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Asking the Clergy: How were you called to religious life?

From left, the Rev. Msgr. James Vlaun of

From left, the Rev. Msgr. James Vlaun of the Catholic Faith Network, Erik Larson of Global Harmony House (Brahma Kumaris) and Rabbi Susie Heneson Moskowitz of Temple Beth Torah. Photo Credit: Catholic Faith Network; Steve Pfost; Jonathan Freiberger

Long Island’s priests, ministers, rabbis, religious teachers and other clergy are a diverse group, with wide-ranging beliefs. But a common thread is a feeling of having been chosen for a religious life by a higher power. This week’s clergy discuss how they were called to their vocation. 

The Rev. Msgr. James Vlaun

President and CEO, Catholic Faith Network, Diocese of Rockville Centre

My story leading to ordination is remarkably ordinary. After ordination? Now that’s a story.

My Catholic parents instilled faith in me. At 12, I lived through the loss of my sister at age 9 to leukemia. That tragic loss stirred deep in my soul, caused my young faith to deepen and ignited a desire to serve God; it was the first inkling of priesthood.

It seemed clear, however, that my gifts as a younger man didn’t seem to fit into the priesthood. I developed a love for music and media, especially television and radio, and was growing up in a rather traditional Neapolitan family with a love for family, faith and food. Trusting in God, I studied for nine years and was ordained a priest in 1988.

Remarkably, the Lord took my limited and unique gifts and instead of having to abandon them, called me to use them as a minister of His Gospel. I am celebrating 30 years of hosting “Religion and Rock” on WBAB-FM and Sirius/XM, and serving as the president and CEO of the Catholic Faith Network. Also host a faith-oriented network cooking program, "Real Food!"

I’ve learned in my 30 years of ordination that we should entrust our gifts to God, then in humility before Him, be amazed!

Erik Larson 

Teacher, Global Harmony House (Brahma Kumaris), Great Neck

In the Brahma Kumaris tradition, those who have learned something are welcome and encouraged to share that knowledge and experience. I learned about myself as a spiritual being, a soul who uses a body to experience the world and share my natural qualities of peace, love and joy.

I learned much in the beginning of the expansion of the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Meditation in the United States, but my teacher was a thousand miles away. I enjoyed meditation, had good experiences of my self as a soul and felt a strong connection with God. However, there was no one else to take on this sharing, and so I was called to help others. As I had no one else to take this responsibility, I took a deep breath and offered what I had learned and experienced to others who also might find this knowledge and practice beneficial.

After 34 years, I am still willing to share what I find beneficial to those who might also enjoy the experience of peace, love and a connection with the Supreme. I find that teaching and giving back to the community help me feel renewed and refreshed.

Rabbi Susie Heneson Moskowitz

Temple Beth Torah, Melville

When I decided to be a rabbi, I initially thought that I was choosing a career. Should I be a psychologist, a lawyer or a rabbi, I wondered?

I decided to be a rabbi because my experience of Judaism was so important to me that I wanted to share it with others. I had not heard of the concept of a "calling." I just felt being a rabbi would play to my strengths.

It wasn’t until years later that I felt it was a calling. One day it occurred to me that I was put on this path for a reason, that God had a plan for me. This sense has helped me to do my job with joy and commitment. Being a member of the clergy is a full-time calling. You can’t turn it on and off because you are always a religious leader. It helps to know that you work for God, and that being a rabbi is more than a job. It is a passion.

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