Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Feb
  • 28

Young adults attend Q&A with priests

Posted By February 28, 2014 | 6:44 pm | Lead Story #3

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – The questions ranged from whether Coke or Pepsi is better, to what do you like best about being a priest. Answers included “Coke” and personal stories.
“Q&A with the Padres” was a chance for young adults to ask “almost anything” of Father Nicholas Desimone, 31, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Uxbridge, and Father Jonathan J. Slavinskas, 29, associate pastor of Blessed John Paul II Parish in Southbridge. Monday night more than 30 people met at The Center Bar & Grill on Green Street. Father Slavinskas proposed the venue because his brother Christopher is manager there.
Father Desimone is bishop’s liaison for the diocesan NEW Office (New Evangelization Worcester for Youth & Young Adults), which sponsored the event.
Elizabeth Cotrupi, NEW director, said this was the office’s first official event for young adults and asked them to give their input at the website She warmed up the crowd by asking trivia questions. Then the priests answered written and verbal questions.
In response to questions about how they became priests and what they did before, Father Desimone told of being in a discernment group in college and having a girlfriend who pushed him to make his decision.
Father Slavinskas told of being the bishop’s altar boy, how he stopped going to Mass when his pastor was removed, and about being moved at the sight of the Eucharist upon returning to his church one day.
Responding to a question about confession, Father Slavinskas said it’s important enough for the pope to tell everyone to go. He said Jesus lets people slap him with their sinfulness, continuing to love them.
“I don’t want to know your sins,” he told listeners, he said he hears confessions because he wants them to experience God’s grace and love.
Their favorite part of priesthood?
“Getting out of speeding tickets when you have this on,” Father Slavinskas joked, pointing to his collar. Turning serious, he told of being asked to baptize a dying 10-year-old boy.
“Do you believe in Jesus?” he asked. The boy fingered the cross around his neck.
“This kid knew Christ” and mouthed a “thank you,” Father Slavinskas marveled. He said the best part about being a priest is bringing people to Christ in their time of need.
Father Desimone said priests go from tragedies to “hanging out with teenagers in a bar.” (Young adults, he was corrected.)
The grace of Holy Orders gives priests what they need to do their ministry. “You know if it was left to your own abilities, you would never be able to do it,” he said.
“We’re normal, but the Lord works through us,” said Father Slavinskas.
Asked if they get emotional, Father Slavinskas told of weeping in the confessional with a suffering person, who said it was good to have Jesus cry with her.
Father Desimone said it was emotional to preach at a memorial Mass for Father John E. “Jack” Kelley, who once served at his parish.
“There’s still a very human element to priesthood,” he asserted.
Sometimes priests go to bed emotionally exhausted, Father Slavinskas said. He said their foundation must be Christ; that’s where they “unload.”
One questioner asked who to contact if one thinks he might have a calling to the priesthood. Father Slavinskas said one can contact any priest and gave the name of  Father James S. Mazzone, director of the diocesan Office for Vocations.
“Let us know, though,” he said. “We can pray for you.”
Asked why women can’t be priests, Father Desimone said everyone is consecrated as a priest through baptism, but the ministerial priesthood is a particular ministry.
“We try to do what Jesus has done,” he said, referring to Jesus’ choice of male apostles. He said this doesn’t mean women are inferior. Father Desimone explained that when a man is ordained a priest he acts in the person of Christ and the Church is the bride.
Asked how they would like to see Catholics change, Father Slavinskas talked about their response to the Eucharist.
“I wish Catholics had a deeper understanding of what they were receiving,” he said. “They just go up as if it’s nothing! It’s not nothing; it’s Jesus Christ! … We should be wanting to run to Jesus!”
“The Church in New England has an unfortunate nickname – ‘The Frozen Chosen,’” said Father Desimone. “I wish everyone would be preachers of the Gospel,” living it out.
“Which is where you all come in,” added Father Slavinskas.
Father Desimone said one doesn’t have to be a priest or religious to preach the Gospel. He asked Mrs. Cotrupi about her discernment as a laywoman.
She told of growing up in a strict Catholic family and challenging her pastor with her questions. Others thought she’d be a nun, which she liked, but then found that “got in my way at school.” She said at one point she left the Church and regretted that she can’t get that time back.
“I went to Cursillo,” she said. “It’s a great retreat for adults. … I just remember balling my eyes out. … Our faith is so amazing.” That set her on a path to bring joy to young people, she said.
Mrs. Cotrupi then turned to Joseph D. McKenna and asked him to tell what he’s doing. He is running for state representative for the 18th Worcester District (Webster area), working for pro-life, pro-family policies, he said.
Heather Grimes, associate in the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development, was asked to tell what she and Pauline Cerone were doing for Catholics their age. She said they started a Facebook group for local Catholic young adults, a place to meet online, hash things out and promote events. Catholic Young Adults (Central MA) can be found at
A Pure in Heart – Worcester representative told about their international group, based on Theology of the Body, which holds spiritual and social events locally. That local group can be found on Facebook at
Some of the young adults, most of whom did not identify with one parish but said they church hop, gave The Catholic Free Press reactions to the gathering.
“It was really fun, kind of light-hearted … relaxed,” said Samantha Delabruere, 22, of Pure in Heart – Worcester.
“I’m so glad I came,” said her sister Stephanie Delabruere, 24, also from Pure in Heart, who didn’t want to after a “crazy” day. “I was glad to see a room full of young adults who were practicing Catholics or weren’t afraid to go to a Catholic event.”
“I would like to see more opportunities to meet other young adults that are striving to live their faith, especially in these times where it’s not appreciated or easy,” said Kimberly Bowler, 24, of Pure in Heart and St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough.
Tristan Newtown, 18, who’s finished high school and not yet started college, said he liked that they have a group for young adults now.
Ms. Cerone said she thinks young adults leave Church after confirmation because there’s nothing for them; Mass is all they have, and if they don’t see many peers there, they don’t have a sense of belonging.
“I think we just want to be supported by the Diocese,” she said.
– NEW is supported in part by Partners in Charity.