The Deacon's Bench

This item, out of Baltimore, has to be one of the more unusual vocation stories of this ordination season:

This year, about 440 men will be ordained into the priesthood, including 62-year-old Deacon Greg Rapisarda.

Deacon Rapisarda currently conducts Mass with his son, Father John Rapisarda. Two years ago, Deacon Rapisarda said he had to make a confusing adjustment to his lifestyle.

“I had to get used to calling my son ‘father,’ and then we’ll also share a relationship as brothers — as brother priests,” he said.

That’s a lot of talk about fathers, sons and brothers and who’s who to whom, but that’s how the family tree goes, 11 News I-Team reporter Lisa Robinson said.

“I always say John will do the baptisms, and I will do the funerals for the family,” the deacon said. “On my ordination on June 12, he will vest me.”

That means Father Rapisarda will present his dad with the symbols of priesthood — the special clothing he’ll need to wear during Mass.

“Dad’s love and participation in the church was familiar to us. It was a natural transition,” Father Rapisarda said. “The church was always part of our life — our participation in the parish, prayer at home, and we went to Catholic schools.”

Deacon Rapisarda said he stopped practicing law and moved to St. Mary’s Seminary in 2008, where he is currently studying to become a priest. It’s a journey he said he started after his wife of 38 years, Carol, died from cancer.

“My wife died in 2006. I had no intention of doing anything except living a long life with her, enjoying our grandchildren and traveling and continuing to work,” the deacon said.

While his wife was still alive, he was ordained a deacon, but when she died, he said finding a new mate was out of the question because church law says a widowed deacon must remain celibate.

When asked if he feels his wife has joined him in his journey, Deacon Rapisarda responded, “Absolutely. She was very supportive of me.”

He said he’s blessed to have been married and raise a family but is currently moving on to a new chapter in his life.

“I can’t explain it. In many respects, I feel like the blind man who, when they asked him about the miracles, he said, ‘I don’t know. All I know is once I was blind, and now I can see,'” Deacon Rapisarda said.

Read the rest right here. And God bless him.

UPDATE: The Catholic Review in Baltimore has a little bit more, from CNS:

Gregory A. Rapisarda of the Archdiocese of Baltimore is a widowed deacon with four children, one of whom is a priest. After his ordination, he and his son will be the first father-son priests to serve in the archdiocese since its founding.

Rapisarda is an older member of the ordination class, but he is not the only widowed deacon in the group. Others are James Reinhart of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., who has been a deacon for 27 years and is a father and grandfather, and D. Mark Hamlet of Austin, Texas, a deacon for 15 years, who was married for 37 years and has six children and 11 grandchildren.

Joseph Cretella, 71, who is being ordained by the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., has had a long road to the priesthood. He entered the seminary after high school, left after seven years, volunteered in the Peace Corps for two years, was married for 40 years and now has three children and seven grandchildren. His wife died three years ago and he re-entered the seminary in 2008.

With the permanent diaconate in place for several decades now, the church is seeing a growing number of priests with deacon fathers, according to the USCCB. More than one-third of the new priests have a relative who is a priest or a religious.

There’s also a very good profile of the soon-to-be priest at this link, from last year. Evidently, it was Baltimore’s Archbishop O’Brien who asked him to consider the vocation.

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