Fr Daniele Russo is a God-send for those “kneading” spiritual direction.
During lockdown, the chaplain of Sumner House is not only tending to the vocational needs of the young men discerning God’s path in life, but also the physical ones.
Drawing on his Italian heritage and the special skills he learnt as a seminarian in Rome, the young priest is teaching the residents of the Lidcombe centre how to make gnocchi.
Although he stresses the classes are about a lot more than food, they are bringing the men together in friendship, faith and fraternity.
“A Sumner House resident needs to be open to giving himself as a gift to the House for an entire year …”
And like making pasta takes practice, patience and a few prayers … so too does a vocation.
Place your future in God’s hands and the “pasta-bilities” are endless.
Fr Daniele said Sumner House is for anybody searching for an environment to actively discern a vocation.
“Whether you are already on the cusp of an important vocational decision, perhaps the seminary or engagement, or just looking to begin discerning in a more intentional way, Sumner House may be a good start,” he said.
“A Sumner House resident needs to be open to giving himself as a gift to the House for an entire year, and while it is a demanding commitment, it is also one predicated on Christ’s teaching that we find our life when we lose it (John 12:25).
“If you love the Lord and want to serve Him, but feel your discernment is frustrated by distractions or a lack of encouragement, take a risk and apply.
“And as for the perfect gnocchi, it needs the right potato (Desiree), to be boiled with skin on (keeps moisture out), and double zero flour … the rest is a secret.”
“An important part of the house is discernment, which could be priesthood, religious life, marriage or singlehood.”
Opened in 2019, Sumner House offers young men the opportunity to discern a vocation for between 12-18 months while receiving pastoral and spiritual support.
Resident Lachie Mitchell said moving into Sumner House has been “transformative” in helping him hear God’s call to serve him in the future. The 22-year-old Liberal Arts student at Notre Dame said it had given him the chance to stand up and be the best Catholic man he can be.
“Coming to Sumner House was providence, I was about to move into a shared house with some other guys but they weren’t ready either financially or spiritually and so one of them pointed me in this direction,” he said.
“I visited to see what it was like and had a really peaceful sense about it, so applied and got accepted.
“An important part of the house is discernment, which could be priesthood, religious life, marriage or singlehood.
“At this stage I know I am discerning something in the realm of an evangelisation mission, which is my real passion.
“For me, Sumner House has been a transformative experience, and has become a staple of what it means to be a young Catholic man walking through the different stages of adulthood.
“The gnocchi making classes is just a fun way of bringing us all together as brothers, we all learn so much from Fr Dan in so many ways.”
“It’s pretty much the young men’s Catholic household par excellence in terms of the formation you receive from Fr Dan, the structure of our lifestyle and with some daily Eucharistic Adoration, Divine Office, and Mass a couple of times a week included.
“The gnocchi making classes is just a fun way of bringing us all together as brothers, we all learn so much from Fr Dan in so many ways.
“If a structured prayer life is something you are looking for, than I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”