The clear winner: Vocations

Photo by Alan M. Dumoff
A jubilant Isaius Ramirez crosses the 5K finish line at the seventh annual iRace4Vocations, held April 22 in Washington Township’s Washington Lake Park. Catholics from throughout the six southern counties of New Jersey joined Bishop Dennis Sullivan, along with scores of priests, religious sisters and seminarians to both pray for and promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — April showers may bring May flowers, but April sunshine will bring more attentive ears to God’s voice.

That was the hope during last Sunday’s seventh annual iRace4Vocations, an all-day family event “faithraiser” in Washington Lake Park here. Under a blue, cloudless sky and bright yellow sun, priests, women religious, parents, school students and families all gathered for Mass, a 5K Run/1 mile walk, and family picnic.

Designed to bring the six counties of South Jersey together in prayer for all to hear God’s call for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, as well as sacred married life and sacred single life, the festive day kicked off with a 1 p.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Dennis Sullivan.

“Let us pray that the Lord will send us shepherds,” priests for the Diocese of Camden, he said, adding that religious vocations are “a sign of the vitality of the church.”

Addressing young men in the crowd who might be unsure of their vocation, Bishop Sullivan told them to look to the seminarians on the altar with him —“some of the most courageous guys I know” — who, in their discernment are actively seeking God’s call.

A father of one of those seminarians, George Laigaie, has volunteered at the iRace every year since its inception.

“I’m proud of Henry,” who is currently finishing up Second Theology at Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York, George said of his son.

“Henry and the seminarians need prayers every day to help them along in the discernment process,” he added.

Arriving more than an hour before the Mass, Dina DiMauro and Aubrey Olson put down stakes on the green lawn with blankets, lunch and their families.

“It’s a beautiful day out,” noted Aubrey, as her two sons, 5-year-old Graeme and 2-year-old Rhys, played a game of catch.

Dina and Aubrey’s husbands, Anthony and Eric, are members of the praise and worship band, Messenger, of Our Lady of Hope Parish, Blackwood, which provided the music for the liturgy.

Passing out programs for the liturgy were student-athletes from Haddonfield’s Paul VI High School.

Catholics from throughout the diocese show their support for vocations

“This is a great event to come help out with,” said sophomore J.V. centerfielder Ryan Donnelly, as he and freshman Matt Carson, a third baseman on the freshman squad, each held a stack of paper.

After the Mass, 5K run/1 mile walk, and after each child, student, parent, senior, runner, priest, and religious had had their fill of hoagies, produce and pretzels, the sounds of Father Joe Ganiel, pastor of Runnemede’s Holy Child Parish and DJ for the day, kept the party going.

“This day is so joyful and beautiful,” enthused Sister Chiara, who, with Sister Joseph, both Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, made the trip from their convent in Atlantic City.

She and her order have only served in South Jersey for almost a year, but Sister Chiara remembers attending one of the first iRaces in the Diocese of Camden, as she was discerning as a novice.

“I’ve seen this event grow, and I’m really impressed. This is a great encouragement to young people, and their families” for prayer and discernment, she said.