One Sunday, I was assigned to preach at the 5pm Mass, not knowing that my father (who works at our parish as Director of Faith Formation) would be present to accompany his Confirmation class. We celebrated Mass, I gave my homily, and, when we processed out of the sanctuary, my father approached me while we were greeting the parishioners as they left the Church. He said, “Your words really moved me. I could really sense that the Holy Spirit was acting through you.” I thanked him and spoke to him awhile until it was time to close up.
It wasn’t until later that I started to reflect on how different things were between my father and me. It brought me back to my very first year in the seminary. It began with a retreat in Italy where, while choosing to go to the seminary, I also accepted the possibility of going to any of the Redemptoris Mater seminaries in the world. Being from Framingham, MA, I envisioned being sent someplace new, wanting to immerse myself in a new culture and a new language somewhere far away from home. When the moment came to announce our assigned seminaries, to my disappointment, I was sent to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Boston.
Despite my disappointment, over the years, I began to grow more and more fond of my hometown. The more I was exposed to the reality of the Church in Boston, the more clearly I could see how my upbringing was geared toward its mission. I discovered that coming from a Dominican mother and an Irish-American father has given me the opportunity to relate to the cultures that make up much of the faithful of the area. Also, I see how my vocation has been a sign for those in my family who are far away from the Church. Those who have no relationship with God, are now able to see God present through the fact that He has set me apart for His ministry.
What touched me above all, though I did not realize it until that 5pm Mass with my father, was that God had brought me back to Boston to rebuild those relationships that had been wounded over the years. Growing up I always thought myself to be eclipsed by the rest of my siblings. I thought that I went unnoticed and, in the moments when I did get my father’s attention, I felt he would speak, but never listen. I was so embarrassed by his faith and wanted to hide the fact that my family belonged to the Church.
Now, many years later, I have discovered joy by following Christ, by finally welcoming everything that my father sought to teach me as a child. I have been given a new way to speak to him, the chance to share the Good News and the message of Christ’s mercy with him. This has opened my eyes to see that my vocation is not only a means by which God infuses my life with meaning, but also the way in which He has sought to heal me. I think to myself now how great a blessing it has been to be sent to Boston, because perhaps, if I had been sent somewhere else, I would have tried to cut ties with my identity and create a new one by taking up some other culture, without ever accepting who I am and where I came from. Through this calling, God is teaching me to embrace my roots and to be no one other than myself, so that by discovering His unique love for me as I am, I can also bring His love to those He has entrusted to me.
The fourth of six children, Gabriel was raised in a Catholic family in Framingham, Massachusetts. By the end of High School, it was clear to him that God was calling him to the priesthood, but the difficulty was accepting the vocation. Gabriel first tried to fulfill his dream of studying art, but for some reason, the question of the vocation would not leave him alone. He decided to stop running and went to the Domus Galilee in Israel for a time of discernment. This decision was pivotal because it was there that Gabriel was able to say yes to God’s call. Gabriel has now completed his third year of seminary and has been ordained as a transitional deacon. He is currently serving at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Marlborough, Massachusetts.