The Big Day Approaches

Deacon Gabriel Cillo, MIC, will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, June 9, the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We spoke with him about his ordination and his call to the Marian Fathers.

Your ordination will be at St. Patrick's Parish in Yorkville, Illinois, followed by your first Mass, five miles away at St. Mary's Parish in Plano. Why?

The Marians run both of these parishes. I spent a year of formation working at them in ministry, and I fell in love with it. I worked at the parish grade school, and they just threw me into anything and everything. I have fond memories of being with the parishioners, the families, and visiting the students. It was the first time I ever really experienced the love of a parish because, when I was growing up in Florida, we didn't go to Mass as a family. I also thought it would be cool to give the parishioners in Illinois an opportunity to see an ordination.

What've you been doing to prepare?

A lot of prayer, spiritual direction, and just keeping my mind focused. This year, I've worked at St. Andrew's in Silver Spring, Maryland, three days per week, serving as a deacon. It involved writing homilies and bringing Communion to the sick and the homebound. I also helped with music ministry at the grade school. Sometimes I would visit classrooms just to say hello, be present, and speak with the youth at lunch time.

Are you nervous to be ordained?

I'm not nervous. My heart feels very full lately. I've been in formation for nine years now. It's satisfying to know that I'll be doing God's will in exercising the ministry of priesthood.

Who's going to be there?

My parents, my grandma, my brother, his wife, and their family, which is awesome.

Who has been most helpful to you in your formation?

One of them is Fr. Jim McCormack, MIC. He's the person I've gone to most for guidance, since he's my spiritual director. I met Fr. Jim when he was still a brother. I entered the Marians in the summer of 2009, the same summer he professed his perpetual vows. Then he lived in the house in Washington, D.C., when I was a novice, and I would go to him to ask questions, because he seemed to have a good knack for discernment. I would go to his room, and even though he was usually studying; his door was always open. At the time, I had no idea he was preparing for comprehensive examinations, but he always made the time for me, and he still does, even though he's busier now.

Who else has been helpful in your formation?

The Blessed Mother, big time.

My relationship with the Blessed Mother centers on truly knowing that Mary is always defending me, always protecting me, always there, 24/7, to help me stay near her Son, keep me out of danger, and encourage me along the way. She is God's Mother, and it's just amazing to know that. As a Marian, specifically, there's a special protection, a special closeness to the Blessed Mother, as if it's like a blanket or canopy over us. And just having that sense and identity of knowing that I'm a Marian, and that she has brought us into the heart of this community - that's a deep consolation to me.

Alongside her, the life and witness of St. Thérèse has really been a big help for me. Story of a Soul was the best thing I ever read in my life. Aside from the Scriptures, I had never read anything that impacted me so deeply. She had a realistic, honest understanding of how weak we are before God. Even though we're all poor before the Lord, she had great confidence that God is such a good and loving Father that He more than overcompensates for our weakness. He goes above and beyond to fill what's lacking in us. I had never heard that before in my life.

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