Deacons aid faith formation at Vineland Catholic school

A day of service to visit area senior citizens. Times for reflection in the seasons of Advent and Lent. The blessing of throats on the feast of Saint Blasé.

These were just a few of the occasions Deacon Russell Davis was blessed to spend with the students of Saint Mary School, Vineland, last year, ministering and guiding the young pupils on their faith journey. It didn’t hurt that two of his grandchildren attend the school, either.

In the Diocese of Camden, ministerial duties for the permanent deacons have included liturgical functions in parishes, presiding at wake services, and visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons. Now, the duties of Deacons Davis (from All Saints, Millville) and Richard T. Sampson (Saint Padre Pio, Vineland) have extended to Saint Mary School, and its principal, Steve Hogan, couldn’t be happier.

“Their ministry is another dimension of faith formation for the students, which has been enhanced and strengthened by their presence,” remarked Hogan.

The collaboration came about after Deacon Davis reached out to Hogan, asking the principal if he could provide assistance in any way.

After the blessing of the Diaconate Office and the pastors of the school’s sending parishes (Saint Padre Pio, All Saints and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Newfield), Deacon Davis and Deacon Sampson went to work, becoming a presence at school Masses, on days of reflection for Advent and Lent, and even parent/teacher conferences, as a means of support and witness for the entire school community.

“At a parent/teacher conference, a student’s mother shared with me that she wanted to receive Communion when her son was confirmed, and I helped her to enroll in the RCIA process,” Deacon Davis said.

Deacon Leo McBlain, director of Personnel for the Office of the Diaconate, is pleased with the collaboration.

“The diaconate is intended to be a part of the community, and we’d like to encourage more of that beyond the parish,” he said.

Father Robert Sinatra, pastor of Saint Padre Pio Parish, calls the deacons’ work at the school “another opportunity for us to evangelize.”

Principal Hogan is excited for the impact the deacons are making and hopes “that it continues to be a part of our school culture.”

“One student came up to me, and said ‘the deacons have made me close to Jesus,’” he said.