I was born in Crosby, a small town of about two-thousand people, in the heart of Minnesota, which sits between lakes and iron mines. I am the fourth of seven children, and I have three brothers and three sisters. According to the stories I have been told, in the months that preceded my birth, my mother was very troubled: Bill Clinton was about to be elected president of the United States and this would have negatively influenced my life, she thought. One day, while she was jogging, she heard a holler from a van that pulled up next to her: “Marcie! Why are you crying?”. “John, I’m scared to bring a child into this world!”. “Marcie, get in! Let’s go get a cup of coffee.” After three years, John and his wife would become my godparents (I was baptized at three years of age because, at that time, my parents frequented a Protestant church.) Deep down, the problem was not Clinton, but that we were alone in the world, and, for this reason, easily frightened. And yet, from that day forward, the dominant note of my life would not be solitude, but the experience of being involved in a life of communion.
In 1997, because of my father’s work, we moved to St. Paul, the capital of the state. These were difficult years; you could even say years of crisis. After the baptism of my cousin, my mother approached the priest and said to him: “We came back to the Catholic Church, but how is it that within a Church that is so large, we feel alone?”. He responded by inviting her to the vacation of the Movement of Communion and Liberation.
And yet, from that day forward, the dominant note of my life would not be solitude, but the experience of being involved in a life of communion
I grew up within this event of salvation, but, as a young child, what was I seeing with my own eyes? A small group of people who would travel long distances to get to my house (they were the first to come to our home) with the desire to stay with us. They brought groceries for a meal and had a meeting in the living room, while I spied on them, curious who these people were, a bit strange, but so fascinating. People who were not afraid of life, but, rather, faced it with passion.
When I was twelve, I began to intuit that God was calling me. Our pastor had just changed. I could see that the new priest was a normal man, even a fragile one, and yet, he was an instrument of greatness. For a series of Sundays, I found within myself the conviction that God had already thought of my life, not as something “already written,” but as a proposal designed particularly for me, if I would want to belong to Him. This intuition was different from my plans to become a professional hockey player or an airplane pilot, because it did not come from me, even if it profoundly touched all of my person like a great promise.
When I was fifteen, I began to go to the group of high schoolers of the Movement in Crosby, and it led me to travel around the United States and Canada. These were decisive years. I remember that at the end of an assembly, one of the adults said to us: “But could you all say these same things also to the women in Africa who have AIDS? What does what we are living have to do with them?”. In this way, we were pushed to arrive at the ultimate truth of the experience that we were living together. One could intuit that, even if there were only ten of us, our friendship was situated at the heart of the world and pointed to its ultimate horizon. One year, an Italian priest came to our vacation. His name was Fr. Luca and he served in Boston. He didn’t speak much, but I was fascinated by him and by the things he said to us. I could see that he was a peaceful man, and in love with the Virgin Mary. I asked him one day to tell me his story and it profoundly struck me when he said: “I won the lottery!”. “What do you mean?!”, I responded. And he said: “Receiving the call to the priesthood!”. That intuition I had had as a child returned to me again, and I responded in my heart with wonder: “I too have won!”. In 2012, I went to study Philosophy at a university in Washington D.C., where I received the gift of many friends, among whom was also Fr. Pietro. He helped us to study and to become better friends amongst ourselves, always transmitting to us the fire of mission. During the first two years of college, I tried to keep a firm grip on my life, but then, thanks to the encounter with a girl, I realized that, deep down, I desired to love not within my measure, but through risking on that road that God had proposed to me as the way for loving, or rather, to give my life as His instrument in the priesthood. In this way, during the final two years, I began to live according to this hypothesis and to experience a foretaste of the beauty of this vocation for me. In 2016, in the end, I arrived in Rome to begin my formation at the seminary.