Events at the seminary and cathedral end Vocation Awareness Week

By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

On the bitter cold weekend of Jan. 14-15, approximately 400 youths and young adults of the Archdiocese convened to pray for vocations to the diocesan priesthood during the final two days of National Vocation Awareness Week.

On Friday, Jan. 14, approximately 250 young men, school ministers and priests of the Philadelphia Archdiocese joined Cardinal Justin Rigali at his annual Vocation Awareness Week Gathering for Young Men at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

There, the young men who ranged in age from high school age to mid-to-late 20s, toured the seminary, socialized and participated in discussions and a question-and-answer session with seminarians and priests. {{more}}

Cardinal Rigali also led exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament and night prayer at the seminary’s Immaculate Conception Chapel.

In his concluding remarks, a jubilant Cardinal Rigali acknowledged a highlight of the day that occurred at the beginning of the day: Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement that Pope John Paul II would be beatified on May 1.

The Cardinal told the young men they would always remember the night they came to the seminary was the very day that the Pope John Paul II’s upcoming beatification was announced in Rome.

Robert Garneau, a sophomore at Conwell-Egan Catholic High School in Fairless Hills, missed a school basketball game to attend the gathering at the seminary.

He and a peer were accompanying their pastor, Msgr. Michael P. McCormac of St. Frances Cabrini Parish, also in Fairless Hills.

Garneau concedes he was a little embarrassed when some of his peers jokingly chided him about going to the seminary instead of the basketball game. He said they teased him that he was “going to become a priest.”

In reality, Garneau has not yet decided on a vocation but went to the seminary gathering at the invitation of his pastor. “It was an honor to be asked,” Garneau said.

The young men who received an invitation to the seminary exhibit a maturity level that is apparent to their pastor or school minister, said Father Andrew C. Brownholtz, a parochial vicar at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Hatfield, and one of several diocesan priests who led a discussion and question-and-answer session among the young men present.

Father Brownholtz, 44, ordained a priest in 2001, asked the seminarians present in his breakout session to describe their daily routines and also to share what they had to leave behind before they entered the seminary.

Garneau, 16, said “it was cool” to talk to the priests and the seminarians, the latter of whom he could particularly relate to because of their closeness to his age. He said he planned to tell his friends that the gathering was both a good experience and a learning experience.

“I thought it was all about just becoming a priest but really, they just want to reach out and talk to you about what they do.

“They don’t just sit there and pray all day,” Garneau continued of the priests and seminarians present. “They’re like normal people serving God.”

On Saturday evening, Jan. 15, Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald led 150 young adults in Eucharistic Adoration and evening prayer at Catholic Underground at the chapel of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. He was also the homilist.

Sponsored in the Philadelphia Archdiocese by the Office for Youth and Young Adults, Catholic Underground is a cultural apostolate of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and a response to a call that began by Pope John Paul II and is continued by Pope Benedict XVI.

After the holy hour, Bishop Fitzgerald applauded the young adults for their fervent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament on “a cold, winter, Saturday night.”

“There could have been reasons why they may not have been here, but they came out despite all that,” added Bishop Fitzgerald.

“It was wonderful to see them in the chapel, praying,” continued the Bishop. “I was particularly impressed with the atmosphere of prayer: the intensity of devotion, the participation, the singing and the silence also. It is a very encouraging sign.”

Catholic Underground, held the third Saturday of every other month from September through May, begins with Eucharistic adoration and vespers, or evening prayer. The holy hour ends with solemn benediction.

The second portion of the Catholic Underground, held in the parish hall in the basement of the Cathedral chapel, showcases, in a coffee house style, Catholic artists through an array of media On Jan. 15, the Philadelphia-based folk band Trolley Stop performed traditional music from a variety of countries.

Catholic Underground provides opportunities for confession throughout the night, beginning at 7:15 p.m. The program concludes at 10:15 p.m. following night prayer.

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