Vocation Stories

Fr. Al Delmonte’s Vocation Story (May 1, 2016 Bulletin, pg 7)

In the 4th grade at St. Mary School, Auburn, NY, like my older brothers before me, I became an altar server. Father Dennis W. Hickey, later to become Bishop Hickey, was the young assistant pastor in charge of training new altar servers and taught us our first Latin prayers. I loved serving Mass. I never missed an assignment. Assignments for daily Mass were from Monday to Friday and if the early Mass was assigned to me, my parents never had to call me twice to rise from my bed because I wanted to serve. Among the priests living and ministering at St. Mary parish, I particularly liked serving at Fr. Mickey's Mass because of his obvious devotion to the Eucharist. The seed of my vocation to the ministerial priesthood was planted then. I simply felt drawn to what the priest was doing at the altar - it's very clear in my memory. I also served at weddings and was a member of one of the parish funeral crews. When I went to high school I continued all four years to volunteer for the Sunday Mass schedule.

In high school, I was part of the dating scene, went to the proms and other school dances, and even had a "steady" girl friend. But always in the back of my mind was, I believe, a call from God to be a priest. I made it known to the school's principal who was a priest and he encouraged me to pursue the call, which I did, and enrolled in first year college at St. Andrew Minor Seminary here in Rochester. During that year I discovered that I was nostalgic for the dating, socializing scene and that maybe marriage and raising a family was my real vocation, so I left the seminary at the end of the first year to pursue other goals. My parents were disappointed, but they never criticized my decision and continued to support my interest in another career.

Going back to college was priority " A " for me, but fiscally my parents would not be able to make that happen. My first job in my quest to save money was as a laborer for a building contractor whose daughter I was dating! In terms of financial security for matriculation, I knew I had to do something more, so I volunteered for the military draft in order to procure the benefits of the G.I. Bill of Rights. My thought, my inclination, my goal was to study communication, specifically radio/TV broadcasting. Walter Cronkite was my idol! That, I thought, was what I wanted to do with my life.

While I was serving in the U.S. Army as a Combat Engineer building pontoon bridges (engineering was the farthest goal from my mind!), I began to think again of the priesthood and went one evening to chat with the Catholic chaplain at the Post Chapel at Ft. Knox, KY where I was stationed. In short, he encouraged me to give it another try, and I remember walking back to the barracks that night feeling very happy, very much at peace. The seminary authorities here in Rochester accepted my re-application for studies.

It was, at first, a difficult readjustment to seminary life, but I really felt that this was God's call, this was where I was supposed to be, and God gave me the grace of perseverance. I was ordained a priest by Bishop Lawrence B. Casey on June 6, 1964.

I can render no new, revealing insights regarding the challenges the Church faces with the shortage of priests or the paucity of vocations. What I do know is that I am very happy to be a priest. Every night in prayer, without fail, I thank God for the gift of my vocation. I cannot describe the joy I feel when I preside at Eucharist, when I rejoice with a penitent in celebrating God's mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when I baptize a baby or an adult, or when I see God's healing power at work in the Sacrament of the Sick. I will never be wealthy, nor will I ever be powerful as this world defines power, but I would not trade what I am and what I do for anything.

Delmonte, Al. “A Vocation Story,” The Spirit of St. Louis, October 11, 2009: page 9. Reprinted with permission

Fr. Ray Booth’s Vocation Story (May 8, 2016 Bulletin, pg 7)

God of Second Chances
Have you ever heard of the "God of Second Chances?" I am sure God has given each of us many second chances.
When I was in the eighth grade at St. John the Evangelist School (that was way before Father Kevin was co-pastor there!), I thought about being a priest. Way back then you could go to a high school seminary and start your journey, but I really wanted to go to Aquinas.

When I was graduating from Aquinas, I thought about it again - but I was going steady with this girl and well - I put the idea away until my sophomore year at Villanova. Then I talked it over with a priest who said the magic words: “GIVE IT A TRY - YOU WON'T KNOW IF YOU DON'T TRY.” I tried and it took.

I have never wanted to be anything other than a parish priest - that is, where the church lives, grows, thrives. The church is the people - the people are the church - and to me, and most of us, - the parish is the church.
I started my priesthood in rural Ontario - was promoted to the suburbs (St. Joe's in Penfield), then to the city (Holy Family), Inner city (Mt. Carmel) and then to pastor at North Chili (St. Christopher's) and finally Webster (St. Paul's). I truly have loved, learned, served, grown and been challenged in each parish and it has always been the people - the church, the individuals and groups with needs and gifts who allowed me to walk with them at precious moments of faith. What a privilege!!!!

When I retired 10 years ago, Fr. Jim Schwartz was moved with compassion (or the desire to have someone he could beat at golf) and he invited me to St. Louis. For me it has been a great fit. What a joy to welcome Fr. Gerry, then Fr. Al, and then Fr. Kevin - 3 different gifted people to share life, laughs, ministry - the common call to serve all of you, the church, (as long as Fr. Kevin does most of the work and attends all the meetings).

My witness to priesthood is simple - what a joy-filled, happy, blessed, rewarding, fantastic life. As the songwriter said "Who could ask for anything more?" To anyone thinking of priesthood, - or church ministry of any kind, I pass along the advice that I received, GIVE IT A TRY. You won't be sorry.

Booth, Ray. “A Vocation Story,” The Spirit of St. Louis, January 10, 2010: page 9. Reprinted with permission
Note: Fr. Ray has been retired for 16 years and Fr. Bob became our pastor in July 2011 after Fr. Kevin retired.
Father Raymond H. Booth, 87, a priest of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, died on October 15, 2016, at the Sisters of Saint Joseph Motherhouse, following a brief illness.

Msgr. Krieg’s Vocation Story (May 15, 2016 Bulletin, pg 9)

Introduction to priesthood came to me as I lay in my cradle. A Redemptorist priest, Father William Brick, stood at the foot of my crib and offered the invitation: “Gerard, you take my place.” He had come to visit my sister who had become a quadriplegic when she was two and whose cheerfulness and prayerfulness blessed her remaining eight years.

The sense of faith and joy Mae brought to our family became part of the environment in which I was raised. Although I was only a second grader at the time of her death, Mae’s presence in my life really contributed, I am sure, to my vocation to priesthood. Encouragement came later from my mother’s nephew, Father Joseph Merkel, who became more like an elder brother and was my sponsor at ordination when the journey to priesthood was completed.

Along that journey was my father’s uncle, Monsignor Michael Krieg, who had been ordained 51 years before me. He was an active influence in my life from childhood and participated as assistant priest at my first Mass. Wonderful parish priests, including Fathers Paul Wohlrab and Jerry Schifferli, were there at critical moments and saw me on my way through the seminary. Seminary life covered high school, college and graduate work in theology and my priest professors gave me wonderful example in their care and example throughout those years.

Family and priests guided my vocation to the glorious life of a priest, and the consequent 56 years of ministry as a priest have deepened my appreciation of its reality. Gradually the realization of priesthood as the expression of Christ’s Priesthood through my life has become a very part of my being. In living the life of a priest, I’ve been able to see the Lord at work using my feeble efforts to accomplish His own will.

Healing and compassion have accompanied my years of ministry in which I have shared and enjoyed the faith with those I was sent to serve. Christ lives in His Church with His people, especially the least among us. He brings us into immediate contact with Himself in the reality of Eucharist and Sacraments, of Parish and Faith Community. I have found Him in each Eucharist I have had the privilege to celebrate.

My profound thanks go to all who have participated with me in this glorious mystery, especially in the past ten years with Fathers Kevin, Jim, Ray and Al.

I beg of the Lord the grace for all of us to grow in our appreciation of His gift. May family and friends encourage others called to this magnificent gift, and may the prayers of Christ’s Church provide always the presence of Christ’s Priesthood for His people. May others hear the plea to take the place of a priest who has been present in our life.

Krieg, Gerard. “A Vocation Story,” The Spirit of St. Louis, March 28, 2010: page 9. Reprinted with permission
Note: Msgr. Gerry Krieg came to St. Louis following his retirement in 1999 as pastor of St. Stephen in Geneva. For his jubilee in June 2016, he said: “One of the joys of 60 years (as a priest) is being able to watch the generations unfold.”

Fr. Bob's Vocation Story (May 22, 2016 Bulletin, pg 1 & May 29, 2016 Bulletin, pg 1)

Here I am, Lord

Our retiree’s vocation stories reprinted. Victor’s ordination as a transitional deacon coming up. Perfect inspiration. Let me say a word about my vocation. Where does a vocation begin? Mine may have roots with my great grandfather, on my mother’s side. He was one of the founders of the First Baptist Church in Delmar. That certainly had an impact on family history, my mom’s deep involvement in the church, and my subsequent involvement as well. Did all that explicitly lead me to ministry or priesthood? No. Did it shape my faith, and the importance of Jesus in my life? Absolutely! Going to church, reading the Bible, praying, getting involved – these were just what you do! In elementary school, I was in the Royal Ambassadors, a Baptist organization for young boys, focused on mission. Who would guess that could plant seeds for a vocation to priesthood!

High School led to more involvement. Along with Sunday School and Sunday Worship, I was in the choir, at times filling in for the conductor. Solos were also part of the package, getting me comfortable before a crowd. My mom was organist, and Sunday School superintendent, so I was pretty close to what was going on in the church.

At Cornell, my freshman year, I couldn’t find a church anything like the one I grew up in. I also had some questions, so I started checking out various churches friends and fraternity brothers attended. Yes, almost half of my fraternity brothers attended church! Some were with me in Glee Club as well, so when the Glee Club was in New York to perform Beethoven’s Mass in C at Carnegie Hall, I joined them when it was time to go to Mass on Sunday. Yes, my first experience of Mass was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Needless to say, a world of difference from little ol’ First Baptist in Delmar! Who knows, singing choral masterpieces of the Mass likely had a role in my vocation story as well. Next thing you know, I was attending Mass on campus regularly. I would often discuss faith with a couple of Catholic friends like Tom, who eventually became my confirmation sponsor. He had contemplated the call to priesthood. Again, in retrospect I can see that had an impact on me.

The big turn came when I realized my decision to go to college, study chemistry, and perhaps go into research fell short. I started to lose interest, until concluding that was not to be my life. So I started praying. And praying. And more praying. Lord, what should I do with my life? What is your plan? Here is the scary part. On another Glee Club trip, this time to Florida, the answer came. I went to bed one night never having thought about priesthood. I woke with a conviction: You are meant to be a priest. But I’m not Catholic yet! Doesn’t matter. And here I am today! More next week. Blessings to you all, Fr. Bob

The Mystery of Vocation

Last week I wrote a bit about my experience of the call to priesthood. Each person in my seminary class had a unique story to tell. One had first studied law, became a lawyer, then was moved to consider a career and vocation change. Another had been the manager of a produce department in a grocery story. One had been preparing for a career in medicine in Italy, moved here to study for our diocese, but ultimately ended up as a priest and the president of a theological school in Sicily. Another from Montana had been a Franciscan, discerned that such was not his calling, left for some time, then followed the path to ordination for our diocese. Several followed a more traditional path: college, to seminary, to ordination. We had several who graduated with us or were ordained the year we were who began a year earlier, but then took a year off before ordination. One priest a few years ahead of us decided to take a year at a monastery for prayer to discern if ordination was right for him. That may seem extreme, and I assure you, many of his friends asked “What are you thinking?!” But ordination is a huge commitment for the person being ordained, as well as for the Bishop ordaining, and for the diocese. Interestingly, after taking a year off for prayer before being ordained, John not only was ordained – he eventually served as vocation director for our diocese!

Prior to ordination, a candidate always takes a week long canonical retreat, usually fairly close to the time of ordination. When I was in seminary, there was an even earlier and more lengthy time of discernment, called the ‘desert experience’. Mid-winter, the class went to the former Divine Word Seminary above Conesus Lake for a month long retreat. What an adventure! When we get together, we still share great stories about that cold, quiet, formative month!

I share these things for a couple of reasons. After sharing some of my vocation story, it is important to point out that the path is not a beeline to the holy oils. As you can read inside, Victor was not among those ordained this Saturday morning. He is on the path of some further discernment. Please join me in supporting him in that continuing journey of discernment!

A bit of other news: I am pleased to publically announce that Bishop Matano has decided to appoint one of our more recently ordained priests, Fr. Peter Mottola, to St. Louis. He will be serving here as Parochial Vicar (Associate Pastor), while also serving in the Diocesan Tribunal one day a week. That the Bishop saw our parish as a great place for one learning the ropes is high praise for us all – congratulations! Fr. Peter has just finished his canon law degree at Catholic University, and has moved in. We will be formally welcoming him soon – watch for details! A blessed Memorial Day weekend to you all, Fr. Bob

Fr. Peter Mottola's Vocation Story (June 12, 2016 Bulletin, pg 1)

Having read the vocation stories that were (re-)published in recent bulletins, I thought I'd share with you a little of my own journey to the priesthood. I was raised in New Jersey, the only child of two teachers. My father instilled in me a love of history and my mother, a music teacher, taught me how to carry a tune … or at least I hope that you'll agree! Growing up I was a very active member of the local United Methodist Church, especially during High School. Although at the time I had entertained the idea of entering into ministry, I had certainly never thought of becoming a Catholic! But when I began attending R.I.T. (to study Information Technology), I made some good Catholic friends who shared their faith with me. I began to go to Sunday Mass and Catholic Bible Studies, and every time I had a question – about Mary, about Purgatory, about the Eucharist – my friends could prove that the Catholic doctrine was not just something they “felt” was true but rather was something that had always been believed by all Christians in the early centuries. What Bl. John Henry Newman once said proved true in my own life: “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant!”

I decided to become Catholic in 2005. A few months after entering the Church, some friends and I had begun the practice of going to daily Mass – including, at least once, to the 11:00am Mass here at St. Louis! – and it became clear to me that I was now most attracted to prayer, preaching, and the Sacraments, rather than to the career ambitions that had brought me to R.I.T. So immediately after I graduated, I entered into formation for the priesthood here in the Diocese of Rochester.

After one year of taking Philosophy classes at St. John Fisher College, I began seminary at the Theological College of the Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C. I enjoyed those five years immensely, both in parish assignments here in the Diocese (including Our Lady of Peace in Geneva and St. Mary’s in Auburn) and in classes in Washington. Shortly before my ordination in 2013, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Sacred Theology and a Master of Divinity degree, and subsequently (through online classes) was able to finish a Master of Arts degree in Medieval Studies. I spent two years in a wonderful first parish assignment in Canandaigua & East Bloomfield, and most recently went back to Catholic University in order to complete a Licentiate in Canon Law (a three-year law degree like a JD, only for Church law) while also working in campus ministry.

I received a warm reception from so many of you during my first week here and I look forward to getting to know you all better. Oremus pro invicem – Let us pray for each other! God bless, Fr. Peter Mottola