At the last supper, Jesus gave his disciples a cup to pass, asking them to drink from it in his memory.
Joan and Paul Atwell are now passing a chalice they own among their fellow Catholics, hoping they will remember to pray that more men may seek the privilege of consecrating that cup by becoming priests. The Atwells also want Catholics to put the chalice in a special spot in their homes and pray that more men might answer Christ’s call to serve him as deacons, and that men and women consider the vowed religious life as well.
The decline in ordained and religious vocations in recent decades helped prompt the Atwells to establish a traveling-chalice ministry, Joan Atwell said.
“I just think it brings the message home to people that we’re all concerned about what’s happening down the road,” she said. “Anything that might possibly help to interest or inspire people into religious life is important.”
The chalice was owned by her husband Paul’s late brother, Father Henry Atwell, who was the first executive director of the former Genesee Ecumenical Ministries and the first Catholic priest to serve in such a capacity in any ecumenical council in the country. From 1958-67, Father Atwell was also editor of the Courier-Journal, now known as the Catholic Courier.
“We’re happy to do this because (Father) Henry was such a driving force,” Joan Atwell said. “He was loved by very many, many people. It makes us very happy to be able to do this and to use (his chalice) in such a wonderful way.”
The Atwells, who attend Church of the Transfiguration in Pittsford, have enlisted the help of their fellow parishioners, who have signed up in droves to take the chalice into their homes. Each week following one of the weekend Masses, a parish family is given the chalice for one week to use as a focal point for prayers for vocations, Atwell said. The parishioners are provided with a booklet of special prayers, she added, and the ministry has been promoted in the parish bulletin. The traveling-chalice ministry began the weekend of June 5-6, and families have signed up to take a turn hosting the chalice every week into the beginning of next year, Atwell said.
“I think they’ve been very happy with it,” she said of the parishioners’ response to the ministry. “It’s been overwhelmingly received by the parish.”
One Transfiguration family that responded is the Strazzaboscos, who received the chalice after the Saturday evening Mass July 17. John Strazzabosco said he and his wife, Jeanne, and her daughter, Chelsea LaMachia, 15, planned to say prayers around the chalice before mealtimes.
“It just seems like a really nice, meaningful thing to do,” he said. “To have the symbol of the church in the home, something that is different, something that is seen, that will draw our attention to it.”
Atwell said she was inspired to begin the traveling-chalice ministry after visiting a friend in Florida earlier this year whose parish had established such a ministry, she said. Indeed, a cursory survey of traveling chalice sites on the Internet revealed that many parishes and Catholic organizations have instituted some form of the ministry in recent years. For her part, Atwell said she would eventually like other diocesan parishes to participate in the traveling-chalice ministry.
Father Michael J. Bausch, pastor of Transfiguration, said he appreciated the fact that his parishioners have strongly supported the ministry and expressed gratitude to the Atwells as well.
“I am sure that Father (Atwell) is pleased that his retired chalice has come out of retirement and is being used for such a fine endeavor,” Father Bausch said. “The entire venture is just one way to promote church ministry and it seems to have struck a cord with the folks at Transfiguration. Time will tell if anyone steps forth and actually voices an interest in full-time church ministry.”