Rev. Michael C. Vannicola, OSFS
July 15, 2001
October 9, 2004
June 3, 2006
Deacon, St. John Neumann; Faculty, Salesianum School; Pastor, St. Ann
Pastor – St. Ann Parish – Diocese of Venice
What living person most reflects the joy of the Gospel for you??
One of my confreres that I have the privilege of ministering with, Fr. Joe Jocco. He is always so full of joy – so welcoming, so open and optimistic. Despite any limitations or challenges he might face, he is always there for others, always with a smile and always hopeful.
Pope Francis is a Jesuit who chose the name of St. Francis of Assisi. Some have said that he pastorally resembles Saint Francis de Sales. What is Salesian about Pope Francis?
There is no doubt that Pope Francis is a Jesuit. I admire that because he lives the charism of his community well, which we are also called to do. In fact, I think Saint Ignatius of Loyola would have said that it was a very Jesuit thing to do to choose the name Francis because it demonstrated a radical desire to model a certain way of living the Evangelical Counsels. Every charism in the Church wants to make a connection with this dynamic, popular Pontiff but, in my opinion, Pope Francis and Saint Francis de Sales do not exactly resemble each other in their pastoral style. That being said, they do have three things in common: a clear sense of optimism and hope, a desire to spread the joy of the Gospel and a belief that the Church will grow when it encourages her individual members to grow.
What is the your favorite dimension of being an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales?
My favorite dimension of being an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales is the privilege of being able to share and live the charism of our Patron in my ministry. So many people are hurting in our world today and the simple, gentle Salesian message resonates with those whose hearts need something more. To be able to convey joy and hope by sharing what has touched my life is a daily blessing for me.
How do you think Salesian gentleness can make a difference in the world?
The world we live in today promotes secularism and selfishness. It promotes the idea that “I am entitled to ‘happiness’ no matter how it might hurt others,” which we know is not really happiness at all. People are devastated by being hurt in this way, by being victimized by a society that says even people are dispensable. Salesian gentleness provides the opportunity to reach out and say: “You matter. God loves you. So many others love you and we will help you through.”
What is the most recent book you read?
I just led a book study with some mothers from our parish school entitled “The Marriage God Wants for You” by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. (I highly recommend his works by the way – he is an excellent writer). While I really expected to merely facilitate the moms getting something from the book, I gained valuable new insight into how the Sacrament of Marriage is a gift to the entire Church and how I might be of pastoral assistance to married couples seeking to grow.
Name an Oblate who taught you an important lesson that has remained with you. What did he teach you?
I think about our Provincial, Father Jim Greenfield, who in my younger days, was my Formation Director. He is such an excellent teacher and preacher, but he always reminded me to find out how I was uniquely called to live my Oblate life, to respect, honor and use the gifts I was given instead of trying to imitate someone else’s gifts. There are so many ways that this Oblate life can be lived. I am still seeking to know fully the way I am called to live the Oblate vocation.
What advice could you give a young person interested in religious life?
My advice would be: If you have an interest, there is a very good chance that God put it in your heart. So many pressures and people not even meaning any harm may seek to close that door for you. Don’t let that happen. Don’t close the door on the Holy Spirit. Be open to the awesome gift God is giving you in your vocational call. Keep searching, seek to learn, and if you are meant to say yes, that will become clearer and clearer to you.
How do you think religious life serves the Church and world in a way that is unique from our brothers and sisters who are single, married or diocesan priests?
Religious life is to resemble the spirit of love, support and common living that occurred in the earliest Christian communities. Through that resemblance, religious are to remind others in the Church of the power of this unity and making this journey as the one Body of Christ. We are certainly no where near perfect in doing that but the early Christian communities struggled too. However, it’s in the struggle that we grow together. The Church needs that witness.