HOPELAWN, N.J. – When young men are discerning the vocation of priesthood, it is important that they have a quiet place for prayer and reflection while learning about the life that would come with being a priest.
Through the work and support of many individuals, the Metuchen Diocese has created such a setting for those seeking to decipher God’s call.
In a building that was once an oversized and underutilized rectory for Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish now stands the St. John Vianney House of Discernment. The house is a place for men considering the priesthood who are serious about the vocation, yet not entirely certain that they are ready to pursue it.
The house, which also still serves as a rectory for the parish, is home to Father John J. Barbella, pastor of both Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Hopelawn and Holy Spirit Parish in Perth Amboy, and Father Randall J. Vashon, diocesan director of vocations. The building also has private bedrooms for up to four men as well as common meeting rooms and a chapel containing the Blessed Sacrament.
Before the rectory could be transformed into the House of Discernment, the building required renovations. Metuchen Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski turned to the Knights of Columbus. Funding was provided by the Knights’ state council and volunteers from several different councils throughout the diocese helped out with what was a four-month project.
Father Vashon explained that the design of the house accommodates those discerning a vocation. Each bedroom is private and has its own bathroom; all residents have their own personal space for reflection.
The presence of the Blessed Sacrament offers a place of prayer at all times, while being connected to an active parish and having two priests in residence provides an example of what the life of a priest entails.
The house benefits the parish, too. By living there, Father Vashon is able to assist Father Barbella. Having a group of young men who are enthusiastic about their faith also contributes to the parish’s atmosphere.
“They see people living here, ministry happening here, guys thinking of the priesthood. It is encouraging for the people of the parish to see and it’s encouraging for the guys here to be welcomed by a parish,” Father Vashon told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Metuchen Diocese.
To be accepted as a resident of the house, individuals can either be in school or working a full-time job, but must be seriously considering the priesthood.
“It’s not intended for everybody,” Father Vashon said. “It’s for those individuals who are in a place where they are thinking about it, they are serious about it, but they are still not quite sure.”
Since the house opened its doors in 2005 to men discerning the priesthood, it has been home to several individuals, but also has offered a space for others to meet and pray about their vocations.
Of those who have lived in the house, two were accepted into the seminary. One declined, feeling that his true calling was to the vocation of marriage. The other, Glenn Obrero, is studying at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange.
“Living in the discernment house helped me to really figure out what God wants me to do in my life,” said Obrero, who moved into the house a month after relocating to the United States from the Philippines.
“The ambiance in the house is very peaceful, very quiet,” he continued. “You have time to pray and reflect. It is helpful that the vocations director and the pastor are right there, joining you for prayer.”
Father Vashon feels that even for those who have chosen not to pursue the priesthood the experience of living in the house has helped them to learn more about themselves and their faith.
“We have had individuals who have seen what a priest’s life is like from the inside out and have experienced something that will help them in their life,” he said. “Even if it’s not for them, they are better for it.”