Francesco Marrone Photo by Emanuel Pires, archdiocese of Toronto

Marrone believes he was born to serve

  • April 22, 2012

TORONTO - Francesco Marrone believes his call to the priesthood began in his mother’s womb.

The oldest child in his family, he has nine younger siblings, and another eight — including a twin brother — who didn’t make it. It was clear to him that God wanted him alive, and for a reason.

For a while, however, that reason wasn’t entirely clear to the native of Verona, Italy. Growing up, his large family endured a myriad of difficulties, from financial problems to parental marital woes. Furniture began to disappear from Marrone’s home as his family grew deeper in debt, which only worsened his parents’ already troubled marriage. Nevertheless, Marrone recalls his father sharing a lesson that would stick with him to this day.

“I tried to do my will and I made a mess,” Marrone’s father said to him. “So do the will of God and you will be happy, really.”

“As if that was easy,” Marrone, 30, told a crowd of nearly 2,000 at this year’s Ordinandi Dinner.

While Marrone’s father lived by his own words, eventually restoring his marriage, Marrone himself didn’t. More difficulties arose at school, where Marrone gradually forgot the lesson his father had taught him. He became arrogant, angry, violent and selfish. He didn’t accept who he was and blamed God for his troubles.

“All of a sudden, I became blind,” said Marrone. “I was blind because I could not see the love that God had for me and how He had taken care of me.”

Marrone remained “blind” through high school and university, until he gradually began to realize that his life and history were in fact not awful. With the help of the Neocatechumenal Way, an organization within the Catholic Church that forms young Christian adults, Marrone rediscovered his faith — and with that faith, the person he wanted to be. He reconciled the relationships he had soured with his parents and siblings and found a “joy and peace” in his heart that he had never experienced before.

With the Neocatechumenal community, Marrone travelled to Paris for World Youth Day in 1997, and again in 2000 in Rome. The following year, he finally accepted the call that had been growing since his conception and joined the Redemptoris Mater, agreeing to be sent anywhere in the world that he was directed.

After a decade of formation in Toronto at Redemptoris Mater Seminary, Marrone is now preparing to be ordained to the priesthood on May 12.

“So how could I ever thank Him for all He has done for me?” Marrone asked the Ordinandi Dinner crowd. “There is only one thing: to give back my life to the one that, from day one, wanted me to be happy.”

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