it’s a wonderful life!
Borrowing my title from the classic Christmas movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” I truly believe I have been blessed with a wonderful life as a Pallottine brother. Years ago a friend of mine asked me why I became a brother instead of a priest, and I jokingly answered him, “Because I didn’t want to work on weekends like the priests have to.” But that is not the real reason at all.
After graduating from Bay View High School in 1976 I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life and decided to try my hand at technical college. It was during this time that I sat down with the vocation director of the Franciscans about becoming a brother, a calling I had felt for some time while I was growing up. But I think God had other plans for me. About six months after I entered the Franciscan Order my dad was diagnosed with cancer and was given six months to live. It was at this point that I was faced with making another important decision in my life and returned home to help my mother and family. After my dad died, I got a job working for an industrial distributor and was put in charge of the shipping department, a job I held for 14 years. During that time the Franciscans and I lost contact, but every so often I still heard that “little voice” inside my head calling me to be a brother.
I next decided to go to my home parish, St Veronica’s, and talk to my pastor who just happened to know a number of the Pallottines. He suggested that I talk to their vocation director about becoming a brother, which I did, and in 1995 I entered the Pallottines as a postulant. With the Pallottines I was given the opportunity to live in community with other religious men, to deepen my spiritual and prayer life, and at the same time to be of service to God’s people. I made my first profession in 1998 and my final in 2001.
Although I have been stationed at our main house, Pallotti House, since 2001, I have worn many “hats” in my service to my community and others. For a while I was kind of a “wandering Pallottine” visiting with students in some of the classes at St Vincent Pallotti grade school and talking to them about our founder. For many years I have been visiting many of the sick and home bound of the parish, praying with them and bringing them communion on First Fridays and at other times during the month. I am currently a member of the Knights of Columbus and I work with the St Vincent de Paul group at St Vincent Pallotti Parish that reaches out to the poor in the Milwaukee area.
Presently my main ministry is serving as the administrator of Pallotti House. Talk about wearing many hats! As administrator I am in charge of just about everything: keeping the house running smoothly by making sure the roofs don’t leak, the driveway and grounds are in good repair and plowed and shovelled during our unpredictable Wisconsin winters, purchasing the groceries, hiring cooks and house cleaners, paying the bills and making up the community schedules so that everyone knows what’s up and who has Mass and confession help-outs. I am also on our Provincial Council, a position to which I have been elected over the past 12 years now. In this age of priest shortages, the “jobs” I do take on a special importance for keeping the community running like a well-oiled machine and at the same time freeing up our priests so that they can attend to the sacramental needs of others.
When I think back over the years, I must admit that God certainly works in mysterious ways when it comes to finding one’s vocation in life. I thank Him for ultimately leading me to the Pallottines. I love my work, my community and am happy to be a Pallottine brother.
Jim Scarpace sac [MD] – Milwaukee – USA