Mater Dei Parish, based in Newport, will join in the celebration of the canonization of Blessed Justin Maria Russolillo, an Italian priest who founded the Society of Divine Vocations. The priests who serve the parish are members of the society known as the Vocationists.

The parish celebration will take place on the same day as the canonization in Rome, May 15. Festivities will include a lunch with Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne who will be at the parish’s St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Newport for confirmation.

“Bishop Coyne will be here on May 15 for the confirmation, and hopefully he can pray with us for the first time the prayer of St. Justin Russolillo and he can call him ‘saint’ for the first time after Pope Francis canonizes him just fa ew hours earlier in Italy,” said Vocationist Father Rijo Johnson, pastor of Mater Dei Parish.

The parish is planning a bus trip to New Jersey for the celebration of St. Justin in the Cathedral of Sacred Heart in Newark on May 29.

Father Johnson said the parish hopes to open a religious gift store in Newport to support vocations. Blessed Justin “is called the ‘Apostle of Vocations,’” he added.

Blessed Justin was born in Italy in 1891 and ordained a priest in 1913. That year, he founded the first community of the Society of Divine Vocations, which became known as the “Vocationist Fathers,” to foster and promote vocations to the priesthood, religious life and holiness among all God’s people.

The Vocationists’ spirituality stems from Blessed Justin’s conviction that all people are called to holiness and that their ultimate goal is to achieve divine union.

When Vocationists greet one another, they say, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” invoking the Holy Family. They part with the words, “Be holy” rather than good-bye to help people connect to heaven.

Father Louis Caputo, a former superior general of the Vocationist order, knew Blessed Justin.

When he entered the order at the age of 12, he lived in the same house as the future saint and attended Masses he celebrated, listened to him preach and shared group discussion and recreation with him.

Father Caputo attended Blessed Justin’s beatification in Italy and has published and/or translated some of his books.

“He was a very humble man. Meek. A smiling person,” Father Caputo previously told Vermont Catholic. “He inspired confidence in us,” recalling that Father Justin used to entertain the students with stories of the lives of saints.

Blessed Justin died in 1955 at the Vocationist Fathers Motherhouse in Italy.

In 1997 he was proclaimed venerable; he was beatified in 2011.

“I consider it a special privilege and grace to have known him,” Father Caputo said.

Today there are hundreds of priests, brothers, sisters, novices and religious serving in the spirit of Blessed Justin who devoted his life to fulfilling the need of religious vocations in the world.

Members of the congregation promote vocations with the goal of bringing all members and, through them the whole world, to perfect divine union with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Vocationist Fathers first arrived in the United States in 1962; in 2017, a Quasi Province was established.

Among the nine others to be canonized May 15 are Blessed Titus Brandsma, the 20th-century martyr murdered at the Dachau concentration camp; Blessed Marie Rivier, a French nun who founded the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary in 1796 during the time of the French Revolution; and Blessed Devasahayam Pillai, an 18th-century Indian layman who converted to Catholicism from Hinduism who was killed in 1752 for refusing to refute his faith despite being brutally tortured.