Dream of Altar Boy Comes True

Deacon Bryan W. Belli is well aware that his ordination coincides with a very special day. On June 8, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Day, Deacon Belli will be ordained as a priest at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. "I am happy and excited," said Deacon Belli, whose dream to be a priest dates back to when he was an altar boy. "All my family and friends from California and North Carolina are ready to witness this special moment in my life," he said. Deacon Belli was born January 3, 1965 in Passaic, N. J. His father Charles Belli was the only son of second generation European immigrants, and his mother Kit Belli was the youngest daughter of Italian immigrants. When he was in fifth grade in St. Paul the Apostle Grade School in Iowa he became an altar boy. "I enjoyed being an altar boy from what I can remember," he wrote many years later in a brief autobiography. At that early age he had the idea of being a priest. "My mom says I came home one day after serving Mass and said to her that I’m going to be a priest just like Fr. Maceleny. She was so excited. The mood changed though about a year later. My mom said I came home and broke the news to her that I no longer wanted to be a priest. When she questioned me why, she says I didn’t have any concrete reason. She thinks that it was because that is when I started recognizing the girls in my class." Deacon Belli grew up in a very typical Catholic family. Every Sunday the family attended Mass, said grace at meals, had an Advent wreath and manger scene during Christmas, and about once a year the Pilgrim Virgin Statue came to his house for a week. The sense of faith had great support from his mother, who was devoted to the Blessed Mother. He entered Iowa State University to study mechanical engineering and later moved to Virginia to work for a computer company. But his religious life was always present and he was ready to respond to the call of God. "After a trip to Jerusalem in 1994, I felt that God was asking me to be a priest. The more I prayed, the more I knew I wanted to serve God," Deacon Belli remembers. Deacon Belli entered Mt. St Mary’s seminary and in the summer of 2001 was assigned to Blessed Sacrament Parish in Alexandria. "Bryan is very cordial, humble, reliable and very dedicated to his studies. He always leaves a good impression," said Father Tarsicio Buitrago, who met and worked with Deacon Belli at Blessed Sacrament. Deacon Belli would like to celebrate his first Mass at St. Catherine of Siena in Great Falls.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2002