WARWICK — “Vocation starts in the family and this is where I come from. It is a gift that my family gave me in faith and in love,” said Nathan Ricci, during an informal interview Monday night around the patio table in the garden of his parents’ home. For Ricci, 25, who will be ordained to the priesthood this Saturday, June 25 in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence, his formation has been a journey of great joy and peace — and he wouldn’t want it any other way. The priesthood, he says, is not just a gift for him, but for the Church and for his family.
Ricci expressed his heartfelt gratitude to his parents, Albert and Ann, and to his brother Matthew, who have been there for him each step of the way. Last year, during his diaconate ordination at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, as he stood over the threshold of the apostles, his entire family was there, offering prayerful support from the first row.
“I’m truly grateful to my parents for all they’ve done for me and the sacrifices they have made and their support,” he said. “They have been nothing but loving especially in the last remaining weeks before such a glorious day as ordination.”
Ann Ricci shared how excited she and her husband are for Saturday’s ordination, sure to be an unforgettable and long awaited day for her family.
“It’s been a long journey,” she said. “He was in Rome for four years, but it did go by so fast. We feel so blessed.”
Ricci graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick in 2008. He began studies at Providence College in 2008 and entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence in 2010, graduating from Providence College in 2012 with a B.A. degree in Political Science and Philosophy before continuing his seminary formation at the Pontifical North American College, and studying at Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome where he received a S.T.B. degree in Sacred Theology. He will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, June 26 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Dominic Chapel, Providence College.
As his parents reminisced about their son’s childhood, they recalled him pretending to say Mass as a little boy, and also dreaming about possibly becoming a school teacher or an architect, and even starring as “Oliver Twist” in his second grade theater performance.
“His sixth grade teacher said to him, ‘please remember me when you’re on Broadway,’” Ann recalled, smiling.
But, on May 18, the birthday of Saint John Paul II, who he has looked to as a spiritual father, Ricci truly felt called to the priesthood.
The Riccis are a large, Italian family. All of his aunts, uncles and cousins are very close, but he shared that his grandmother Eleanor, 95, has always been an inspiring example of how to live out one’s Catholic faith.
“She might be the most excited out of all of us,” said Albert Ricci, explaining that she is a woman of deep faith, who walks 2 miles to Mass each Sunday.
“She had this expression which is very simple, but it has always remained with me. ‘It doesn’t cost two cents to be nice.’ She realized that no matter what the situation — no money, no job, no success in the world could buy true compassion and genuine kindness,” Ricci said of his grandmother. “She’s always been an example of genuine kindness to everyone as well as a deep love for the Lord and others and I think she takes the greatest commandments seriously — to love God and neighbor as one’s self.”
Along with his devout Catholic faith, Ricci is a typical 25-year-old who loves long distance running, politics and philosophy. Ricci also recently picked up tennis while studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
During his time at PNAC, Ricci had a firsthand account of transitions in the Catholic Church that the much of the world watched from their television sets. In 2013, he stood on the roof of the seminary with fellow seminarians as they held up a giant American flag and waved goodbye to Pope Benedict as he flew across Rome. A few weeks later, he stood in St. Peter’s Square as Pope Francis was elected.
Ricci also served alongside Pope Francis as Master of Ceremonies during his papal visit to PNAC. He found the Holy Father to be extremely humble, kind and very serene in prayer during the Mass. Following the Mass, Ricci wished him “Buon pranzo,” which means “have a good lunch!”
“After each Angelus, he says ‘Buon pranzo,’” he shared. “As he was leaving the sacristy, I kind of yelled out, ‘Buon pranzo.’ He laughed and said ‘and also to you!’”
“He has been an inspiration, how profoundly he recognizes the sacred,” said Ricci. “You could tell he was really praying the Mass which serves as a great example for me approaching ordination that the sacred liturgy is the act of God by which we participate as instruments.”
Along with celebrating the Mass, Ricci shared that he is looking forward to hearing confessions, adding that he feels blessed to be ordained in the Year of Mercy.
“The sacrament of reconciliation is going to be at the cornerstone of our ministry as priests,” he said of those being ordained this year. “Pope Francis has really focused in on this as a way to bring people back to God’s love and mercy. This is something that I look forward to on June 25 and for the rest of my life.”