New Marian Priest!
On the most fitting of feast days, Fr. Robert Vennetti, MIC, is ordained to the priesthood
In the very town in which he was raised, in the very church in which he was baptized 39 years ago, on the very feast day so central to his religious calling, Deacon Robert Christian Vennetti, MIC, stepped before the altar on Saturday, May 13, to be ordained a priest.
"I thank Mother Mary for leading me to the Lord," said Fr. Robert, following his Ordination at St. Mary's Church in Warren, OH, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Family members, friends, and fellow Marians packed the church for the culmination of a religious journey that began for Fr. Robert 10 years ago.
He was working as an engineer. He was unhappy with his life. He felt lost and confused. Then a co-worker handed him a book on Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared before three peasant children in Portugal 89 years ago. So moved was he by Our Lady's urgent call for prayer, reparation, repentance, and sacrifice, that Fr. Robert began to pray the Rosary daily as Our Lady had instructed.
"The Rosary helped me through some very difficult times in my life, and it helped me to put my trust in the Lord and Our Lady and to be open to God's call," said Fr. Robert.
That call led him to the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. After nearly a decade of spiritual formation, Deacon Robert proceeded down the aisle at St. Mary's at the start of his Ordination to a hymn most fitting: "Ave, Maria," an homage to Our Lady whose trust in God led to "the gift of the Son," the Lord Jesus.
The Very Rev. Fr. Walter M. Dziordz, MIC, Superior of the Province, headquartered in Stockbridge, MA, led the large gathering of Marian priests and brothers who traveled from around the Province to attend Fr. Robert's ordination. The Most Rev. Bishop Elliott Thomas, retired Bishop of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, was the principal celebrant and homilist.
Bishop Elliott noted how the readings for the Ordination Mass were chosen by Fr. Robert. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah talks about his ministry: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted …" (Is 61:1). In the second reading, from Hebrews, the role of the priesthood is defined: "No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God" (5:4). And in the third and final reading, from the Gospel of John, Jesus gives a new commandment to His people: "Love one another" (15:17).
The readings, said Bishop Elliott, reflect the man that Fr. Robert is and the priest he will become. He has been "anointed by the Lord," said Bishop Elliott, "an honor bestowed by God" in order that he share Jesus' love with the world.
Then, Bishop Elliott gave Fr. Robert this piece of advice: "When in the course of your ministry you meet souls that are hardened, who look tired or in despair, souls for which it seems you can do nothing, recommend them to Mary."
Following Holy Communion, Fr. John spoke his first words as a Marian priest. One of 11 children, he thanked his parents, Edward and Kathleen Vennetti.
"They sacrificed so much so that all 11 of their children would receive a Catholic education," he said. Father Robert then bestowed his first priestly blessing upon his parents.
"I'm on Cloud 9," said his father, a retired autoworker, following the Ordination. "It was the most impressive ceremony I've ever seen." Referring to the sacrifices he and his wife made on behalf of their children, Edward said, "If we had to do it all over again, we'd do the same thing, believe me. It was the best thing we ever did."
His wife, Kathleen, recalled the day when her son announced he had a spiritual calling.
"He told us he wasn't happy with what he was doing and that he wanted to help other people," she said. "He was an engineer, and it was just a job to him. Now he's very happy. He's where he belongs."
Billy Vennetti, one of Fr. Robert's eight brothers, said, "We're just so proud of him. I don't think my parents have ever been prouder than today."
"He always guided us," said Brian, another brother. "With as many of us as there were, he helped take care of us. We were all very close growing up. He was a role model for us."
"I remember when Fr. Robert was this tall," said Cy Manofsky, holding his hand up to his waist. While Cy and his brother Raymond waited in line to be blessed by Fr. Robert, they recalled meeting the young Robert in his grandparents' grocery store in Warren, a small city in northeast Ohio.
"He's always been a real humble guy, and thoughtful," said Cy.
"His whole family — they've always shown great love for each other and for the community," said Raymond.
Father David Lord, MIC, who served as the Marians' Vocation Director in Steubenville, OH, when Fr. Robert first inquired about the Marian Congregation, has fond memories of Fr. Robert.
"Above all else," Fr. David said of Fr. Robert, he is "a man of prayer. He would be in the chapel early and remain for long spells before retiring in the evening. He also has a great love for Our Lady and the Eucharist.
"People will find a man of prayer and learning who will help them draw closer to Christ and the Church," continued Fr. David, who now serves as Rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge.
Father Donald Calloway, MIC, said: "In my opinion, Fr. Bob's prayer life is something to be emulated. He is going to make a fine priest because he is prayerful and loves Our Lady so much."
Father Robert celebrated his first Mass the following day at St. Mary's. Father Matthew Lamoureux, MIC, with whom Fr. Robert went to seminary, delivered the homily.
"We had a lot of classes together in seminary, and he helped me out a lot with notes. Being able to read his notes was another thing," Fr. Matthew joked. "But he would have great insights from the classes."
Father Matthew then talked about the main role of the priesthood: "To give everything to God and the people."
"A priest is called to preach the truth of Jesus Christ," said Fr. Matthew, "especially today in which many people are dissuaded from the teachings of the Catholic Church by novels, movies, or TV shows. The priest and all people are called to have a strong prayer life and be connected to Jesus because He's the Vine and we're the branches.
"One of the best ways to hang onto the Vine, which is Jesus, is to hang on to this," Fr. Matthew said, holding up a rosary — the lifeline that rescued Fr. Robert a decade ago.
Father Robert is the second Marian of the Province to be ordained to the priesthood this year, following Fr. John Larson's ordination in February. Father Robert currently serves at St. Peter's Parish in Kenosha, WI.