“Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you: be courageous and act!”

Whether you’re talking about our individual lives or the global and national situation, the world can seem like a confusing place. It is undoubtedly so for young people attempting to find their path in life, trying to figure out where God is leading them, especially if they feel called to the priesthood or religious life.

That’s why the theme for the Diocesan Vocation Office this year comes from the 10th chapter of the Book of Ezra. The Book of Ezra tells the story of the Israelites returning to Jerusalem after almost a century of exile. After being away from their homeland and Temple for so long, they were confused, frightened, and unsure where to go next. At that moment, God called upon a priest, Ezra, to guide them on their path. It was his responsibility to lead, but God provided him with other people to assist him along the way.

At every moment in the life of the Church, we need Catholics to arise and live out their vocation. No one can tell someone else where God is calling them, but all of us are responsible for assisting one another in listening to the call.

There are many ways in which the Vocation Office, along with our parishes, can offer this help. From high school groups, to retreats for men and women, to the Project Andrew Dinner and Leave a Mark Mass, the Vocations Office offers something for everyone.

The rectory of Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg now serves as a Regional Vocation Center for the Diocese of Scranton. It has several rooms where men considering the priesthood can stay and participate in weekend retreats or other spiritual opportunities.

One of the most exciting new initiatives is the formation of Regional Vocation Centers. Four have been set up so far, with more to come. Annunciation Parish in Hazleton, Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg, Christ the King Parish in Archbald, and Saint Maria Goretti Parish in Laflin offer a variety of resources for young men considering priesthood – regular discernment dinners where men join with others considering the same call, opportunities to shadow a priest for a day, spiritual direction, Eucharistic Adoration, and private weekend retreats are just some of the possibilities.

In addition to our Vocation Centers, the Diocese has invited Rhonda Gruenewald of Vocation Ministry to offer workshops for priests and parishioners here in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. Vocation Ministry focuses on building up vocations right in our parishes. You, the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Scranton, can help our young men and women courageously listen to God’s voice and arise to follow him.

Thank you for listening to God’s voice in your own lives and for all the work you do in helping others discern their vocation. It is time for us in the Diocese to arise, be courageous, and act – the Holy Spirit is calling.

SCRANTON – The Diocese of Scranton proudly welcomed two new seminarians over the summer months. The addition of the two men means the Diocese now has ten men actively discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, and members of the Seminary Admissions Committee accepted Esteban Marengo and Daniel O’Brien as seminarians.

Marengo, of Scranton, is a parishioner of Saint Paul of the Cross Parish in South Scranton. He is currently attending classes at Saint Andrew’s College Seminary in S. Orange, N.J.

Esteban Marengo

When asked what metaphor for Christ speaks to him most powerfully, Marengo responded “Christ the Good Shepherd.”

“Despite the many troubles of life, Jesus continues to love, protect and guide us, as a shepherd would his own sheep,” he said.

As he begins his seminarian experience, the Scranton native said he often reflects on the crucifix and its importance to our salvation.

“In it, we see the immense love that God has for all of us,” Marengo noted.

O’Brien, who just began his Pre-Theology I semester at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, actually credits Marengo for part of the reason why he decided to become a seminarian candidate.

Daniel O’Brien

“Seeing him (Marengo) in his cassock a week before (the) Chrism Mass pushed my calling to the forefront of my mind,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien is a parishioner of Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Pittston. He is also a licensed commercial pilot for single-engine aircraft.

He says the Book of Psalms is the Book of the Bible that has had the greatest impact on his spiritual life and often reflects on the image of The Holy Mother Theotokos.

Even though he is just beginning the seminarian discernment process, when asked if he had any advice to give someone else at this point, O’Brien quoted Father Clarence Cerwonka, Pastor Emeritus at Most Holy Rosary Church in Maine, N.Y., who told him, “Strive for what the Holy Spirit wants you to do.”

Please keep Esteban Marengo, Daniel O’Brien, as well as their families, all our seminarians, and all those discerning diocesan priesthood in your prayers!

If you have thought about the possibility of the priesthood, you are encouraged to talk to your parish priest or Father Alex Roche, Diocesan Director of Vocations & Seminarians, to help you further discern your vocation.

SCRANTON – Just minutes before his Ordination Mass, William A. Asinari was so overwhelmed with gratitude he started to cry.

“It’s inexplicable. I was sitting up in the chapel and I was just in tears thanking God for the blessing of service,” Deacon Asinari said.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, lays his hands on the head of William A. Asinari during the Rite of Ordination of Deacons on May 27, 2023, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton. (Photo/Mike Melisky)

Less than an hour later, the 24 year old became a transitional deacon through the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate, which includes the presentation of the candidate, election by the bishop, promise of the elect, litany of supplication and laying on of hands.

“I think one of the most beautiful moments was just hearing from the Church, we have found this man to be worthy,” Deacon Asinari explained. “I think every seminarian, to some degree, goes through the struggle that God is giving me this gift and I don’t deserve this. It is immensely beautiful and it’s beyond what I could ever deserve. You fight that feeling of unworthiness and when you finally get there in that moment and hear it, it hits home!”

Asinari, a native of Honesdale, is the son of Robert and Cathleen Asinari and is a parishioner of Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Honesdale. Several friends and fellow parishioners from Wayne County made the trip to the Cathedral for the Ordination Mass.

“These are the people that have seen me since I was one or two (years old). I remember them saying, ‘Have you thought about the priesthood’ or ‘You look like you’d make a good priest,’” Deacon Asinari added. “To have them sitting there as I’m ordained a deacon was beautiful.”

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as ordaining prelate and principal celebrant for the Ordination Mass.

“What a blessing this day is for Bill and for his family, our Diocese and particularly for all those who have helped him to arrive at this faith-filled moment,” Bishop Bambera said during his homily.

Bishop Bambera reminded Asinari that service to the People of God must lie at the heart of his vocation.

“For as meaningful and significant as this moment may be for you personally, the ministry that you will embrace is not yours alone,” Bishop Bambera continued. “It comes from – and is rooted in the life of the Lord Jesus – who came to save us from sin and the brokenness of our world.”

Deacon Asinari will serve for the next year as a transitional deacon, the ordination serving as the last major step before ordination to the priesthood, which typically occurs a year later after additional pastoral, liturgical and educational preparation.

As a deacon, he will assist the bishop and his priests in ministries of the Word, Liturgy and Charity. This includes proclaiming the Gospel, leading intercessions, preaching, preparing the altar, celebrating baptisms, leading the faithful in prayer, distributing holy communion, witnessing marriages and conducting wake and funeral services. Deacons also identify the needs of poor and underserved, and shepherd the Church’s resources to meet those needs.

“I think I’m most looking forward to baptisms,” Deacon Asinari said. “I know over my summer assignment there are a couple scheduled. There is just something so beautiful about getting a family together and by my hands, blessing the water and baptizing a child. It is overwhelming.”

This summer, Asinari will be serving the Saint Rose of Lima and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parishes in the city of Carbondale.

“While you have been given tremendous gifts and talents, we pray that you will always rely upon the grace of God to fill up whatever may be lacking in you to carry out fully the ministry entrusted to you this day,” Bishop Bambera stated as he finished his homily.

Editor Note: For the complete text of Pope Francis’ message in English click here.

For the complete text of Pope Francis’ message in Spanish click here.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Every Christian has a vocation to respond to God’s love and to share that love with others, Pope Francis said.

“The Lord’s call is grace, complete gift and at the same time a commitment to bring the Gospel to others,” the pope wrote in his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which was to be marked April 30 in most dioceses.

“Vocation: Grace and Mission” was the theme the pope chose for the 2023 celebration.

Father Matt Browne is flanked by seminarians as he presides at a “Holy Hour for Vocations” prayer service at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, N.Y., Jan. 6, 2023. File photo. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Schemitz)

The pope’s message was released at the Vatican April 26 with a news conference led by Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Dicastery for Clergy.

The message, the cardinal said, emphasizes that a vocation is “the gift of self,” a call that is “common to all Christians: all are called to be on the front line, to do their part so that the earth may become the common home in which individuals and peoples live together as brothers and sisters, under the gaze of the one Father.”

In his message, Pope Francis said that, “led by the Spirit, Christians are challenged to respond to existential peripheries and human dramas, ever conscious that the mission is God’s work.”

The mission, he said, “is not carried out by us alone, but always in ecclesial communion, together with our brothers and sisters, and under the guidance of the church’s pastors.”

The multiplicity of vocations, gifts and responsibilities in the church, he said, always has been part of “God’s dream: that we should live with him in a communion of love.”

In the church, and in the pope’s message, “vocation” referred to more than just the call to priesthood or consecrated religious life.

In fact, the pope wrote, “our common vocation to give ourselves in love develops and finds concrete expression in the life of lay men and women, devoted to raising a family as a small domestic church and working as a leaven of the Gospel to renew the different sectors of society; in the testimony of consecrated women and men who are completely committed to God for the sake of their brothers and sisters as a prophetic sign of the kingdom of God; in ordained ministers – deacons, priests and bishops – placed at the service of preaching, prayer and fostering the communion of the holy people of God.”

The “true nature and richness” of each of those vocations, he said, is revealed and makes sense only in relation to the others within the community of the church.

“Viewed in this light,” the pope said, “the church is a vocational ‘symphony’ with every vocation united yet distinct, in harmony and joined together in ‘going forth’ to radiate throughout the world the new life of the kingdom of God.”

The vocation God gives to each Christian is not a command or imposition, Pope Francis said, but an individual call to respond to God’s love with the gifts, talents and dreams that each person has.

“In the course of our lives,” he said, “this call, which is part of the fiber of our being and the secret of our happiness, comes to us by the work of the Holy Spirit in ever new ways. It enlightens our minds, strengthens our wills, fills us with amazement and sets our hearts afire.”

Cardinal You Heung-sik, presenting the pope’s message, told reporters, “God, in fact, has a ‘dream’ that he wishes to realize for us and with us, a project that he gives us so that, accepting it and realizing it with all freedom, we can find the authentic meaning of our existence, the realization of our humanity, but also the mission through which we can contribute to the construction of a more fraternal, more just and more supportive world, the anticipation and realization of the kingdom of God.”

Sometimes the call comes “in completely unexpected ways,” Pope Francis wrote, recounting how, for him, the call came on “Sept. 21, 1953, as I was on my way to an annual school celebration, (and) I was led to stop by a church and go to confession.”

“That day changed my life and left a mark that has endured to the present day,” the pope wrote.

“The gift of vocation is like a divine seed that springs up in the soil of our existence, opens our hearts to God and to others, so that we can share with them the treasure we ourselves have found,” the pope said.

The basic way vocation works, he wrote, is: “God calls us in love and we, in gratitude, respond to him in love. We realize that we are beloved sons and daughters of the one Father, and we come to see ourselves as brothers and sisters of one another.”

Cardinal You Heung-sik told reporters that Pope Francis “truly gives an excellent example” of what a Christian vocation is, “not just as a bishop or priest,” but as a person who has encountered Jesus and joyfully shares the faith with others.