This is the sixth in a series of articles profiling each of the nine men who will be ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on May 21. Earlier articles in the series are available at TheBostonPilot.com.
God sometimes calls in very unexpected ways.
At least that's the experience of Deacon Patrick Fiorillo. Deacon Fiorillo grew up in Franklin. The youngest child in a house with three boys, his family had always been parishioners at St. Mary Parish in Franklin.
As a child, Deacon Fiorillo never considered the priesthood. Instead, after graduating high school, he attended the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, where he studied music production and technology.
It was there that God called him.
"I very unexpectedly found a very active faith community in the campus ministry program," Deacon Fiorillo recalled. Through his five years of college, he became very involved in the Newman Club, even serving as a member of the executive board.
"I really experienced God's graces in a very powerful and personal way, which set me, spiritually, on a new and unexpected path," he said.
He developed close friendships, friendships that were "mutually supportive in both our spiritual lives and in our vocational discernments," he said, adding that his faith "became the center" of his life.
Then one day, after watching the short documentary "Fishers of Men" for the second time, Deacon Fiorillo's life forever changed. "Fishers of Men" is a 2006 documentary produced by Grassroots Films that shows the many facets of the priesthood in the today's world.
"I felt my heart being very strongly attracted to the image of the priest," he said. "I realized then that so many of my gifts and things that I was pursuing in my life would be perfectly fulfilled in the priesthood."
His final year in college, Deacon Fiorillo applied and was accepted to St. John's Seminary. Just a few months after graduating the University of Hartford, he began his studies at St. John's.
According to Deacon Fiorillo, his parents "were not too surprised" when he told them of his plans.
"Considering the turn my life had taken, I think they kind of expected it," he said.
At St. John's Seminary, he found what he was looking for, and what he will most miss once he is ordained -- "the structure of the life that avails us of so many opportunities to grow in so many ways: intellectually, spiritually and humanly."
Two years ago, Deacon Fiorillo began to put into practice all he learned at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish in Waltham, the parish where he currently serves as deacon.
"In the first month there, I was able to apply and build on just about every single pastoral insight that I had learned in the four years prior," the 29-year-old said.
He is looking forward to continuing serving the Church as a priest.
"As a seminarian, our ministry is not even part-time -- just once a week -- so being able to be focused totally on ministry, being able to form deep, long-term relationships with people, being able to walk with them in their journey and accompany them in their relationship with God is really what I am most looking forward to," he said.
He realizes that there are many challenges ahead, most notably "a secularism that has a particular rejection of our Christian past." But he feels he is ready to face that challenge.
"Over the six years that I have been here, I've grown in such a way that I can say that my passion for ministry is a gift I have been given," he mused.
"Past popes have called us to this 'new evangelization,'" Deacon Fiorillo continued. "It's new in the sense that we are dealing largely with a population that has either fallen away from the Church or that brings negative prejudices to the Church. It is our duty to reach out, to minister, to bring these people to God."