Deacon dads celebrate sons’ first vows as friars

By Michelle Martin
Sunday, August 7, 2016

Deacon dads celebrate sons’ first vows as friars

Joseph Roccasalca professes his first vows as an Augustinian to Father Bernard Scianna, prior provincial of the Augustinian Mother of Good Counsel Province. He was one of 10 novices to make their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience at St. Rita Church, 7740 S. Western Ave., July 31. An 11th novice was to make his profession in Japan. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Robert Carroll is vested in his Augustinian habit after making his first vows July 31. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Ten novices made their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as Augustinian friars at St. Rita July 31. This was the largest profession class for the community in decades. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

When 10 men professed their first vows as Augustinian friars at St. Rita High School on July 31, two of them had unusual examples to follow.

Friar Joseph Roccasalva and Friar Robert Carroll are both the sons of permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of Chicago. They grew up in neighboring parishes on the South Side and both attended Catholic high schools.

They now are part of the largest group of new friars the community has had in decades, said Augustinian Father Bernard Scianna, the prior provincial for the Mother of Good Counsel Province.

“This is indeed an important and historic event,” said Scianna, whose province includes the Chicago area.

The men were part of a novice class of 11, with one, Atsushi Kuwahara, scheduled to go home to Japan to make his profession. They represent all three Augustinian provinces in the United States.

The group also includes men from Pakistan and the Dominican Republic, and one priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Father Joseph Boudrou, who discerned that his vocation includes the community life of the Augustinians.

Another, Sam Joutras, went to Most Holy Redeemer School in Evergreen Park before attending Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox, Illinois.

Friar Carroll is the son of Deacon Robert Carroll, a former assistant Cook County state’s attorney and the director of finance for the Midwest Augustinians. He was a member of St. John Fisher Parish, where his father serves, and went to the Augustinians’ St. Rita High School, where he started discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

“That was right around the time the Quigley Scholars program was starting, so I told Bob if he wanted to go, I would drive him up there,” Deacon Carroll said. High school boys in the program gathered at St. Joseph College Seminary every month for Mass, dinner and faith sharing with college seminarians.

Friar Carroll said he found community there, and he enrolled at St. Joseph after high school. It was that very sense of community, though, that led him to understand that the diocesan priesthood might not be for him.

“The community there was a lot like the community with the Augustinians,” he said.

Friar Carroll had also attended several vocation events with the Augustinians, including a discernment weekend and a youth encounter in London, while he was in high school, and he’d stayed in touch with Augustinian Father Tom McCarthy, former president of St. Rita and now vocation director for the Augustinian’s Midwest and Villanova provinces.

With McCarthy’s encouragement, he transferred to Villanova University and joined the Augustinian’s pre-novitiate program there. He graduated in 2015 and went directly into the year-long novitiate program.

Friar Roccasalva, the son of Deacon Joseph Roccasalva, a district deputy chief in the Chicago Fire Department, grew up in St. Cajetan Parish and attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights. He began giving serious consideration to a priestly vocation, and a campus minister at Marian Catholic suggested he check out a few religious communities as well as the diocesan priesthood.

He did, using an online tool to narrow his choices. One of the congregations suggested as a good fit was the Augustinians. His dad knew McCarthy, who celebrated weekend Masses at St. Cajetan, and gave his son Mc- Carthy’s number.

“I must have held onto it for a year before I got up the nerve to call him,” Roccasalva said. “But he said he was on the journey with me, he wouldn’t try to push me or anything, and he didn’t.”

Meanwhile, at the urging of his mother, Denise, Friar Roccasalva completed a degree in math and a teaching certificate at Saint Xavier University.

Both men’s stories emphasize the strategy McCarthy decided to use when he became vocation director eight or nine years ago.

“I thought, we have such a great community life. Why aren’t young men joining us?” Mc- Carthy said. “That’s when I volunteered to be vocation director. And I told the friars, we have to pray, we have to invite and we have to open our doors.”

That means bringing young men who are discerning their vocations to see Augustinian life, to experience community, to meet the men they would share their lives with if they do become professed Augustinians.

While 11 is a large class for first vows, McCarthy said, the congregation, which has about 300 professed members in the United States, has 37 men in various stages of formation, and he expects novice classes of five or six each year for the next several years.

“I have never been busier as vocation director,” said McCarthy, who is vocation director for both the Midwest and Villanova provinces. He lives in a residence hall at Villanova and has seven men and two women in a discernment group on campus, and has people interested in the community visiting about twice a month.

In the case of Roccasalva and Carroll, McCarthy said, their fathers’ dual vocations to marriage and to diaconate ministry had a profound effect.

Both fathers said their sons, as well as their other children, grew up in their parishes, serving at the altar, setting up and cleaning up for parish events, even just sitting through parish meetings.

“He was that much more involved in things,” Deacon Roccasalva said. “He saw more behind the scenes at the parish than most kids.”

Deacon Bob Carroll recalls bringing a young Bobby — maybe 7 or 8 years old — to a communications class at Saint Xavier University during his diaconate formation. When the teacher distributed handouts, Bobby raised his hand and asked for one too.

“That’s just kind of how he was,” Deacon Carroll said. “It’s a matter of kids seeing what you do and picking up on it.”


  • religious life
  • deacons
  • vocations
  • augustinians
  • friars
  • st. rita high scool

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