Cardinal, seminarians gather for annual Family Day

Boston seminarians and their families attend a Mass at celebrated at St. John’s Seminary to begin the fifth annual Family Day at the seminary. Following the Mass, the seminarians and their families enjoyed a cookout on the seminary grounds. Pilot photo/ Christine Williams

BRIGHTON -- Strong Catholic families foster vocations, said seminarian Joseph Mazzone while attending the fifth annual Family Day for seminarians.

This year the Mass and barbeque were held at St. John’s Seminary Aug. 5. The Family Day was started by then-head of the Vocations Office, Father Oscar Pratt, in 2003 as an opportunity for seminarians and their families to gather and socialize before each year of studies.

Mazzone said his parents are faithful Catholics who have been supportive of him throughout his life.

“They really encouraged in me a love for the Church and helped me to see Christ in everyone around me,” he said. “Vocations are really fostered in families.”

Their involvement allowed him to discover his calling to the priesthood, he added.

Mazzone, who is in fourth year theology at Blessed John XXIII, said that families need support to assist young Catholics in discovering God’s will in their lives. Mazzone knew many great priests who served as mentors in his life, he said.

The seminarians in the Archdiocese of Boston also appreciate the prayers and encouraging words of parishioners. Someday they hope to repay Catholics through their priestly service, he said.

Mazzone added that he hopes families who hear about the annual Family Day will think about the vocations of their own children.

“We pray for vocations,” he said. “But we often don’t look to our own families.” 

Ann Marie Marrone, the assistant at the Vocation Office, said that the Family Day also provides support to seminarians who have the opportunity to check in each summer. Seminarians and their families can meet each other as well as the St. John’s faculty and staff. 

“There’s so many different seminaries that they go to that they don’t often get to see each other,” she said. 

Currently, seminarians for the archdiocese study at six institutions, including, St. John’s, Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, St. Patrick Seminary in California, the pre-theology program at Franciscan University in Ohio, Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Rhode Island and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

Cardinal O’Malley reflected in his homily on how inordinate attachment to material wealth interferes with doing God’s will. Fascination with possessions can cause people to forget about the source of those gifts -- God.

“It’s very curious when you read the Gospels because Jesus actually teaches more about money than about prayer. Our attitude toward material things is a very important part of how we live out our life of discipleship,” he said. “If we allow our possessions to become our owners, then we will not have the freedom we need to follow the Lord the way he wants us to.”

Cardinal O’Malley spoke of the song “If I Were a Rich Man,” from the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

In the song, the character Tevye recounts all of the things he would do if he were wealthy. He pictures his wife gaining weight, having a “proper double chin” and ordering the servants around “to her heart’s delight.”

However, Tevye says that what he most desires is to spend the whole day in the synagogue, talking with the wise men about the word of God.

“But you know, Tevye never became a rich man. Perhaps God knew that if he had become rich, he wouldn’t have gone to the synagogue but to the racetrack or to the stock exchange,” the cardinal said.

In the Bible, Jesus takes his disciples to the temple and shows them a widow, giving the last of her money to God. Jesus praises the woman who gave so much, he said.

“So often Jesus shows his disciples the importance of being detached,” he said.

Jesus wanted his disciples to realize that the woman, who to the world was a poor, miserable widow, was very rich in God’s eyes. She was rich in faith and generosity, he said.

“Discipleship means being able to live that faith and see the real value of things,” Cardinal O’Malley added. “Things are never as important as people or God. God needs to come first. When we have our priorities correct, then everything else falls into place.”

After the Mass, seminarians and their families gathered on the lawn outside for a barbeque of hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad and lemonade. The warm summer sun was shining brightly as people greeted each other and filled their plates with cookout food.

Gerald Souza, a seminarian studying at Franciscan University, said that for the last three years, he has attended the Family Day for fraternity with fellow seminarians.

“I get to see everyone and their families. We usually don’t get this opportunity,” he said.

His mother, Donna, said that the unity with the other families is her reason for attending.

She added, “It’s always nice to have Mass with the cardinal.”

Eric Bennet, who is a pre-theology student at St. John’s, said the event affords the chance to greet incoming seminarians.

“There’s a community at St. John’s Seminary,” he said.

That community is like a family and Bennet said he enjoys welcoming the new members of that family each year at the Family Day.

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