By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
Father John R. DiOrio, 50, has served as a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Secane, Delaware County, since 2007.
The fourth of five children of Theresa and the late Thomas DiOrio was raised in St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Parish in South Philadelphia.
He was employed as an income maintenance caseworker for the Pa. Dept. of Public Welfare before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood in 1991. There, he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and master’s degrees in spaninity and theology.
Father DiOrio was ordained a priest for the Philadelphia Archdiocese in 1999.
Q. What are your chief duties as a parochial vicar?
A. As parochial vicar, my chief duty is to be an extension of the pastor, Msgr. George A. Majoros – representing him in a positive and Christ-like manner, working with his vision of the parish to help the people grow in a deeper relationship with Christ and each other.
Q. Describe a typical day in the life of a parochial vicar.
A. There are no two days that are alike but there are many similarities. For example: prayer, celebration of the Eucharist, Communion calls, emergencies, meetings, being present to the parishioners.
However, it is essential to start the day with prayers and the Eucharist.
Q. Please share some of your most cherished stories regarding your role as a parochial vicar.
A. I was celebrating a funeral Mass and instead of saying, “Jesus rose
from the dead,” I said He “rose from the bed.” The altar server cracked
up; however, I kept my composure.
Another funny experience was when I was celebrating the Easter Vigil
Mass and intoned the opening prayer on a very high note. All the altar
servers looked at me and started laughing. At that point, I laughed
There was the time I received a phone call from a social worker at the hospital. A woman who had bad experiences with the Church was dying. I visited her and, on behalf of the Church, apologized. In the midst of our conversation, she kept telling me that she was good. When she finished, I agreed that she was good, but I also challenged her as to whether or not she was a good Catholic.
She smiled and said, “Father, I can live with that because I have not always been a good Catholic.”
I assured her that it would be OK and that all she had to do was go to confession. She did and commented how much at peace she was.
I promised to visit again and did. Within a few weeks, she was sent to hospice, where I continued to visit her. I was present when she died. I still choke up when I think of this experience because I was the instrument that God used to bring her home.
Another time a woman stopped into the rectory office to take care of some business. While she was speaking with the staff, there was some confusion in the office. I asked if I could help. We took care of the business and then she asked if she could speak with me privately. She revealed her experiences with the Church, some good and some not so good, and that she was not practicing her faith in the way she knew she should.
I listened. She later joined the parish and stated the reason was because of my presence in the rectory and our interaction that day; she felt comfortable and welcomed in the parish.
I thanked God and was happy to know that again He used me as His instrument.
Q. What activities do you coordinate at the parish? Which is your favorite, and why?
A. I train the extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and altar servers, coordinate the youth ministry and CYO and serve as the spiritual director of the senior citizens group.
My favorites are those ministries in which I get to work with the children of our parish because they are so eager and hungry for God’s love in their lives. It energizes me and helps me to grow in my own spiritual life.
Q. What at Our Lady of Fatima Parish has brought you the most happiness?
A. The priests I live with in the rectory. We work well together, support each other and enjoy each other’s company, which leads to a happy, healthy, holy priest.
The children of our parish bring me great joy because of their innocence and love of God.
The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary whose example and love of God is a great witness and an inspiration to me to strive to become another icon of Christ.
Working with the people in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program: their enthusiasm and hunger for the faith is so life-giving and it brings me much joy knowing that I am helping them on their spiritual journey.
Q. What was the best advice you received from a fellow parochial vicar?
A. “Be the parochial vicar and just the parochial vicar by enjoying the people, being present to the people and not worrying about finances or condition of the buildings, because in time you will have those worries.”
Q. What might you say to encourage a penitent who has been away from the confessional for a significant amount of time and is afraid to return?
A. I would tell them that Jesus loves them and that there is nothing that they could have done that cannot be forgiven. And to trust in God’s love.
Q. Describe what it means to you, acting through Jesus, to absolve a penitent from sin.
A. First and foremost it is humbling whenever I administer any sacrament but especially the sacrament of reconciliation because here is a person coming to another person to tell them – confess – their sins. Knowing that because of the gift of priesthood I am able to absolve someone is unthinkable, and it reminds me of my own weaknesses. Again, it is humbling and fulfilling knowing that I am bringing Christ’s love and mercy to someone.
Q. What is your favorite Scripture passage?
A. John 21:15-19: “Jesus said to Simon Peter … ‘do you love me more than these? … Feed my lambs.'”
This passage from the Gospel of John is poignant because it is a reminder that if I truly commit to love Him then I must humbly submit to the Lord in my life.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.