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Over 120 years of serving the people of God in Coney Island The Vocationist Fathers

Father Justin Vocationary in Florham Park, New Jersey

The Vocationist Fathers and Brothers are a Catholic Religious Congregation that strives to foster vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life, especially among the poor. Its main ministry is to identify and guide those who believe they are called to serve God as priests or brothers.

The Society of Divine Vocations, more commonly referred to as "Vocationist Fathers," currently serves God's people in Italy, Brazil, Argentina, United States, Nigeria, Philippines and India. Their ministry is carried out in parishes, schools, missions and the Vocationary (a place for vocational discernment and religious formation).

 The Vocationist Fathers and Brothers live in community and take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Their U.S.A. Headquarters and House of Formation are located in Florham Park, New Jersey.

Founded by Fr. Justin Russolillo, Tin 1912,, the first community of the Society of Divine Vocations, which became known as the "Vocationist Fathers," came into being. The Society of Divine Vocations received its first Diocesan approval on May 26, 1927. It became a Congregation of Pontifical right on May 24, 1947. In 1950, the Vocationists took on their first foreign mission in Bahia, Brazil. In 1962 they began their mission in the United States at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Newark, NJ. More recently they spread their mission to Argentina, Nigeria, the Philippines and India.

Fr. Justin established the Vocationist Fathers and their special charism to foster and promote vocations to the priesthood, religious life and holiness among all God's people. To carry on this vocational work Fr. Justin established the Vocationary, a special house of formation that would supply vocations to both religious order and diocesan seminaries. For those who are undecided whether they want to be a Vocationist, a Diocesan priest or a member of another religious community, the Vocationist Fathers offer the Vocationary, a place of vocational discernment. The Vocationary was established specially to attend to the needs of those financially unable to attend the seminary and those who are still searching and discerning their vocation. By establishing the Vocationary, Fr. Justin focused his attention not only on candidates seeking a religious or priestly vocation, but also on those who had left the priesthood or who were in danger of doing so. Thus, the Vocationary has often given life to those who had abandoned the active ministry. Besides the Vocationary, the Vocationist Fathers carry on their ministry of fostering and promoting vocations in their other fields of apostolate: parishes, schools and missions.

During the 1930’s and 1940’s, the Vocationists quickly spread throughout Italy and in 1950 opened a mission in Brazil, where they have successfully and actively worked in various locations and are blessed with many vocations. In subsequent years the Congregation extended its mission to France and Argentina.On August 6, 1962, they arrived in the United States at the kind invitation of Most Reverend Thomas A. Boland, the late Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

During their stay in the U.S., the Vocationists Fathers realized with increasing evidence that if they were to make any progress and extend their work to other communities and perpetuate their type of work into the future, they were to start educating new religious candidates to a life of service.

In 1982, Most Reverend Peter L. Gerety, the Archbishop of Newark, gave the Vocationist Fathers permission to use the empty convent of St. Nicholas Parish in Palisades Park and the former Rectory of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Newark as a religious residence for their candidates. Throughout the years, the Vocationists had made a steady progress in spite of the many hardships and difficulties they had experienced.

In 1986, the most loving God had touched the hearts of some very special individuals who throughout the years have admired the work being done by the Vocationist Fathers. These exceptionally outstanding individuals generously offered unconditional support to the Vocationists.

In 1986, Jack Burstyn, an outstanding humanitarian of Jewish faith, generously offered to donate 30 acres of land in Florham Park, New Jersey. This donation gave a new direction and substantial meaning to the Vocationist dream.

On July 28, 1987, a solemn ground breaking ceremony took place in Florham Park, New Jersey.  Then, on the following day the construction of the Fr. Justin’s Vocationary and Sr. Joanna House of Formation (for the Vocationist Sisters) began.  The building of this project proceeded swiftly under the guidance of the Divine Providence and with the assistance of generous and loving friends.

The Vocationists' spirituality stems from Fr. Justin's conviction that all people are called to holiness. They take as addressed to them the words of the prophet Hosea: "I will make you my spouse forever." Their "first duty" is to be with God. Their ultimate goal is to achieve Divine Union. They are called to establish and live the relationship of "child, parent and spouse" of God on the pattern of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Catholic Church, the Holy Family and the Blessed Trinity are the heart and center of their spirituality, which may be summarized thus: "Ascension to the Trinity with the Holy Family in the Church."

The Vocationist Fathers currently serve the people of the Diocese of Newark at St. Michael Church and the Perpetual Help Center, both in Newark, and at St. Nicholas Church in Palisades Park.  In 2012, their service expanded into New York State and the Diocese of Brooklyn when they took over the administration of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of  Solace in Brooklyn, New York.


Click here to read about the founder of the Vocationist Fathers, Blessed Father Justin Russolillo, S.D.V.