For Vocation Awareness Week, Clergy and Religious Share the Joy They Have in Their Ministries

By Colleen Rowan
“The Priesthood of Jesus Christ is my life, my joy and my greatest love…” These are the words of Father Casey Mahone. The longtime pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Clarksburg is celebrating 30 years of priesthood. He was happy to share the joy he has in his vocation just before National Vocation Awareness Week, Nov. 3-9, which is dedicated to promoting priesthood, the diaconate, and religious life.
So many in these ministries joyfully serve the people of God in West Virginia.
In John 15:16 Jesus says to his disciples, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you to go and bear fruit that will last,….”  For Father Mahone, it is tremendously humbling for him to know that it all began with God’s grace, God’s will and God’s choice. “Coming to an explicit awareness of that ‘call’ was a process that took years in my youth, but God was with me and a part of it all,” he said. “I do not regret any of it. I am so glad I said ‘yes.’”
He has met wonderful people along the way, said, true friends in the Lord all coming from different places in life but all striving to be saints. “I was ‘smitten’ by love of God in my youth and that love (which is itself God’s gift) has sustained me along the way ‘in good times and in bad.’ I am grateful to those who encouraged me along the way who helped me overcome my doubts and fears early on and to realize that God would not ask me to do something without giving me the grace to do it. I am never more ‘myself’ these days than when I am celebrating the Eucharist or other sacraments in any setting.  The Priesthood of Jesus Christ is my life, my joy and my greatest love,…a participation in the Love of God Himself.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I love my life.  Everyday is an adventure with my Lord.”
Rev. Mr. Helgi Nelson has been a permanent deacon for three years now. He was one of 12 ordained in 2016 at the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston and, since then, has served at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Berkeley Springs.
“I could not realize how fulfilling this ministry can be,” he said. “When I was about 50 years old I started to think about true retirement. What was I going to do?  What would truly fulfill me as a man of Christ in the remaining years that God would grant me?”
Life as a police officer and detective allowed him to see the suffering of mankind, he said. He felt he was able to make impacts on individuals, families and entire neighborhoods in his work.  Then, a job with ATF allowed him to assist with investigations nationwide.
“All of this brought me to understand the ministry that Christ calls each of us to,” he said. “That is to be of service to the least and suffering.  As a deacon, I am able to be in contact with the people of my parish that are suffering, either from illness, loneliness or some sort of addictions.  I remember that Jesus was always walking with the people, loving them, touching them and healing them.  He shied away from no one.  I try to be that way in my service to my community.  Bringing the Good News of Christ to those that are suffering.  A hug, words of comfort or giving a blessing makes such a difference in brightening the lives of those suffering. Meeting the community where they may be, in the hospital after an accident or suicide attempt, in the nursing home because of an illness, or in their homes when they are not physically able to function.
“After a lifetime of service to others in the secular world,” he said, “I found that the diaconate was the best way to fill the rest of my life.”
In discerning the vocation that one is called to, it’s  important to be listening to God in one’s everyday life, said Sister Ellen Dunn, OP. In doing so, she said, one will hear God.
“I’ve been in religious life for almost 60 years as a follower of St. Dominic in the world-wide Order of Preachers,” she said. “It’s still my heart’s desire as my chosen way to God.”
Sister Ellen, who also serves as the delegate for Consecrated Life for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston,  encouraged the faithful to: “Open the ears of your heart as you talk with God about the best way for you to serve God and others in your life of faith.”