Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parish, Forest Hills, marked the feast of St. John Vianney with a novena from Thursday, July 27 to Friday, Aug. 4. The last day of the novena coincided with the opening of the diocesan Year of Vocations.
This year, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parish is calling on members to lend spiritual help and encouragement to young people considering religious vocations.
As part of the novena observance, Father Robert Mema celebrated the 11:30 a.m. Mass and shared his faith and vocation story with the parish community on July 30. After Mass, he individually blessed those who waited for him in the parish garden.
Father Mema was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, and is currently serving as parochial vicar at St. Kevin’s in Flushing. His path to priesthood came through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. After planning a career in law – he holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice – and working for two years as a personal banker, he entered Cathedral Seminary House of Formation, Douglaston. His connection to the church started when he was 18 and asked to be a godfather. He began to consider his faith.
During Mass, he shared one of his sources of inspiration.
“We pray to St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. St. John Vianney would have lines of people waiting to see and speak with him and he inspires me to know how blessed I am to be given the grace to choose the vocation of the Eucharist.
“The sacrament of penance is one that I love to take part in because it is a time to celebrate because God’s love and mercy is all around us,” he said.
Choices That Lead to God
“Let us pray for the grace to be prudent and wise when we make choices. The choices we make will lead us to God,” Father Mema added.
Our Lady Queen of Martyrs pastor, Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez, wished the young priest good luck and said that he is praying for him.
“Father Mema’s words reminded me of Pope Francis. It is possible our sacrifices and prayers will help people in another part of the world that we may never meet,” the bishop said.
“The touching thing about this novena is that there are many people who prayed for Father Mema as a seminarian, and now they have a chance to meet him. The grace of God is powerful in our prayers. As we pray for him, we know he will continue to pray for us as well.”
Deacon Greg Kandra, who served at the novena Mass, felt blessed to be a part of the occasion.
“We have been doing this for over 10 years,” he said. “It is great to witness and to have people truly think about vocations, their faith and the church. It is wonderfully popular and it helps to bring people together.”