I hope you’ve been watching “On the Block,” my interview show on NET-TV. On it, we travel to different neighborhoods to interview priests about their vocations. We talk about when the call to priesthood first struck them, the process of preparing for priesthood and what their lives were like before they were priests.
Many priests come to their vocation later in life. So, we’ve spoken with a bishop who was a radio announcer for 10 years, a pastor who used to play bass for Broadway shows and a former Olympic athlete.
During the season that is currently being shown, we met with a former NYC firefighter, a culinary school graduate and ex-military man, all of whom are now priests.
The stories have been fascinating. We’ve heard about the men’s former girlfriends; several had been engaged. Imagine the letdown when you find out you’re losing your love to a religious vocation!
One of my favorite questions is about when each man first heard the call. Each one quickly tells you that there was no voice from heaven. Most weren’t knocked off a horse as was St. Paul. But the call comes in very human ways, an invite from someone in the parish, the realization of wanting to do something special, or the gradual awareness that it’s the type of life you were always seeking.
Some men hear the call earlier than others. Several of our subjects attended the prep seminary system, although this is the less common route these days than in days gone by. But still some remark about the inspiration of the people who taught at Cathedral Prep and College being the deciding factor for them.
Viewers have told me that we are putting a human face on priesthood. One lady said she was thinking of becoming a Catholic and after watching us on cable television, she was further encouraged to enter the RCIA process because she realized that priests were regular human beings like she was.
We do our interviews – as the title of the show describes – outdoors sitting on the stoop of the rectory, on church steps, on the portico of the Immaculate Conception Center, or in the backyard of the parish house. Sometimes we have to pause because of low-flying planes or street sirens. But for the most part, the street scene works.
“On the Block” is a vocations series as well as human interest stories. During this Year of Vocations in the diocese, we’re
particularly proud to be on the air, working in tandem with the bigger project.
Here’s a sneak preview of who’s coming up: Msgr. Robert Romano, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dyker Heights, and NYPD chaplain, March 8; Father Victor M. Bolaños, parochial vicar at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jamaica, March 15; Father Mark Matthias, parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Bayside, March 22; Father Dwayne Davis, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands, March 29; Father John Ryan, pastor of St. Jude, Mastic Beach, in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, April 5; and Father Tom Colucci, parochial vicar at St. Mary Mother of the Church, Fishkilll, N.Y., in the Archdiocese of New York, April 12.
The show premieres each week on Thursday at 9 p.m. with reruns throughout the week. Check the NET schedule in the centerfold of The Tablet.