By Christie L. Chicoine

CS&T Staff Writer

WYNNEWOOD – Reverence and recreation ruled the day for nearly 80 sixth, seventh and eighth-grade boys who attended the fourth annual Brothers of Borromeo Vocation Congress Tuesday, June 22, at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

Sponsored by the archdiocesan Vocation Office for the Diocesan Priesthood, the all-day assembly provided boys and young men an opportunity to hear and consider the call of Christ to the diocesan priesthood.

Emil Berbakov, 13, of St. Timothy Parish in Northeast Philadelphia, has attended the Congress all four years. “It’s really fun,” he said.{{more}}

“Being in the presence of God at a seminary really improves my faith, being around men who have found their calling,” Berbakov said.

Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas served as the principal celebrant at the morning Mass.

There was also time allotted for personal prayer. Participants were provided the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and to learn the “Salve Regina.”

But the Congress is not about “being in church all day,” said Berbakov.

The youths found fellowship in a range of recreational activities that included a scavenger hunt, obstacle course, pickup games of Frisbee, basketball and football, and the opportunity to dunk seminarians in a tank of water.

Seminarians also provided vocation testimonials to the attendees.

Berbakov, who will be an eighth-grader at Nazareth Academy Grade School in Philadelphia, is not certain whether he will one day apply to be a seminarian. He said he is currently considering a vocation to the priesthood or a career in mechanical engineering.

The bottom line of the Brothers of Borromeo Congress, Berbakov said, is the importance of seeking guidance from on high. “You can’t be distracted by things of this world. You have to keep your eyes on God and set your heart on things above.”

Gregory Tandarich, 10, of St. Patrick Parish in Kennett Square, Chester County, a homeschooled student who will be in the sixth grade, was also happy to be attending the congress. “It brings me closer to God,” he said.

Tandarich said he is currently considering a future vocation to the priesthood.

One attendee, 12-year-old Michael Leach of Sacred Heart Parish in Oxford, Chester County, a homeschooled student who will be in the eighth grade, received happy news at the congress.

A nephew of Bishop-elect Michael J. Fitzgerald, Leach was informed that same morning that his uncle was being introduced at a news conference at the Archdiocesan Office Center in Philadelphia as a newly named auxiliary bishop of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

This year’s Congress commemorated a changing of the guard in the vocation office, as Father Kevin J. Gallagher succeeded Father Christopher B. Rogers as director.

Father Rogers, who had served as the vocation director since 2005, is now the director of campus ministry at Immaculata University in Immaculata.

Father Gallagher, 35, most recently served as a parochial vicar at Corpus Christi Parish in Lansdale, Montgomery County. His appointment as vocation director by Cardinal Justin Rigali was officially effective June 21.

“I hit the ground running,” said Father Gallagher.

“I know that what happens in the vocations office does have a great impact on years to come in the Archdiocese.”

For more information, contact Father Gallagher at 610-667-5778 or e-mail Visit the vocation office web site at

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or