This past Sunday, August 3rd, at our 12:00 pm Mass we honored in a special way our own Deacon Neil Pirozzi in honor of his 33 years of service as deacon here at St. Gregory’s. Deacon Neil in his heartfelt, sincere, insightful homily at this Mass talked about how he started training as a deacon while Msgr. James P. McManimon, the fourth pastor of our parish, was pastor. It was Msgr. McManimon who invited Neil to study counseling.
In his homily Neil mentioned that one of the most important skills we can have is listening. He said that when we counsel others, while we sometimes can improve people we must always listen to others.
After Mass we had a light reception at which members of Neil’s family and his brother deacons shared thoughts and delightful stories about him. They described Neil as a person who always has a joy for life, a youthful spirit, and a smile on his face. Almost everyone mentioned that he loves golf! More importantly he loves his family.
Two of the deacons shared that their vocation was affirmed by Deacon Neil who told themconvincingly, “God has called you.” ‘You didn’t choose God, he has chosen you,’ he told them. In the homily at diaconate ordination the bishop usually says these or similar words before he lays hands on the men: the deacon “will help the bishop and his body of priests as a minister of the word, of the altar, and of charity. He will make himself a servant of all.” Ministry of the word for the deacon includes proclaiming the Gospel and preaching. Ministering at the altar includes serving at Mass and distributing communion to the faithful. Ministry of charity involves the many types of works of love that deacons carry out. In Deacon Neil’s case, it has involved counseling, doing marriage preparation, visiting the sick and ‘shut ins,’ and many other works of charity.
Neil’s family figured out that he has performed about 600 weddings over the course of his 33 years as deacon!
We gave Neil several gifts at the end of the reception, including the gift of 33 trees that will be selected and planted on our campus in his honor.
It is very special that Neil “retired” after 33 years of service. “33” after all is one of those mystical numbers like “7” and “3.” God created the world in 7 days. There are 3 persons in the Holy Trinity. They are numbers that traditionally have special spiritual, religious, biblical meaning. “33” is special because it is traditionally the age at which Our Lord Jesus died and rose. Those trees that we will plant also will symbolize the fruitfulness of the Word, the seed of the Gospel that Christians plant in others and which grows and bears fruit in people’s hearts. The trees will be symbolic of the fruitfulness of the Word as Deacon Neil has preached it during these last 33 years.
We are grateful to Deacon Neil for all that he has done for us; we wish him well and assure him of our prayers! And even though he is “retiring” I think we will still see him around the parish and at our liturgies.
|Deacon Neil (far right) and his wife Tommi (seated, second from right) are joined by our deacons, their wives, and our priests.|
Watch Deacon Neil's homily here: