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Vocations ministry offers spiritual support to seminarians


It’s always nice to know someone is praying for you.

That’s the motivation behind Mary, Mother of Vocations Ministry Inc. The non-profit organization’s main goal is to support vocations and the seminarians who will serve the Diocese of Buffalo. The 20-member team works closely with Father David Baker, the Vocation director for the diocese, to host events such as the recent Altar Servers Mass.

Ellen Koessler, Susan Santandreu, Bishop Michael W. Fisher, Father David Baker, Dina Pacillo, Diane Franz and Emily Franz, who together make up the Mary, Mother of Vocations Ministry. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

They also offer support to the seminarians through prayer and care packages sent to St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.

“They’ve all been very appreciative of everything that we do, and very open to helping us to help them in promoting vocations,” said Susan Santandreu, co-president of the organization.

Emotional support for the seminarians comes in the form of a Christmas party with Mass led by Father Baker, and regular care packages with snacks and letters from the team sent to Baltimore. They also send birthday cards with a few dollars for spending money as most seminarians don’t have day jobs.

Spiritual support comes from a Pass the Chalice program, where a chalice is passed from house to house within a parish. Families bring it into their homes for a week, pray around it, keep a journal of hopes and thoughts for the seminarians, then pass it on. If someone from the parish enters the priesthood, the chalice and journal are presented to him as a gift at their ordination.

“We did that at SS. Peter & Paul in Hamburg. It went around for years,” Santandreu said.  “My son Peter ended up getting it from our parish because he was the one that became a priest. (Ordained in 2018.) Then, he and I went to Rome and bought another chalice, so now it’s going again in our parish.”

Mary, Mother of Vocations Ministry also helps organize the annual Vocation Promotion Poster and Essay Contest. All the elementary schools and religious education programs in the diocese submit drawings, paintings, poems, stories and essays on that year’s theme. Students from each grade level receive a first place and runner up awards. This year’s theme is based on the news that earthlings may return to the moon. Students were asked to think of what “Mass on The Moon” would look like.

The diocese currently has eight men studying for the priesthood. They seem grateful for the efforts of the organization.

“They’re thrilled. They’re very happy, very gracious,” said Dina Pacillo, co-president of Mary, Mother of Vocations Ministry. “They send thank you cards for everything, which they don’t need to do, but they are so grateful. They are so isolated. They’re in Baltimore. They’re so far away from home. To get comforting words and know that people are praying for them, I think that it really does encourage them.”

Mary, Mother of Vocations Ministry, is always looking for new members. For more information visit our website at https://www.mmvminc.org, or contact Susan Santandreau at ssantandreu7@verizon.net or Dina Pacillo at dinamarie70@outlook.com.