Homegrown vocation

Deacon Chris Vaccaro was born Aug. 4, 1978, into a large Catholic family with six siblings who along with his parents, Vincent and Frances, supported his dream of becoming a priest. The Vaccaro family laid the foundation of his vocation by praying together and attending Mass as a family. This bond created an atmosphere that Deacon Vaccaro found to be very important in his calling to the priesthood.

"My parents were very influential in my decision to become a priest," Deacon Vaccaro said. It was this family involvement and support that promoted a steady progression toward his ordination this Saturday at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More.

In the fifth grade, Deacon Vaccaro began serving Mass at St. Michael Church in Annandale. His service extended through the eighth grade at St. Michael School and high school at Bishop Ireton in Alexandria. When he went to study psychology at Marymount University he returned occasionally to serve Mass at St. Michael.

"It was an unusual honor," Deacon Vaccaro said of his post-high school altar serving duties. His service as an altar boy was very important in the formation of his vocation.

Deacon Vaccaro became interested in the priesthood in the eighth grade, and the influence and support of Fathers Dennis Kleinman and Richard Mullins, both assigned to St. Michael when Deacon Vaccaro was an altar boy, was invaluable in nurturing his vocation.

If the priesthood and his faith were his first love, college basketball was his second. Deacon Vaccaro had refereed high school basketball for many years, earning accolades in the demanding field. It was a tempting life's work.

"I was invited to the SEC referee camp to be evaluated for Division I consideration," he said. The SEC invitation coincided with his acceptance at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. He needed to make a decision and he chose God.

He still referees high school basketball at area public schools and hopes to continue after ordination.

For the past year Deacon Vaccaro served as a transitional deacon assigned to the cathedral. He was given a lot of responsibility.

"I could do almost everything a priest could do," Deacon Vaccaro said, "It's very humbling. There's so much responsibility." He also realizes that this life he chose is a great sacrifice and something "that will not be easy."

In addition to performing the duties of a deacon - preaching the Gospel, blessing marriages and presiding at wakes and graveside services, he loves teaching at St. Thomas More Cathedral School, something he hopes to continue wherever he's assigned.

When Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde ordains Deacon Vaccaro to the priesthood it will be the culmination of years of familial love and support and the beginning of many years of service to the Arlington Diocese and its faithful.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2008