New Fall River bishop is member of congregation devoted to vocations, poor

Compiled by Dave Jolivet, Anchor Editor

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Fall River Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, is a priest of the Society of Divine Vocations, known as the Vocationists.


According to the Society of Divine Vocations website (, “The Vocationist Fathers and Brothers are a Catholic Religious Congregation that strives to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life, especially among the poor. Its main ministry is to identify and guide those who believe they are called to serve God as priests or Brothers.”

The congregation was founded by Father Justin Russolillo, a native of Naples, Italy, born on Jan. 18, 1891. He was ordained a priest in 1913. According to the website, in 1920, in the parish of St. George in Pianura, Naples, “He gathered in common life the group of ‘the most faithful ones,’” which became the first community of the Society of Divine Vocations. The Vocationist Fathers gained its first diocesan approval in 1927, and became a congregation of Pontifical right on Jan. 3, 1948.

The Vocationist Fathers and Brothers website ( explains that the members “intend to live in the footsteps of Jesus, following His chaste, poor and obedient way of life. Their first duty is ‘to be with Him.’

“The ultimate goal of the Society of Divine Vocations is to direct and lead all members, and through them all people, to a perfect union with the Divine Persons, through communion with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“For the achievement of this Divine union, it works for Universal Sanctification promoting ascetical and mystical life and the propagation of religious life in every walk of life.

“For the achievement of Universal Sanctification, it considers the whole world as ‘a great sanctuary’ and directly works for the furtherance of all parochial, diocesan and pontifical ascetical activities.”

Father Russolillo established what he called “A Vocationary,” a place where individuals can discern a call to the priesthood or religious life “in a spirit of prayer and study.”

The congregation does not charge those candidates who feel they may have a calling to the priesthood or religious life.

Those candidates who continue to show that they may have a calling, continue to study with the Vocationists. Once a final decision is made to devote themselves to ordained life, the order will contact specific orders or dioceses to continue the process. Should the candidate decide to remain with the Vocationists, they will continue the formation process with the congregation.

The Vocationist Fathers currently serve in the U.S., Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria, the Philippines, India, Madagascar, Colombia, Ecuador, France, and Indonesia. The Fathers and Brothers take a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The Society of Divine Vocations petitioned Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, and in 1998 Pope John Paul II declared Father Russolillo Venerable, and in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI declared him Blessed.

For more information on the Society of Divine Vocations and Blessed Justin Russolillo, visit the congregation’s website at or

© 2020 The Anchor  †  887 Highland Avenue  †  Fall River, Massachusetts 02720