Rev. Kevin Lonergan, M.Div., M.A. — Parochial Vicar

The following article is from the AD Times. Click here to view the original article.

Father-Son/Deacon-Priest lead ‘Day of Prayer for Vocations’

Published May 13, 2016
By Tara Connoly — Staff writer

A father-son duo, who serve as a permanent deacon and a priest for the Diocese of Allentown, shared their insights to help foster vocations May 7 to a group dedicated to promoting the call to the religious life.

Father Kevin Lonergan, assistant pastor of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Easton, and his father, Deacon Lawrence Lonergan, assigned to St. John the Baptist and St. Patrick, Pottsville, were the main presenters during “Day of Prayer for Vocations” sponsored by the diocesan Serra Clubs at St. Mary, Kutztown. Note: at the time of this article, Fr. Lonergan was assigned to St. Jane Parish. He has been with the Ctahedral Parish since June 2016.

The day began with a holy hour led by Msgr. Walter Scheaffer, pastor, and concluded with Mass celebrated by Bishop Emeritus of Allentown Edward Cullen.

FATHER LONERGAN

Father Lonergan, 26, who was ordained a priest in 2014, told members of the Serra Club that the call to religious life began to stir when he was a young child. Although he admitted he was distracted during Mass and sometimes passed the time with race cars – he never objected “going” to Mass.

“I remember as a child not being overly religious – what I remember of my childhood with regards to the faith was that it was rather typical,” he said.

Educated in the Pottsville Area School District, where both his parents taught, Father Lonergan said his parents were involved in parish life and he longed for the day when he was old enough to become an altar server.

“I remember the excitement I had when I was preparing to become an altar server – because finally – I would have something to do during Mass. Little did I know that becoming an altar server would be the first domino of many that would eventually lead to the priesthood,” he said.

While in grade school, Father Lonergan wasn’t sure what he wanted to be in life and contemplated working on cars or becoming a professional fireman or teacher.

“All the time I was thinking about this I was faithfully and excitedly serving often at Sunday Mass,” he recalled.

When it came time for high school, he asked his parents if he could attend Nativity BVM High School, Pottsville.

“The thought had come to me that if I was thinking about the priesthood that I should perhaps learn more about my faith at a high school level,” said Father Lonergan.

Weeks before he embarked on his high school career, the clergy abuse crisis was being felt at dioceses throughout the nation.

“It seemed like all over accusations were being made and priests were being removed. My concept of the priesthood had been obliterated. The idea of the priesthood from that point was pretty much placed on the back burner,” he said.

He continued on at Nativity and was active in the band, choir, theater club, student government and golf team.

“I enjoyed a very typical high school career. I had friends, went to football games and when I got around to it – I studied. In the midst of all the activities that consume a teenager in high school there was still something nagging me though. What about this whole priesthood thing?” said Father Lonergan.

He began to serve Mass more frequently at his parish and school, and sought advice from Father Ronald Jankaitis, the principal at the time, and Msgr. Edward O’Connor, his pastor.

“These two men were for me, what I began to learn what the priesthood was all about – they helped me see the joy-filled life of a priest,” said Father Lonergan.

With the support of his family, priests and parishioners, he entered the seminary immediately after high school with the belief he would probably only last a year.

After much discernment, tremendous prayer, forming friendships along with struggles, anger, frustration and disappointments, he completed his studies and ultimately was ordained to the priesthood.

“All of these things were necessary and helped me become the priest I am today,” he said.

“Formation still happens today as a priest. I continue to pray, to learn, to meet new people, to grow to love the people whom I serve. Each day in my life as a priest, I am continually amazed at the blessings I receive from our Lord, who is the eternal high priest, and from the people of God, who are so good to priests.

“I can say with total certainty that there is nothing I enjoy doing more than serving them, by bringing Jesus to them, by preaching the Gospel to them and by celebrating the sacraments – especially the Mass – for them.”

As for better promoting vocations, Father Lonergan stressed being prudent in reaching out to young persons in a loving way.

“We have to let them know that priests and women religious have a sense of humor. We have friends and we have hobbies. So often priests and the religious life is put in an ivory tower and is seen as unattainable piety,” he said.

Father Lonergan also asked Serrans to encourage families to support vocations.

“There is a real apprehension with parents and families about their children or siblings entering the religious life. We have to pray for parents, encourage them to encourage their children and let them know the priesthood and religious life is filled with joy,” he said.

DEACON LONERGAN

In Deacon Lonergan’s talk, he shared that his son has always been an inspiration and played a pivotal role in his vocation to the permanent diaconate. He was ordained a deacon in 2015.

“I asked myself how I could give of myself as Kevin has given of his entire life,” he said.

Unfamiliar with the diaconate, Deacon Lonergan said, he learned more about the ministry after witnessing a deacon assist at Saturday Masses.

“Then one day the assistant pastor told me I would make a great deacon and a couple days later Kevin told me to ‘go for it.’”

Throughout the six-year formation, Deacon Lonergan said, he was inspired on retreats and during class, and developed friendships with other candidates.

“The major impact in my formation came from our Spanish brothers. They added special flavor to our biweekly classes with beautiful songs and hymns. Their culture paired with Catholicism is a beautiful thing,” he said.

Among his different roles that include proclaiming the Gospel, preaching, administering the sacrament of baptism, lead the faithful in prayer, and witness marriages, Deacon Lonergan constantly senses Holy Spirit during funeral services.

“It’s important to be there for people who are grieving. Sometimes you don’t know what to say but the Holy Spirit reminds me just to be present,” he said.



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