‘Elijah Cup’ encourages Waltham parishioners to pray for vocations

WALTHAM — The cup may not shine as it once did a half century ago, yet parishioners from Sacred Heart Parish in Waltham hope the chalice they call the Elijah Cup will be one day a precious gift for one of their own.

“Our parish has begun a wonderful ministry in order to pray for vocations,” explained Bernadette Scalese, director of religious education at the parish. “Each week one family receives the Elijah Cup during one of the Masses. They then take the cup home and gather for some time each day to pray for vocations.”

Along with the chalice, the family is also given a journal with special prayers for vocations, Scalese said. Each family is also invited to share their reflections “so that the journal truly becomes a parish journal.”

“Our hope is that some day when a man is called from our parish to serve the Church, he will be given the Elijah Cup and the journal as a gift on behalf of the entire parish,” she continued.

Scalese, together with pastor Father Dennis J. Wheatley, OFM, helped begin the Elijah Cup ministry in the parish as “a way to bring the parish together” to pray for vocations within their parish community.

The first family to receive the Elijah Cup was a widow named Elizabeth Anderson and her three children. They were given the chalice during the Mass on Feb. 2 — World Day for Consecrated Life.

“It was really an honor for us to be chosen as the first family,” Anderson told The Pilot. Anderson took the Elijah Cup to her home and put it in a place of honor, she said. Every day, the family gathered together to pray for vocations.

“In the 80 years we have been a parish, I don’t believe we have ever had a vocation to the priesthood,” Anderson said, adding that she hopes this ministry will change that.

However, for Anderson, having the chalice in her home served as a “daily reminder” for her “that we are all called to be a people of faith — a faith that is with us wherever we are.”

The idea for the Elijah Cup came from the Atlanta, Ga., branch of Serra International, a lay organization begun in 1935 in Washington whose aim is “to foster and promote vocations to the ministerial priesthood” according to the organization’s official Web site.

Five years ago, Serra Atlanta began using the Elijah Cup as a means to encourage prayer for vocations.  The chalice was named the Elijah Cup in reference to the Biblical reading in which the widow of Zarapeth was asked by Elijah to prepare a loaf of bread with the last of her oil and flour.  Because of her generosity to the prophet, the widow, her son and the prophet Elijah ate for one year without running out of food.

“If we pray with the faith of the widow of Zarapeth, our cup will never run dry,” according to the Serra Atlanta Web site.

 To date, over 35 parishes in Georgia have participated in the ministry.

Although the concept for the Elijah Cup came from the Serra International organization, Scalese and Father Wheatley also added a personal touch — the chalice itself.

Rather than purchase a new, unused chalice, Scalese “thought it would be special” to use a chalice of a deceased Stigmatine priest to honor the order which ran the parish for over 75 years.

“We thought it would be a great way to honor their memories,” added Scalese.

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