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Archives An evening of prayer, dinner, fellowship, and stories of priestly vocations
Operation Andrew

Jan. 24, 2018

By Suzanne Pietropaoli
Staff writer

Malone - It was the first time St. Andre Bessette Parish hosted Operation Andrew, and the Nov.  30 event Operation Andrewseemed like a meeting of old friends.

The event brought together more than 40 people - including eight young men and their families, their parish priests and deacons, Bishop LaValley, and Diocesan Vocations Coordinator Cathy Russell - for prayer, dinner, fellowship, and some wonderful stories of priestly vocations.

The evening began with Eucharistic Adoration, where Father Christopher C. Carrara, episcopal vicar of pastoral personnel, reminded participants that the best vocation for each person is the one to which God calls him: “Listen to the voice of God, and follow that voice to whatever holy vocation he is calling you.”

Vocation stories
As the evening unfolded, guests heard from three of the priests present how the Lord called each to the priesthood.

Father Scott Belina, parochial vicar at St. Andre Bessette Parish, recalled his student days at IHC in Watertown.
“My vocation story really began there with a talk by Father Mark Reilly, after which a friend said to me, ‘You are going to be a priest.’   I just laughed, and went off to college!

“But eventually I knew I had to give God a chance, and went to the seminary,” Father Belina said. “There, I learned the meaning of prayer, and of love—and I fell in love with Christ. I know how much I am loved, and that is why I am a priest today.

“Don’t be afraid to give God a chance,” he said. “Getting to know Christ is a gradual process; don’t be afraid to listen. What God wants for us is always good, and we find happiness by following where he leads.”

For Bishop LaValley, “My family was extremely important in my vocation. My parents’ faith was strong, and they brought all of us to Mass every Sunday, and every day during Lent; we prayed on our knees every night after dinner. 

“Yet when our pastor asked if I had ever thought about becoming a priest, I just laughed and headed off to Plattsburgh State,” he said. “From there I spent six years in the Navy - where I eventually started going to daily Mass. I asked a priest: how do you really know if God is calling you to the priesthood? He told me: you don’t know. You have to make a decision, take a step and move forward. He was right!

“Once I made the choice to leave the Navy and go to Wadhams Hall, things began to be clear,” Bishop LaValley said. “Now I have been ordained for 29 years, and I cannot imagine being happier than I have been as a priest.”
Bishop LaValley concluded his talk by encouraging the young men to stay close to God, and to their families.
“Praying is a constant openness, a constant listening,” he said. “Beyond that, talk things over with people who care about you, and know that your parents are always there to support your decision.”

Father Raymond Moreau, pastor of St. Augustine’s, North Bangor and St. Mary’s, Brushton, likewise linked listening to God with finding happiness.

“When I was young, I always knew there was something out there that was going to make me happy,” he said.

“First it was a tricycle; if only I had my very own trike, I would be happy. A few years on, it was a bicycle, then a driver’s license, then a girlfriend, then my own car: well, each of them came along, but none of them made me happy.

“It was not until I started listening to God - while I was working at my first job after high school -that I began to understand,” he said. “Unless we listen to God, we are not going to find happiness, as I discovered.

“The priesthood is a wonderful life,” Father Moreau said. “It is a gift to be a priest.

“Don’t be afraid to listen to God,” Father Moreau said because only he can make us happy.”

Young men listening
As their responses revealed, these young men have already begun to listen for the voice of God.

“This is my second time at Operation Andrew,” said   John Conti of St. Peter’s in Plattsburgh. “Both times I have enjoyed the praying, which is very peaceful, and the meal with such great people.”

Tristan Hellijas, St. Andre Bessette in Malone, “came because I was invited by Father Joe. It is a good evening, with good people and good food!”

“Of course I’ve thought about the priesthood,” explained Stephen Dwyer of St. Patrick’s in Chateaugay, “and this is a good place to learn more about it.” 

According to   Dillon Fezette, St. Bernard’s, Saranac Lake, “Father Ratigan (pastor) and Father Alex invited me. It’s great to be here and I am glad I came.”

Fellow-parishioner Finnley Law, also invited by their pastor, was likewise glad he said yes: “ I really liked this evening and hope to do it again.”

Camden Laravia, St. Augustine’s in North Bangor, related, “Fr. Ray asked me if I wanted to come. It is amazing, and I love it.”

For Carter Boyea of St. Andre’ Bessette Parish, “It is a pleasure to be here - a good time, good food, great vocation stories to hear.”

His brother Hunter agrees. “We came because Father Joe and Father Scott asked us, and I am so glad I came. The presentations were very insightful, and I think many kids could learn a lot from them.”

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