From the archives of CMEAST.ORG website 2010 – “Vocation Story” of Brother Carmen Ciardullo, C.M. who pronounced Vows on December 21, 1956. It includes his advice to those considering a vocation as a Vincentian Brother.
I really believe it was through the Blessed Virgin Mary that I was called to be a Vincentian brother.
Growing up in Germantown, a section of Philadelphia, during the mid 50’s, as a young boy of 14, going to Mary’s Central Shrine on Mondays to one of the 12 or more Novena services was almost as important as going to Sunday Mass. This was true … not only for me but for many people … young and old. It has been estimated that about 10,000 people would come to the Monday services in honor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. It was at one of these services that I felt Jesus was calling me to be a Vincentian brother.
When I was 14 a desire to give myself to the Lord entered my mind. At first this desire occurred now and then. However, as time went by, it became more and more frequent. To me the desire was odd … to give myself to the Lord … but not as a priest. The only thing I knew were priests and sisters. I never heard of a brother. Never knew there were brothers who lived a religious life in community.
This desire … to serve God … was through the giving of my talents to the Lord … my ability to fix cars, to cook, to build electronic equipment. These were the things I wanted to do, but priests never did these things I told myself. Why would God give me such a desire to serve Him? There must be another way of life … a life that is special like that of a priest or sister. But what … and this is where Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal enters my calling to the Vincentians.
Each Monday after school … I was going to Germantown High School at the time … on my way home I would stop at Mary’s Central Shrine for one of the services. As I mentioned earlier, thousands of people would visit the Shrine on Mondays and so the services were packed with people. If you wanted to attend a service you would need to gather in the basement of the Shrine and wait until the earlier service was over. Then you would climb the side stairs of the basement and enter the main part of the Shrine were the service took place.
It was during that waiting period in the basement I had the time to look over a pamphlet rack. In doing so, I came across a booklet on brothers. As I mentioned earlier, I never heard of a brother and so this booklet caught my attention. I began to read the booklet … and what I read about brothers was the answer to my prayers … to give myself and my talents to the Lord to serve Him and His people. It was like someone turned on a light in a dark room.
I remember placing the booklet back on the rack. And as I turned around I saw a priest standing near the rear of the basement … just watching the crowd gathering for the next Novena. I simply went up to him and said, “Father I want to become a brother.” His response was as simple as my request. He said to me, “Go up to 500 Chelten Avenue and see Father Lawlor.
As all Vincentians in the Eastern Province know … 500 Chelten Avenue is a magic address … it’s St. Vincent’s Seminary and our Motherhouse. And so after the Novena service … in honor of our blessed Mother … to whom I owe my calling to the Vincentians … I did go up to 500 Chelten Avenue. The rest is history. I have been a Vincentian brother for 47 years.
Over the years as a Vincentian brother, my ministry varied to some degree. My first few years as a brother I cooked, worked at carpentry and gardening at the various seminaries the Vincentians managed in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. However, when I was in my late 20s, the Vincentians gave me opportunity to complete my college and focus on a degree in Chemistry education. It’s funny. When I entered the Vincentians, going to school was not my “thing.” As a matter of fact, if I knew I was going to teach, I would have never joined the Vincentians!
But God works in strange ways … and teach Chemistry, I did … 18 years at the high school level at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey and almost 10 years at the college level at St. John’s University, Jamaica, New York. During those years I was involved not only teaching chemistry but in the development of micro chemistry experiments for poor schools … schools that did not have the resources to perform traditional chemistry experiments in their science courses.
I was blessed to have been given a one-year sabbatical when teaching at St. Joseph’s Seminary. This gave me the time to publish 4 laboratory manuals on micro chemistry. I entitled them Micro Action Chemistry … MAC for short. I just loved the name.
After the sabbatical, I not only continued to teach chemistry but was invited to give micro chemistry workshops to science teachers all over the United States. This was made possible by the company that published the manuals … Flinn Scientific. I even had the opportunity to travel to Ireland on several occasions to lecture and demonstrate Micro Action Chemistry at the Irish Science Teachers Association’s National Convention. A wonderful experience for me!
Now my chemistry days are behind me. My present work is in managing the web sites for the Vincentian Community. The most active site is that of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (CAMM). It can be viewed at www.cammonline.org.
The purpose of the Association and the web site is to foster devotion to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal through the use of her Medal and to support the apostolic works of the Vincentians in serving the poor at home and on the missions. I find managing this particular web site most rewarding. It was Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal that brought me to the Vincentian Community … and a life I would never give up … and for this, I feel honored to serve Mary, the Mother of God.
The advice I would give to a young man interested in pursuing a vocation as a Vincentian brother or priest would be four things:
First. Prayer. Spend time with the Lord. Ask Him to help you sort things out. And don’t be afraid to seek help from Our Blessed Mother. She’ll be there batting for you.
Second. Get as much information about the Vincentians as you can. Read, ask questions and share your thoughts with Vincentians. Discernment days are great opportunities for this. Check out the Vincentian Vocation web site at Vincentians.net. It offers loads of information.
Third. Listen to your heart … and your mind. Look at your talents and your abilities. If they tell you “Yes, I can do it!.” That’s a good sign from God calling you to the Vincentians. Listen to your heart. If that desire to serve the Lord keeps coming back again and again. That’s a good sign from God calling you to the Vincentians.
Fourth. Visit a Vincentian Community house and meet the Vincentians. They are a great bunch of guys … young and old. Who knows … one of those Vincentians may be your “Chelten Avenue” to becoming a Vincentian brother.
Carmen Ciardullo, C.M. Vincentian Brother