Ordination Class of 2024: Deacon Marcelo Gabriel Ferrari

This is the tenth 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.

BRIGHTON -- Deacon Marcelo Gabriel Ferrari believes that an education in marketing and rhetoric has prepared him well for the priesthood.

His skills as a preacher were honed by "countless hours" spent writing, memorizing, and reciting speeches for debate club at the Bancroft School in Worcester. He still remembers what his professor told him and his classmates on the first day of marketing class at Bentley University in Waltham.

"Everybody thinks marketing is just like a sleazy car salesman trying to sell you something," the professor said. "That's not at all it. Marketing, good marketing, is the truth well told."

Deacon Ferrari, a 27-year-old seminarian at St. John's Seminary in Brighton and transitional deacon at All Saints Parish in Haverhill, thinks that his professor's words apply to the priesthood.

"One of the great roles of priests is to preach the truth, to bring people to encounter the truth," Deacon Ferrari said, "and so now the difference is that it's the Truth with a capital T, and it's not just a product. It's a person."

Deacon Ferrari entered St. John's Seminary in 2018, after graduating from Bentley. He is the co-captain of the seminary basketball team, a position he said he was given due to his enthusiasm rather than his athleticism. He is a pianist who specializes in classical music, a coffee connoisseur, and a poet.

"My poetry is usually fruits of prayer," he said. "Typically, it's either small encounters that I had with Christ through others, but it's also sometimes moments of encounter with God in the most mundane circumstances."

Those moments can be a beautiful evening, a childhood memory, or a moment spent in prayer.

"Some experience of beauty, of truth, or goodness that's moved me," he said.

Deacon Ferrari has had many such experiences in his eventful, well-traveled life. When asked where he was born and raised, he laughs.

"It's a complicated question," he explained.

He was born in Mexico to a Spanish mother and an Italian father who worked for an international vegetable seed company. He spent a few years in California before he, his mother, and three brothers moved to France for his father's work. Starting at age 10, he attended boarding school in a small town in Germany at the foot of the Alps, which he and his classmates would climb up and ski down on the weekends. It was easy for him to make friends, but hard to say goodbye when he had to move again, he said.

He and his family would attend Mass weekly, sometimes in Europe's grandest Gothic cathedrals.

"We grew very, very close," he said. "Since we traveled, we were each other's closest friends. I would say that it was a huge benefit. Getting to know the different cultures was very beautiful, very helpful."

They spent their summers in Lucca, a picturesque walled city in Tuscany. There was a church on every other block, and he and his family attended Mass daily at the Sanctuary of Santa Gemma. Beneath the main altar were the remains of St. Gemma Galgani. At first, he was frightened to see Mass celebrated atop a tomb, but when his mother explained that the body was that of a saint, he later became an altar server at the church.

"It was just a beautiful, beautiful thing to realize over the years," he said. "How sacred that place was, how remarkable it was to be able to celebrate daily Mass, to serve at that altar with one of the saints literally praying with us."

At the age of 14, the Ferraris relocated to Massachusetts. Deacon Ferrari's father wanted his sons to be close to a wide range of universities.

It was when he moved to Massachusetts that Deacon Ferrari drifted from the faith. He was "practically a professed atheist" by 2016, when FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) invited him on a mission trip to Haiti.

"That mission trip changed my life and opened my eyes to the joy of the Gospel," he said, "to the riches that Christians have."

He worked in an orphanage for disabled children who had been abandoned in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Their parents had left them behind because they couldn't afford to care for them, and they were later found alone on the streets by the brothers who ran the orphanage. Deacon Ferrari was tasked with feeding a little blind boy. The boy started to choke, and when Deacon Ferrari patted his back, the boy gave him "this huge, huge smile, like none I have ever seen before."

"And it sort of dawned on me," Deacon Ferrari said, "that these kids, even though they have nothing, nothing at all, no family . . . They have a joy, unlike anything I've experienced on my own. And it was a joy that was more precious than any treasures the Earth had offered me thus far."

He found himself envious of the child, who "had everything despite having nothing." He went to the orphanage chapel, knelt, and made his "first honest prayer in years."

"That was the moment that brought me back," he said. "It's incredible."

After the mission trip, he began attending Mass and confessing regularly. Later, on a discernment retreat, he heard Father David Barnes speak. Father Barnes said that "saying yes to God really takes no more than 10 seconds," because that was how long it took for the apostles to drop their nets and follow Jesus. During eucharistic adoration, Deacon Ferrari knelt down and counted to 10.

"And when I got to 10, that was it," he said. "I said 'Alright, God. You want me to be your priest, I'll be your priest.'"

When he is ordained a priest this year, Deacon Ferrari hopes to teach people how to pray and how to recognize God's mercy.

"I know, having been forgiven much myself, how important it is just for people to know God's mercy," he said. "God's love and mercy and his desire to have a real, real relationship with us."