5 men professPoverty. Chastity. Obedience.
vows for isle
Families celebrate the largest
seminary class in at least 20 years
By Mary Adamski
Five men promised this weekend to adopt a lifestyle following those rigorous standards as they follow a path toward becoming priests in a Catholic religious order that has operated parishes and schools in Hawaii for 175 years.
They made up the largest class to progress through seminary training here in at least two decades, a rarity in a time of dwindling vocations to a church that requires its priests to be celibate.
The center of attention and applause from hundreds of family and friends at a Friday night service at St. Patrick Church and a luncheon celebration yesterday were:
>> Brother Johnathan Hurrell, who made a "perpetual" vow and has one year of graduate study ahead before ordination as a priest; andThe ceremonial "religious profession of vows" was timed for this weekend as the Sacred Hearts organization marked the 175th anniversary of the arrival of its first missionaries in Hawaii.
>> Brothers Gaston Gosselin, Anthony Rapozo, Allen Pacquing and the Rev. Paul Zaccone, who made "temporary" vows, a three-year commitment as new members of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
It is also a time when this particular career choice is a matter of negative publicity, with accusations of sexual abuse by priests, cover-up by the hierarchy in some dioceses and a new effort by U.S. bishops to handle the problem and restore the trust of Catholics in their clerics.
"The reality is that priests are human beings," said Zaccone. "We're not perfect. All I can do is bring to God the best that I have." The title of Sacred Hearts "brother" is new to Zaccone, but he has been "Father Paul" for several years. Ordained in his hometown of Omaha, Neb., he served in parishes there for 12 years. "I knew I wanted more than parish work, I wanted to teach," he said, and was drawn to the Sacred Hearts order because teaching is a facet of its mission. He has taught at Damien High School for a year and expects to continue.
"The priesthood is greater than the cloud hanging over it," said Hurrell, who took his initial vows three years ago and will complete his work on a master's degree in theology at the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. Hurrell's family members came from Tonga and New Zealand for the festivities. "I hope I can have a role in the reconciliation and help people feel the trust again," he said. "It is the most joyful, life-giving thing for me, the honor to serve the church."
"Following Jesus is never easy," said Allen A. Pacquing, who grew up in Kalihi and was in criminology classes at Hawaii Pacific University when he made the decision to become a priest. He credited the faith and encouragement of his parents, Joe and Linda Pacquing, as being "part of my formation process." He already has earned a master's degree in pastoral ministry from Santa Clara University in California, and will be studying for a second divinity degree.
"The vows aren't that extreme for me," said Rapozo. "I never wanted to own stuff." A delegation of 50 people from Kauai, including his parents Wayne and Stephanie Rapozo, flew to Honolulu to celebrate the young Lihue man's first step in his career path. After two years in the novitiate, he is headed for six more years of university education and will live with the others in a Sacred Hearts community in the nation's capital.
Gosselin, who has taught in local Catholic schools for 26 years, grew up in Washington state. "The whole family is very proud," said brother Ronald Gosselin, one of 17 family members who came from the mainland to celebrate Gaston's new title as "brother."
Dozens of his former students surrounded Gosselin -- whom they knew as "Mr. G" -- as the five men were buried in leis, much like any graduation.
The sight of the youngsters gladdened the Spanish priest who is the international head of the religious order. He believes the new brothers, exuberant and excited about their life choice, are themselves the best marketing tool the church has to sell its message of poverty, chastity and obedience.
"The consequence of seeing novices can bring others," said the Very Rev. Enrique Losada, superior general of the Sacred Hearts Congregation, in Hawaii for celebrations this month marking the Catholic Church's 175th anniversary in Hawaii.
The Spanish priest said that while religious vocations are diminishing in Western countries, they are increasing in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and in French Polynesia.
In answer to a question about the sex abuse scandal, Losada said that although the publicity has centered on cases in the United States, Ireland and Britain, "I am afraid it has happened elsewhere.
"It is a problem of psychological health, more related to an individual person's behavior rather than to a culture. We have to deal with the problem in a very clear way. It is a very complicated problem," said the superior general. "There is no question that we must care for the children. We have to be respectful and prudent, recognizing individual rights. We cannot conclude someone is ill and take action without an investigation. In some ways, both are victims."
Losada said that the process of scrutinizing candidates for the priesthood and religious life "may have been not so good in the past." Church organizations, like other employers, now make use of modern psychology in screening applicants.
Losada told a crowd of about 500 people at the Friday night service that all people who choose to follow Jesus are called to make "radical" life choices, even if they are not as extreme as the monastic vows of brothers, priests and nuns.
The reading from Matthew's Gospel, in which Jesus told a rich young man that the best path to eternal life was to sell his possessions, give his wealth away to the poor and to follow him, is a message "not limited to the religious community," Losada said. "The reading speaks about what it means to follow Jesus for all those moved by the spirit to follow him."
Losada called the religious life "a concrete form ... to try to reproduce in one's own life that of Jesus, through chastity, poverty, obedience and community life."
The Very Rev. Clyde Guerreiro, local provincial, said the new professions brought the Sacred Hearts manpower count in Hawaii to 43. The bad news is that half of them are 70 or older, said the Rev. Ed Popish, superior of the Honolulu monastery housing retired priests and brothers.
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