New York parish sends chalice home with families to pray for priests

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Parishioners of St. Kilian Church in Farmingdale not only pray for vocations at every Mass, they take their petitions home with them.

Each Sunday since February 2008, one family has taken home the chalice used during the 9:30 a.m. Mass to serve as a focal point in their home for prayer for vocations during the week.

The program, called the Elijah Cup, was started in Atlanta by the local chapter of the Serra Club, an international organization that promotes and fosters vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

Before entering the seminary, Father Joseph Fitzgerald, now associate pastor at St. Kilian, used to live at the Atlanta parish that initiated the first Elijah Cup.

“It had a huge impact on my own vocation,” Father Fitzgerald told The Long Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Assigned to St. Kilian after his 2007 ordination, he asked the Serra Club for permission to start a similar program at his new parish.

The Elijah Cup takes its name from the Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah, who, during a drought, asks a poor widow in Zarapeth to use the last of her oil and flour to make him some bread.

He tells her that God has promised “the jar of flour will not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the Lord sends rain upon the earth.” The woman trusted him and for the next year, she, her son and Elijah ate bread made from the jar of flour and jug of oil.

According to the Serra Atlanta Web site, “If we pray with the faith of the widow of Zarapeth, our cup will never run dry.”

Each week at St. Kilian, after the chalice is purified, a family steps forward to receive the cup, along with a copy of a vocations prayer written by Father Fitzgerald and a journal to record their experiences.

They are instructed to keep the cup in a place of honor and to set aside a time each day to pray for an increase in vocations. The following week they return the cup to church during the offertory procession.

“Prayer is just so needed,” said Martha Weiss, who coordinates the program at St. Kilian. “This is a wonderful ministry. It has brought so many people together.”

It’s an easy way to give back when “our sisters, priests, brothers and deacons have given so much to us,” she said. “It is simply praying.”

Though some people are intimidated about the idea of writing in the journal, they feel more comfortable once they learn entries are not mandatory, and can be as simple as one sentence or a child’s drawing, Weiss said.

“It was absolutely wonderful,” said Barbara McNulty, whose family was the first in the parish to take the cup home. “We didn’t formally get together to pray every day before. This initiated it.”

The cup was placed on the dining room table, which, according to Mrs. McNulty, is the first thing you see upon entering the house.

“This provided an opportunity to explain the Mass a little more,” said Mrs. McNulty, who coordinates family ministry at St. Kilian. They also discussed vocations and why people should pray for them.

Her children, ages 16, 11 and 9, invited friends from school to their house to pray with them, as did their parents.

The experience has deepened the family’s commitment to prayer in general, but it also solidified their determination to help the church meet its need for priests and nuns, Mrs. McNulty said.

The Scuderi family had the Elijah Cup in their home during Advent.

“We are waiting for Jesus to come, but Jesus is with us every day in the Eucharist,” Mary Scuderi said she told the youngest of her nine children. “We need to pray that we will always have priests to bring us the Eucharist.”

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.