Msgr. James Tracy, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, Sicklerville, concelebrates Mass to commemorate his 50 years as a priest on Dec. 11. With his encouragement, the parish has begun efforts to foster vocations.
Guided by a celebrated priest’s words, St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Washington Township is starting a parish-wide priesthood vocation campaign, “Ten In Ten,” aiming to get 10 vocations to the priesthood in the next 10 years.
This past December, parishioners asked Msgr. James Tracy, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, how he wanted to commemorate his 50 years as a priest and remember his service to the diocese of Camden.
Wanting to share his joy and passion for the priesthood with the entire parish, recalling that it’s been “a wonderful life” for him, he asked members of the pastoral council to center his 50th anniversary on future vocations, with a Mass held at St. Charles Borromeo and the “Ten In Ten” campaign.
On Dec. 11, a procession of flag-carrying school children, the Knights of Columbus, and 30 priests into the church, and then Msgr. Tracy, who celebrared Mass.
In his homily, Msgr. Tracy likened himself to an instrument that was given over the Lord, and he expressed his confidence that God was at that moment speaking to young men in the parish. He said he hoped that these planted seeds will be supported by family and friends in creating a new generation of priests.
“Take that first step — I promise — it’s truly a wonderful life!” he implored.
The parish initiative, “Ten In Ten,” is being promoted by various ministries at St. Charles. The Communication group has gotten the word out through e-mail, newsletters, website and bulletin inserts, while the Liturgy group focused on guest speakers, such as Father Thomas Kiely, diocesan vocation director, and seminarian Kevin Mohan, coming to speak at Masses.
Involving the 900 students in religious education, the education group had each grade level focus on a different aspect of the priesthood, from learning about St. Charles Borromeo, patron saint of seminarians, and St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests, to tracking the steps to priestly ordination, to a Q & A session with Kevin Mohan and eighth graders. The Family Life group has been preparing seminary tours and a communion breakfast with various speakers for parents, and an ongoing Vocation Cross and Chalice project invites eighth graders and their families to take home a crucifix or chalice each week as a reminder to pray each day for vocations in the parish and diocese.
At the age of 13, after attending St. Cecilia School in Pennsauken, Msgr. Tracy entered Mother of the Savior Seminary in Blackwood, followed by college at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, and studies at the North American College in Rome. After being ordained in December 1960 in Rome by Blessed Pope John XXIII, his first assignment was at St. Ann’s, Wildwood. Throughout his 50 years, he has been a vice principal and principal, Superintendent of Schools for the diocese, and Secretary of Education. He was also the first director of Priest Personnel, as well as diocesan director of RCIA.