Laity, religious gather on All Saints Day to celebrate vocations

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Fr. Jim Blantz, CSC, was on hand Nov. 1 to celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week at Blessed Sacrament Parish and to entertain everyone by performing some of his amazing magic tricks, including "linking rings" with some children dressed as saints. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Matura, Blessed Sacrament Parish)
Fr. Jim Blantz, CSC, was on hand Nov. 1 to celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week at Blessed Sacrament Parish and to entertain everyone by performing some of his amazing magic tricks, including “linking rings” with some children dressed as saints. (Photo courtesy of Tim Sells, Blessed Sacrament Parish)

SCOTTSDALE — People who devote their lives to the religious life are joyful and purposeful.

That is the message that organizers of a Vocations Celebration at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale on All Saints Day, Nov. 1, hoped to convey. The event kicked off National Vocations Awareness Week.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted presided over a children’s Mass at Blessed Sacrament where youngsters dressed as saints. Outside, in the church’s courtyard, members of various religious communities set up tables with information about their orders, and priests and nuns spoke of their experiences in panel discussions.

Bishop Olmsted said he believes the day’s event “helps the children to be more mindful of all the great heroes in the Church.” And those already in religious life “who are presently following the ways of those heroes” are almost always are part of communities who follow a canonized saint, he pointed out.

Fr. Paul Sullivan, diocesan director of vocations, addresses the children and parents who attended the vocations celebration Nov. 1 at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale.
Fr. Paul Sullivan, diocesan director of vocations, addresses the children and parents who attended the vocations celebration Nov. 1 at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale. (Photo courtesy of Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM)

“To put together examples of the Lord’s saints that we honor on this day and those who are following them in order to be closer to Christ, I think the combination works really well.”

Diocesan Vocations Director Fr. Paul Sullivan said that events like this give children an opportunity to engage with religious.

Sr. Maria de la Sabiduria Alcaino, SSVM (Servidoras del Señor y la Virgen de Matará) is seen here at the vocations celebration with a young attendee. (Photo courtesy of Tim Sells, Blessed Sacrament Parish)

“When it comes to young children, their hearts and minds are open,” he said. “We can’t discern what we don’t see,” Fr. Sullivan said. “Their hearts are open.”

Among those who attended the festivities were Margaret and Gregory Russo, and their children, Julia, Vincent and Maria, all of whom were dressed as saints. “I think this is very important because I don’t think children have enough access to the religious life,” Margaret Russo said. “They don’t see it around enough. All they see it is in church. They need to be able to see it’s a complete way of life. It’s not just you go to Mass on Sunday, and there’s a priest.

“We are all called to a special vocation. They may not be called to married life. They may be called to the religious life. I’m hoping to see more Catholic schools and more nuns in the Catholic schools teaching.”

Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, the diocese’s director of Consecrated Life, coordinated the event, which she started preparing in March. In fact, she thought of such a celebration back in June 2014 when she came to the diocese to interview for her job.

“I said I wanted to do a vocations fair,” Sr. Antony Mary said. At the time, she had been working for the vocations director in the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia.

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Photos from vocations celebration

Vocations Awareness Week in the Diocese of Phoenix

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Members of a Knights of Columbus honor guard salute young boys dressed as bishops during the opening procession of the Vocations Celebration All Saints Day Mass. Children were encouraged to dress as their favorite saint for the event. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Matura, Blessed Sacrament Parish)
Members of a Knights of Columbus honor guard salute young boys dressed as bishops during the opening procession of the Vocations Celebration All Saints Day Mass. Children were encouraged to dress as their favorite saint for the event. (Photo courtesy of Tim Sells, Blessed Sacrament Parish)

“The purpose was to have the religious from all different communities come so that children and their parents and families would see the diversity of the work they do, the spirituality of each order, how different they are and that they are all gifts to the Church,” she said.

“It’s really positive and inspiring for them to have interaction with religious and priests and get to know them and see how happy they are … and find out how they were inspired to follow Christ and give their life to the Lord.”

In his homily at the Mass for children, Bishop Olmsted referenced the Beatitudes from the book of Matthew — the Gospel reading for the day.

“A real blessing is when we are made to be more like the portrait of Jesus, who is full of mercy and who was fulfilling the Father’s plan,” Bishop Olmsted said. “To be a saint is to be blessed with a blessing that makes you more like Jesus.

“We gather to remember all the saints. We remember them and honor them and ask them to pray for us so that our union with them will become stronger and stronger and stronger, so that every day we will have a deeper longing to see the face of God,” he added. “… When we do that … God will show us our vocation. And when we choose God’s vocation for us, we will know joy and we will be a channel of that joy … and help others to desire to be children
of God.”

— By Mike Tulumello, The Catholic Sun.

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