The first-ever service immersion program for college-age men discerning a vocation to the Vincentians took place May 14-18, 2018, in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Sponsored by the Vocation Office of the Eastern Province, this Vocation Immersion Service Program (VISP) gave the three participants a full exposure to “all things Vincentian.” It included meeting Vincentian priests, brothers, and seminarians, learning about their ministries, and working with laity of the Vincentian Family who serve the poor in non-profit and Church organizations.
Three students from Niagara University traveled with Fr. Bill Allegretto, CM, a Vincentian priest at NU, where the Vincentians have a cluster of local communities and ministries. Mike, a senior, and Joe and Joseph, both sophomores, visited St. Vincent’s Seminary, meeting Vincentian priests and brothers in active ministry, those who are retired, and those living in St. Catherine’s Infirmary. They visited the Miraculous Medal Shrine adjacent to the Seminary, attended the weekly Novena, and learned of the Shrine’s history and the spirituality it fosters.
Mike, Joe, and Joseph visited St Vincent’s parish, the first church in Germantown founded by the Vincentians in 1851 upon arriving in Philadelphia. Today, this parish has a thriving liturgical life and social service outreach. There, these young men served meals at “Face to Face” a multi-service agency in the parish. They met with the pastor, Fr. Sy Peterka, and with Br. Al Smith, founder of “Inn Dwelling,” an after-school academic enrichment program preparing inner-city high school students for college. It has assisted them in attaining numerous college scholarships.
The VISP participants met Vincentian seminarians in the novitiate and theological studies, and spoke with them at length at meals and an informal barbecue. They experienced first-hand the Vincentian charism of working with the poor as they went with the seminarians to their apostolates: a homeless shelter, food pantry, thrift store, and bringing sandwiches to the hungry. Mike, Joe, and Joseph watched in amazement as the 80 sandwiches they made went in 20 minutes!
Most of all, Mike, Joe, and Joseph were able to see the variety and depth of the Vincentian charism, ranging from elderly men in the infirmary to seminarians in their mid-20s. All freely shared their journey of faith and commitment to the Vincentian way of life. And, they also had time to “experience Philly”: eating cheese-steaks, running up the Art Museum’s ‘Rocky steps,’ visiting the Cathedral of Sts. Peter & Paul, taking in some historical sites: the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Museum of the American Revolution. It was quite an afternoon!
The three young men from Niagara – Mike, Joe, and Joseph – still have a way to go in their process of discerning and faith. But all agreed on one matter: the Vocation Immersion Service Program was an enjoyable, enlightening, and energizing experience. And they had fun, too!
Photo Captions: Above: Participants in the first-ever Vocation Immersion Service Program (VISP) gather for an evening barbeque at DeAndreis House. The confreres and seminarians offered great hospitality to Mike, Joe, and Joseph, who spent several days in Germantown serving in Vincentian apostolates and meeting confreres to learn about the men and ministries of the Eastern Province.
Below Right: Our men from DeAndreis take the lead in helping Mike, one of three VISP participants to prepare sandwiches for delivery to homeless men and women in Center City. This is a regular apostolate of the men at DeAndreis House. The 80 sandwiches they made went in a matter of minutes!