National Vocation Awareness Week

Finding peace and joy in the priesthood and religious life

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This week the Church celebrates National Vocation Awareness Week, an annual weeklong celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.

Judy Murphy, president of Serra Providence, an organization whose mission is to foster, affirm and promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Diocese of Providence through prayer, activities and events, conducted the following Q&A interviews with a contemplative religious sister and a diocesan priest to explore their vocations. The common themes in both interviews are peace and joy.

Murphy, whose son Father Christopher Murphy was ordained in 2012 to the priesthood in the Diocese of Providence, encourages everyone to consider taking time this week to express gratitude to the priests and consecrated men and women who serve here and to encourage young people to be open to God’s calling. Above all, she asks the faithful to continue praying for vocations.

To learn more about the ministry of Serra, please call 401-272-4838, or visit www.serraprovidence.org.

SISTER CHRISTINA

Sister Christina is a contemplative religious sister with the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Sister Christina is the daughter of Ken and Patti Cafaro, parishioners of St. Thomas More in Narragansett. If you are interested in learning more about the joy experienced in a contemplative community visit www.CapuchinSisters.com.

When did you know you were being called?

I was a freshman in high school when I felt called. When I was 17 I met the Capuchin sisters. I went to a retreat with the sisters and as soon as I walked through the door I knew I was home.

What made you select a contemplative order?

Although a contemplative life wasn’t what I thought I would join, when I encountered the community I felt a tremendous sense of peace and joy. I knew in my heart that God was calling me here.

What are the greatest joys in your vocation?

My greatest joy is living under the same roof as the Blessed Sacrament and with other sisters striving to be saints. I have a deep sense of joy and peace knowing that this is where God called me to be. Although my life is very hidden, I know I’m doing the greatest service to the Church and the world through my prayers.

Have you ever had any doubts?

I’ve never doubted that I’m not where I am supposed to be. My peace and joy has always been there. However, God has given me opportunities to prove my love for Him in my vocation and to grow in my vocation.

If you struggle who do you turn to?

I unite my struggles to the Blessed Mother who had many sorrows in her life.

FATHER JOHN CODEGA

Father Codega is a Rhode Island native and a diocesan priest serving in the Diocese of Providence. He is currently the pastor at St. Brendan Parish in Riverside.

When did you know you were being called?

When I was a freshman in college I first thought about the priesthood. Looking back I can say that I had great priests that were role models in my younger life. I decided, while in college that I would continue in my chosen path toward construction management and a second interest in a maritime field, so I began what would be the start of a successful career in both areas. Over time, I became occupied with work and life and the practice of the Faith became less of a priority for me. One day, as I was going to work in Newport as a captain on a tour boat I noticed so many people going into a nearby church on a weekday morning. I decided to go in and stood in the back of the church for the Mass. I realized it was the Feast of the Assumption. As I watched the people come back from Holy Communion there was something about their presence that I wanted. Not quite able to explain it, I returned to that same church for the sacrament of reconciliation the following Saturday and haven’t missed Mass since. After retuning to the faith I also returned to volunteering in the Church, which eventually led to a call to the priesthood.

What made you select the Diocesan Priesthood?

When I was discerning His call to the priesthood I really didn’t consider any other option. Diocesan priesthood was all that I knew. I wanted to serve the people like myself, my own generation.

What are the greatest joys in your vocation?

Without a doubt celebrating the Sacraments. There’s something very special about being with people at the best times in their life and even at the worst times. Of course, in the Celebration of the Eucharist, humbly standing in the person of Christ as simple bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ. Throughout my seminary time I always believed a love for the Eucharist and the Scriptures would be my most valued tools in the priesthood. I think I found that to be true.

Have you ever had any doubts?

Absolutely, I think if we were honest with ourselves, everyone has doubts at times in their vocation, whether a husband, wife, teachers, civil servants. I use my moments of doubt, and fortunately they are few, to consciously recommit myself to my vocation and call. In this way, normal doubts can be turned into great blessings. They become moments of great grace. People were surprised to hear that even Saint Mother Theresa went through periods of struggle. I suppose I am in good company.

If you struggle who do you turn to?

Support in times of struggle comes from family, friends, and the saints, especially our Blessed Mother. Trusting that a God, who brought me this far, will bring me the rest of the way.

Trust in God is a pillar of a vocation and our lives. As Saint Faustina said when Jesus taught her the Divine Mercy Chaplet, she was told to teach people to say Jesus I trust in You. If you are struggling I recommend that you say those five words over and over again. The priests, sisters and seminarians that I’ve met are the most joyful people. If you are being called know that you will experience peace and joy and a close relationship with our Lord.