The ANCC held its first “Come and See” Weekend as part of its observance of National Vocations Week. Fourteen women and men from various parts of the country made the trek from shorter distances within New Jersey but also from other areas as far as Pennsylvania, Connecticut, upstate New York, Maryland, North Dakota and New Mexico. Deacon Pat Kane, ANCC Vocation Director, is to be credited for a stellar job planning, organizing and handling the logistics for this wonderful event.
Fourteen women and men sacrificed their time and traveled far. They gathered as strangers and left as friends—no, more than that, they left as brothers and sisters sharing their desire to discern that yearning, that “call,” and pledging support to one another on the path. That first frigid Friday evening of the season, everyone gathered in a room on the second floor of the St. Francis of Assisi ANCC parish campus—curious, questioning, perhaps a little guarded at first. But that all melted away quickly as we shared a meal and our stories.
We went around the room and while our stories and our journeys may have been different, there was one common thread. Yes! The light went on inside each of us. That small voice that whispers in the depth of the heart “Come, Follow me” was being heard in New Jersey, in Pennsylvania, in Maryland, in Connecticut, in upstate New York, in North Dakota and in New Mexico. That persistent, prodding voice led 14 men and women on a cold autumn weekend to New Jersey to “Come and See.”
Our attendees included people with some exposure to theological studies, some with none, some who were already ordained in other jurisdictions. Musicians, Information Technology Specialists, Realtors, Doctors, Therapists, Health Care Administrators, Parish Workers…… yes, they came. They all heard that voice and its urging led them to that second floor room in Glen Ridge, New Jersey on the first frosty cold weekend of the season.
In that room, we heard from priests active in the ANCC who talked about their journey to the ANCC and their ministry. Father Matthew Bailey gave us a brief history of the ANCC and its place in the Independent Catholic Movement. Father Geety Reyes shared with us his pilgrimage from the Philippines to the United States and his discernment of his vocation to priesthood and the various steps of his journey from the pew to the pulpit. Bishop George Lucey spoke to the group about the basic theology of the American National Catholic Church and gave many poignant and stirring examples from the documents of Vatican Council II. Father Louis Amezaga and Father Drew Miller, Directors of Formation, took the time to explain the process to holy orders and to answer questions. Deacon Pat Kane and I hosted and facilitated the discussions.
Yes, we learned. We shared our stories. We shared some tears. We shared some laughter. We saw. We Heard. Minds were opened. Everyone opened their hearts to each other and to the very presence of God in our midst. In sharing our stories, we each felt stronger and more secure in the knowledge that God was speaking softly but powerfully to us, that there were others just like us out there. It was a perfect weekend of these men and women getting to know the ANCC and us getting to know them in a way that could never be appreciated or comprehended in an email or on a phone call.
Part of the weekend was also the opportunity for the attendees to experience various ministries with the clergy. That included hospital, prison, wedding and parish ministry. Our weekend concluded with the Sunday Liturgy at St Francis of Assisi ANCC, our cathedral parish, with the acceptance into Candidacy of seminarian Bernardo Cardona who is currently serving on the parish staff at Sacred Heart of Jesus ANCC, Kearny, NJ, in a bi-lingual Spanish/English ministry.
It was a wonderful weekend. It filled me with the wonder, awe, joy and excitement I felt almost 40 years ago at the beginning of my own vocation process.
We ended one of our Saturday sessions with the singing of “Come Holy Ghost.” It was while singing that hymn that it struck me that we were no different from the disciples gathered in that Upper Room after the death of Jesus. Gathered to talk, to share, to make sense of it all. And God never disappoints, for indeed, wherever two or three are gathered in His Name . . .
The Holy Spirit was truly present with us this “Come and See” weekend. Please keep these 14 women and men, and all responsible for fostering vocations in the ANCC in your prayers. For, yes, the harvest is plenty.
Fr. Paul Gulya
Sacred Heart of Jesus ANCC (Kearny, NJ)
If you would like more information about vocations in the American National Catholic Church,
reach out to Deacon Pat Kane or Father Paul Gulya, Vocation Directors at email@example.com.
You can read more about the Come and See Vocations Weekend in Cheryl Smith’s “Exploring the Call”