When they met for the first time on the steps of Holy Trinity, Glen Burnie, Maureen Parker and Nancy Little exchanged just a few sentences before discovering they harbored the same idea – to form a support/prayer group for parents of priests and seminarians.
The crux of their newfound friendship is in the formation of POPS – Parents of Priests and Seminarians. Both women have a son with a vocation.
As couples, the Parkers and the Littles had been asked to speak that morning at Holy Trinity Masses at the request of Father J. Bruce Jarboe, pastor, about their experiences of parenting a priest and a seminarian. Their message to the congregation was to encourage other parents to suggest the priesthood to their sons.
George Parker shared his memory of the phone call he received from his son, then a freshman at Virginia Tech, announcing he had decided to become a priest.
“My only concern was that I perceived the priesthood to be a lonely life,” said Mr. Parker in his speech about Father Adam Parker, ordained in 2000 and now the secretary for Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien. “That concern has been negated by the camaraderie, deep friendships and support Adam has from his fellow priests, lay friends and family.”
Mrs. Parker’s reaction to the call was “truly one of deep joy,” she said. As a girl, she was reminded to pray often for vocations, something she said she has done almost daily.
“Never once did it occur to me to ask for, or to think a child of ours would be called to serve God. I was awed,” she said.
The parishioners of Our Lady of the Fields, Millersville, raised three sons and two daughters; Father Parker, 36, is their youngest. His mother fondly remembered that before he became an altar server at age 10, he was “the noisiest and most disruptive of the children at Mass.”
Her basis for the POPS idea was that gathering parents would provide a powerful witness to others. Mrs. Parker, 69, serves as a Baltimore Basilica tour guide and is pleased the first gathering of POPS will take place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a Feb. 22 Mass at 2 p.m., followed by a social gathering in the rectory.
“We encourage everyone to come and pray with us,” said Mrs. Parker, busy with Mrs. Little and the Vocation Office in compiling contact information to invite all parents of priests and seminarians to this and future gatherings.
“We have come across other parents interested in joining the crusade with us,” said Mrs. Little, mother of seminarian Christopher Little, 21, a senior at Providence College, R.I., and a resident of Our Lady of Providence Seminary.
The families are working with the archdiocesan director of vocations, Father Gerard Francik, who was enthusiastic about the group’s formation.
“We know that vocations come from families and are either encouraged or discouraged by parents, brothers and sisters,” said Father Francik. “So the formation of POPS is an excellent way to thank, encourage and support those parents who are directly involved in the priestly vocation of their son. It gives them an opportunity to get to know each other, to network, to share common fears, hopes or dreams.”
The main goal of POPS is to support the Vocation Office by praying for priests, seminarians, religious and deacons.
“They want to be part of the solution in prayer,” said Father Francik, who has been guiding the mothers through their plans.
Mrs. Little, 51, said having her son as a seminarian has been a blessing for her family.
The St. John, Westminster, parishioner said, “We’ve experienced the Holy Spirit. The thought doesn’t occur to us, ‘Oh, you’re not going to have grandchildren.’ When you have an open heart, God will give you the blessing – whatever gift he wants.”