regarding the annual vocation retreat. To accommodate the need for social distancing the format this year will be different. Instead of an overnight, the annual retreat will be held on Saturday, March 27th from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM at North American Martyrs Church in Auburn.
The seminarians were a great help in stuffing the posters into our mailing tubes.
Here’s how you can help...
Share the Vocations Retreat Poster
: If you know a young man who is high school aged, or older, whom you think should be invited to attend our 1-day annual retreat, please share the poster with him. A copy of it is attached.
Join us in Prayer
: On that same day as the vocation retreat, Saturday, March 27
, all those who support vocations are invited to join in a day of prayer for the men who are discerning attending the retreat. At Saint James Parish in Grafton, we are going to have a “Day of Adoration” that starts with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 8:30 AM and ends after the 4:30 PM vigil Mass. Throughout the day there will time for silent prayer, all four mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and other prayers for vocations will be prayed. There will be an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. All are welcome for any time during the day. For more information please contact:
Spread the News:
Please prayerfully consider sharing this email newsletter with others so that more people can join us in the work of building a culture of vocations here in the Diocese of Worcester.
Pope Saint John Paul II wrote, "The reason why we must pray is certainly a big one, if Christ himself commanded us to do it: 'Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.'"
Therefore, to encourage more prayer for vocations in our own diocese, the vocations office is printing new prayer cards to ask our Lord for vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and diaconate. These are at the printer right now and we look forward to sharing them with you when they become available (hopefully soon). Below, I have included a photo of what they will look like. We are very grateful to Monsignor James Moroney for providing us with the image of the stained glass window from the Cathedral.
We are also pleased to announce a new prayer request section on our website. If you have a prayer intention and would like our seminarians to bring it before the Lord, please feel free to submit a request.
This page can be found here.
Lastly, so many of you look forward to being in attendance at the ordination each year. Last year, with only 40% capacity permitted in the Cathedral, the number of requests of seats surpassed what we could accommodate. The current guidelines are at 25 percent; therefore, in an effort to try and accommodate as many guests as possible we are splitting up the ordinations. More information will be available at a later date.
Again, I wish to genuinely express how much I appreciate each one of you. Let us unite in prayer for our nation on this Inauguration Day and for a healthy return to normalcy soon. May God bless you and your loved ones.
Father Donato Infante
PS If you received this newsletter by e-mail forwarding and would like to sign up, please visit our website by clicking
Save the Date:
Don't forget that April 25th is World Day of Prayer for vocations this year. Suggested activities will be included in an upcoming newsletter.
Retreat poster 2021.pdf
by Deacon John Larochelle
I have learned when walking the hallways of a hospital to never walk too fast. First, because there is always someone walking faster than me on some important errand and I don’t want to get run over. Secondly, however, because walking slowly gives me time to make eye contact with and to say “good morning” to the nurses and doctors and to greet the patients in their rooms as I go by.
As I walked past a particular patient room one day I glanced in and made eye contact with a woman standing by a man’s bedside. She instantly smiled and called out “Father! I’m so happy to see you!”. This happens frequently because seminarians generally wear clerical attire whenever they are doing pastoral work. I went into the room and introduced myself as the seminarian and I learned that the woman’s husband, who was unconscious, had just had a major heart attack and emergency surgery. The woman began to cry as I she told me what had happened. I listened to her and held her hand as together we prayed for her husband by his bedside. I excused myself briefly from the room and went to the nurses’ station where I called the priest chaplain who was on duty that day. He came immediately and administered the sacrament of the sick to the unconscious man. I later learned that the man had been admitted, gone straight to surgery, and had moved rooms twice, all in that same day. He wasn’t on my list of visits for the day and I hadn’t planned any time to see him and his wife in my schedule. But, nevertheless, in the midst of their suffering, that of both the man who was sick and his wife who was wracked with worry for his well-being, I was blessed to be present to them and to be able to catch a glimpse of the role of the priest as a witness to the charity of Christ himself. Christ, the Good Shepherd who “went about doing good” (Acts, 10:38).
When I first entered seminary formation, I knew that it would be a time of intense prayer and study. I also had a rough idea of how I would be given practical experience in the form of a summer assignment each year in a parish. What I did not understand at the time was to what degree ‘pastoral formation’ would become a part of my overall formation for the priesthood. The Second Vatican Council decree on priestly training,
, noted that “it is necessary for students to learn the art of exercising the apostolate not only theoretically but also practically… both during their course of studies and also during the time of vacations, by opportune practical projects.”
This pastoral aspect of formation thus becomes, as Saint Pope John Paul II writes, the unifying theme that guides the precise content and defining characteristics of the human, spiritual, and intellectual aspects of formation for future priests.
It is for this reason that, in addition to my ten-week assignments each summer in a parish of our diocese, I have also been given a pastoral assignment each year during my time at the seminary. These pastoral assignments that seminaries give can sometimes be in a parish nearby, but they can also be in various kinds of institutions including hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and on college campuses. My own pastoral assignments have included a local parish here in Boston, a residential treatment facility for children, and a nearby hospital (where the story I told above occurred). These pastoral assignments are an integral part of the seminary formation process for each of us and are supplemented with academic classes covering specific topics that are of pastoral concern along with evenings of reflection that give us an opportunity to better reflect and pray on what we have encountered and learned.
One of the greatest challenges to my pastoral formation in the last year has been the ongoing pandemic and the restrictions that it has placed upon me, and indeed all of my brother seminarians, as a result of lockdowns and other limitations. This has been especially challenging as a deacon because many of the opportunities I would have had to proclaim the Gospel and preach in the parish, to welcome new life into the Church through the sacrament of Baptism, and to bless new families in the sacrament of Marriage have been seriously curtailed. However, where there have been challenges there have also been great opportunities and I was blessed to be the deacon at the weddings of two members of my family this past summer. I have also been blessed, subject to various restrictions, to be able to visit parishes regularly and to preach and proclaim the Gospel there. Hospital ministry is challenging but, again, I have also been blessed to be able to minister to the sick on several occasions in the past year as well despite hospital measures that limit visitors.
When I first entered seminary, long before the pandemic with its restrictions and isolation, one of the first church documents I was asked to read was the apostolic exhortation
Pastores dabo vobis
(I will give you shepherds) by Saint Pope John Paul II. In it he writes that the training of seminarians should be ordered towards making them true shepherds of souls. Becoming a shepherd of souls means learning to be with and among the people of God. Christ never stands apart from His people but is present always in the community, even amidst a worldwide pandemic. It is the task of the priest then to stand with and for Christ in the midst of His people. Ultimately, that is what pastoral formation, indeed all of seminary formation, is ordered towards.
Deacon John Larochelle witnesses the vows at his sister's wedding. Photo courtesy Henry J. Montville. HJM Photography.
Father Donato Infante
on Wednesday, January 20 at 11:03AM