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  • Oct
  • 7

Vocations director updates Serra supporters

Posted By October 7, 2014 | 4:43 pm | Lead Story #2
patricia serra2

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

LEOMINSTER – Father James S. Mazzone spoke at the first yearly meeting of the Worcester Serra North club, held recently at St. Leo Parish.
As vocations director, he has worked with a number of members over the years, as the club seeks to support and increase vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Father Mazzone gave the group an overview of what’s been happening with vocations in the Worcester Diocese.
Right now, he explained, there are 21 men studying for the priesthood, as he showed the group photographs, projected on a screen, of each of them. A number of the seminarians are from Colombia, which has many vocations, and they’ve come north to minister to Spanish, as well as English-speaking Catholics.
They join a number of other men from Colombia, whom have already been ordained, and are now serving in parishes around the diocese. Upon arrival, they lived at the House of Studies, once the rectory for the former Holy Name of Jesus Parish. The building serves as the vocations office as well.
For their first two years in the United States, they live in the House of Studies, and attend nearby Clark University, where they take English as a Second Language classes, as they will need to be fluent in English to complete their studies and to minister to the faithful.
“They come to me as men who couldn’t speak a word of English and there they are now, doing great work for the diocese,” Father Mazzone told the Serrans who had gathered in St. Leo gymnasium.
Another seminarian, Mateus Monteiro de Souza, comes from Brazil. There are Brazilian Catholics worshiping at St. Anna in Leominster, St. Stephen’s in Worcester, Our Lady of the Assumption in Milford, as well as elsewhere in the diocese. “We have to make sure we meet their needs,” Father Mazzone said, referring to this immigrant group.
One of the Hispanic seminarians, Alfredo Porras, was born in Venezuela, but, earlier, moved to the United States with his parents.
There are also a number of American-born seminarians as well, including Thomas Willis, who comes from Arizona, but was attending Holy Cross when he was called to religious life.
Father Mazzone talked about how each of the other men came to the diocese, and where they are presently studying. Some of the men were called to the priesthood later in life, and they typically attend Saint John XXIII Seminary in Weston.
Also, Father Mazzone talked about progress on the 48-room House of Studies landscaping. Thanks to “hundreds of volunteers,” he said, the back yard has been cleared to make room for a sitting area in the backyard.
There was also good news to report on the enrollment front. Nationally, he noted, enrollment is increasing in college seminaries. Next June, God willing, eight men will be ordained to the priesthood in the diocese.
Earlier in the evening, Serra Club members attended a Mass in St. Leo church, celebrated by pastor Msgr. John Doran, who serves as club chaplain.

Former superintendent, mayor joins seminary for Diocese

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

There are currently 21 men studying to be priests for the Diocese of Worcester. Soon, new posters will appear with their names and pictures. One of the faces will be very familiar.
Former Leominster mayor and former Superintendent of Catholic Schools Steve Perla is among the current crop of seminarians.
Steve perlaMr. Perla said he has been discerning the call for the last few years, ever since his marriage ended. (It has since been annulled.) Now, the 57-year-old father of three and grandfather of six is enrolled at Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, an institute that has many so-called “late vocations.”
In terms of age, Mr. Perla is the oldest seminarian in the diocese. But, at his seminary, he’s right in the middle of the pack, since average age is mid-50s. The oldest seminarian at Pope Saint John XXIII is 72, he noted.
Mr. Perla said he was accepted in the diocesan program last year, but continued working at his last position until August. This was as senior director at the Alliance for Catholic Education Consulting at the University of Notre Dame.
Although he has taken a very non-traditional path to the priesthood, Mr. Perla said he has received a lot of support from his family, including his grown children. His oldest child is 33 and his youngest is 25.
“My children and grandchildren are very life-giving to me,” he said. “I feel blessed to have their support. … I didn’t know what to expect from my family, friends and colleagues.
Mr. Perla said his desire to become a priest is shaped by his desire to “bring Christ to people in a hopeful and joyful way.”
“This will really allow me to serve the Church in a sacramental role,” he said of his eventual ordination, which, God willing, will happen in four years.