Ordination Class of 2024: Deacon Matthew Harrington

This is the seventh article in a series profiling the 11 men who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on May 25, 2024.

BRAINTREE -- He is now on his way to being ordained a priest, but once upon a time, Deacon Matthew Harrington was "a pretty-bored second grader" attending Mass with his family at St. Adelaide Parish in Peabody.

He was looking for something to do, and when he saw that the parish needed altar servers, he thought to himself: "I can do that." He was "intrigued" by the rituals of the Mass, and his love for it grew along with his faith.

"God really affirms us, often, in what brings us great joy," said Deacon Harrington, a 28-year-old seminarian at St. John's Seminary in Brighton. "Doing priestly things and being involved in ministry was such a joy for me, especially altar serving and being involved in the sacred mysteries."

The more he delved into his faith, the more at peace he felt.

"That's how God reveals that," he said. "He speaks through what we love and what brings us joy."

A self-described "North Shore kid," Deacon Harrington grew up in what he described as an ordinary Catholic family. He was born and raised in Peabody with his parents, two brothers, and a sister, and they attended Mass together every week.

"It was a very close family," he said, "very involved."

On Friday nights, he would shoot at the Danvers Fish and Game Club, where he was a "pretty decent" marksman. He was involved in the Boy Scouts since first grade, and his Eagle Scout project was building outdoor Stations of the Cross at St. Adelaide's. When he is ordained a priest, he will return to his home parish to celebrate his first Mass.

"It's very special," he said. "I've been continuously involved there for a long time."

He briefly attended Catholic schools but was homeschooled through much of high school. After graduating, he went straight to Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Providence. He also studied philosophy and political science at Providence College, where he befriended some Dominican friars and contemplated joining their order.

"It kind of made me question what kind of priest I'm supposed to be," he said.

After graduating from Our Lady of Providence, he spent a year at St. John's Seminary, but left. He wasn't sure whether he was truly called to be a priest. He used his seminary education to find work teaching theology to high schoolers at Sacred Heart School in Kingston, and religion to middle schoolers at St. John the Baptist School in Peabody.

In the three years he spent teaching, the men who were once his fellow seminarians had been ordained to the priesthood. At one's first Mass, he met up with his old friends and told them what he had been doing with his life. They told him that "as long as you're doing God's work," they'd be happy for him. Deacon Harrington told them he was indeed doing God's work.

Then, as he entered the church, he thought to himself: "Oh, shoot. That's not true."

He felt that he was lying not only to the priests, but to himself.

"I knew God was calling me to be a priest and I needed to go back to that," he said.

Deacon Harrington re-entered St. John's Seminary in 2021. He is currently a transitional deacon at the Christ by the Sea Collaborative, serving Cohasset and Hull. In his spare time, he likes to play board games and watch TV with his fellow seminarians. His favorite show is "Avatar: The Last Airbender," a martial-arts cartoon. He also enjoys reading novels and art history books, though he said that reading for fun isn't easy when reading makes up so much of his work as a seminarian.

As a priest, he wants people to be aware of Christ's presence in the Eucharist and Christ's forgiveness through confession. He called these sacraments "such a huge part of what the world needs right now."

"The reality is that Christ sets us free and helps us live our fullest life," he said. "The rules of religion don't actually restrict us but are a guide."