Father Peter Schirripa
BRIGHTON -- Looking back, Father Peter Schirripa can see how his family planted the seeds of his vocation to the priesthood.
He grew up in Lexington with his parents, three brothers, and two sisters. His family was part of Opus Dei, and he received faith formation at their centers. He loved sports, and his favorite school subjects were history and English.
He studied history and education at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. The college is run by Benedictine monks, and some of Father Schirripa's classmates joined the order. This helped him develop admiration and respect for religious, but he did not see himself following that path.
While in college, he worked as an English and social studies teacher at a public middle school. He loved the "relational side" of teaching, and the students helped him learn about "the potentiality of people." But he also felt that something was missing.
"I went into teaching because I wanted to teach kids how to live well. And I was pouring myself into that. But the more I thought about it, in order to live well, Christ has to be part of that equation. And I felt that I couldn't do that in a public school," Father Schirripa said.
His vocation became clearer after he got involved with leading the Life Teen program at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Dedham.
"That was making me see that this love I have for people, and guiding young people in particular, could be such better suited if I were all in for Christ as a priest," he said.
One particular experience impressed upon him the role of the priest as an intercessor. In the summer of 2016, a colleague asked him to pray for her brother, who had been in an accident and did not have anyone else to pray for him. Father Schirripa was struck by the request and took it very seriously, going to a church every day to pray for this intention.
"As I was doing that, it became very clear I was doing the job of a priest. The priest prays for people in the world, especially for those who have no one to pray for them. So, it was bringing so much life to my day, this idea that someone was benefiting from these prayers, and the Lord was asking me to enter into that and shoulder this burden," Father Schirripa said.
He entered St. John's Seminary in the fall of 2017. He said he was surprised by "the beauty of communal life" there.
"Now I see that the community is what helps you discover if you're being called to be a priest," he said.
He had also thought he would have to give up his personal interests, such as sports. But the seminarians played sports with each other, including soccer and basketball.
"God calls your particular humanity to be a priest, so all of your human interests and gifts are tools he'll use to bring the Gospel to people. So now, on the other side, I see that everyone's healthy, human hobbies and interests only get enhanced and refined by the seminary," Father Schirripa said.
His first summer assignment was at St. Mary's in Hanover, part of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, which also has a Life Teen program.
During his time there, a Weymouth police officer, Sgt. Michael Chesna, was killed in the line of duty. His funeral was held at St. Mary's and was attended by hundreds of officers from across the country. Witnessing this, Father Schirripa "saw very tangibly that everything begins and ends with the priests."
"You have all these important people, politicians, police officers, all grieving, and they were looking to the priests for guidance. Observing Father Chris Hickey handle that really well was a great grace for me," Father Schirripa said.
His later assignments included serving at St. Patrick's Manor in Framingham, St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton, and St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in Cambridge. He also studied for a time at the Institute of Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska.
Father Schirripa said he is looking forward to showing people "that they belong to God, that they belong to the Church, and that their life matters deeply." He said it is powerful when a priest can do that, because he speaks in the person of Christ.
"I'm looking forward to using my priesthood to instill that in people, because people feel really anonymous and lost and unknown in the world, and I want to silence that lie," Father Schirripa said.
This article originally appeared in the April 7 issue of The Pilot.
Father Peter Joseph Schirripa
The home of Google and Microsoft, Mountain View, California, is where Peter Joseph Schirripa was born on Jan. 27, 1993. He has five siblings: an older sister, Bridget Siebecker, a younger sister, Danielle, and three younger brothers: Derek, Nolan, and Luke. St. Mary Parish, Dedham is his home parish.
He was home schooled for his elementary education, and then attended Jonas Clarke Middle and Lexington High Schools, both in Lexington.
He is a proud alumnus of St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., graduating with a degree in history and secondary education. He returned to his middle school alma mater, Jonas Clarke, Lexington, and taught English and Social Studies until entering St. John Seminary as a member of the Class of 2023.
His seminary formation has been at St. John, Brighton, and his deacon year was at St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish, Cambridge. Father David Barnes, St. John Seminary faculty member, will be the homilist at Father Schirripa's Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Mary Church, Dedham, on May 21, 2023, at 5:00 p.m.