Vocation Stories: Sharon M. Brinker, Oblate Associate
Year of Oblate Vocations
In honor of the Oblate Year of Vocations, all Oblate Fathers and brothers, and those men in Oblate formation are invited to “Tell Their Vocation Stories.” In addition, all members of the “Mazenodian Family,” Associates, Partners, employees and friends are welcome to tell their vocation stories as well. You may submit your stories in written form (please include photos,) or on video from your computer’s camera or external camera. We will endeavor to run a vocation story each week during the Year of Vocations.
By Sharon M. Brinker, Oblate Associate at The Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville, IL
My connection with the Oblates began when I was in my twenties. I am blessed to live about twenty minutes away from the Shrine. I would come walk the peaceful grounds with my brother and occasionally shop for books at gift shop. It always felt like home.
In 2000, the pastor at my home parish passed away and through a chain of circumstances, I found myself in a position to work with a Franciscan priest in assisting my parish with upcoming changes in our parish including the Franciscans leaving and the parish being given back to Diocese. I was hired part-time as a Coordinator while I worked full-time at Washington University in St. Louis in my field of Health Information Management. I also coordinated the Liturgical Ministers and RCIA. In 2001, the Bishop appointed a Dominican Sister, Sr. Mary Clare, as the Parish Life Coordinator and a Ugandan Priest as Sacramental Priest. In 2005, I felt God calling me to work full-time at the parish so my position elevated to the leadership team as Pastoral Associate.
During that time, the Novice Master at the Novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois contacted one of the Sisters that lived with Sr. Mary Clare who worked at Catholic Charities asking if there were opportunities for ministry for the Novices. She did not have any but she referred him to Sr. Mary Clare for possibilities in the parish. This was the birth of a beautiful friendship and ministry between the Oblates and me. This group included now ordained Fathers David Muñoz and Emmanuel Mulenga.
In 2006, several Oblates assisted at our parish, including the late Fr. Terry Donovan, who assisted me with RCIA when our assigned priest went on unexpected leave. He told me I should become an Oblate Associate and to contact Br. Andy Lawlor at Our Lady of the Snows. I was delighted to learn that there was a group of people who love the Oblates as much as I do that I could join at the Shrine. I began attending meetings and received my Oblate Associate pin in 2009.
I have been blesssed to befriend and journey with Novices every year since that first group in 2005. I have not missed a First Vows ceremony since ….this year will be my thirteenth year. I have also had opportunities to witness three Ordinations in San Antonio. God has also blessed me with a particularly strong bond with my Zambian brothers and a special love for Africa. I have been honored to provide support and a sense of family to them while they are far from their homes and loved ones in Zambia, especially being present with them when family cannot. I have remained in contact with most and consider them as my own family. I was so inspired by my Zambian brothers, that I now sponsor several children from Zambia through Children International. I have also become a member with Africa Faith and Justice Network based in Washington DC and whose office works closely with the OMI JPIC office.
I love the opportunities to interact with all who are part of the Mazenodian Family. I am also currently enrolled in the Certificate in Oblate Studies program and am learning so much about our Founder and the origins of the Community. It is like going on a personal retreat with St. Eugene.
May the Oblates continue to be blesssed with vocations and growth of our Mazenodian family during this special year.