Rev. Mr. Ballacillo distributes the Holy Eucharist during his diaconate ordination Mass celebrated last year in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Craig Pittelli photo
Rev. Mr. Ballacillo distributes the Holy Eucharist during his diaconate ordination Mass celebrated last year in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Craig Pittelli photo
When Rjoy Ballacillo was ordained a traditional deacon last year, he said he “felt real joy in knowing this is what God wants me to do.” His 16-year journey to the priesthood will culminate June 5 when he is ordained a priest by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., during a 10 a.m. Mass in Trenton’s St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral. The Mass will be livestreamed on all diocesan media outlets, including YouTube.com/trentondiocese.

The Rev. Mr. Ballacillo shared that there is a “feeling of peace, prayerful and joyful at the same time,” in knowing that the time is at hand to “be a good shepherd” to the faithful of the Trenton Diocese.

Abiding Support

Rev. Mr. Ballacillo, 26, grew up in Abra, Philippines, the youngest of four children born to Fernando and Marilyn Ballacillo.

“I am so blessed to have a great family,” he said. “I think vocation starts with family. My parents were my first teachers, [and] we were very active in the faith. We went to Mass as a family. They wanted us to experience what it means to be Catholic,” he said, referencing himself and his brothers Rex and Roy, and sister Honeylet.

He noted that his parents wanted their children to have a Catholic education, recalling that as a third-grader in Holy Cross School, he became an altar server. “I was really introduced to liturgy and all that went with it,” he said.

Role Models of Faith

Drawing inspiration from his older brothers who were pursuing priestly vocations of their own, Rev. Mr. Ballacillo was 11 when he entered St. Joseph High School Seminary, Abra. That was followed by college studies in San Pablo Seminary, also in the Philippines, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy.

When he was 21, he followed his brother Roy to New Jersey to prepare to serve as a priest for the Diocese of Trenton. Father Roy Ballacillo, then a seminarian, was ordained a priest for the Diocese in 2017. He now serves as parochial vicar in St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford.

Rev. Mr. Ballacillo said that over the years, his older brother became his “number one role model,” leading him to parish ministry.

In preparation for parish life, his formation has included: earning a master of divinity degree from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa; serving summer parish assignments in St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Wanaque, and St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck; a pastoral year assignment in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, and a diaconal year assignment in St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor.

When it came to his hopes and prayers for parish life, he spoke of the encouragement he has gained from Bishop O’Connell; Father Dennis A. Apoldite, pastor of Sacred Heart, Trenton, which Rev. Mr. Ballacillo regards as his home parish; Father Jeffrey E. Lee, pastor, St. Mary, Colts Neck; Father Christopher Piccolo and Father John Bogacz, pastor and parochial vicar of Our Lady of Good Counsel; Father John Large, pastor of St. Theresa Parish, and Father Mick Lambeth, pastor emeritus of St. Theresa Parish.

From them, he “learned what it means to be a shepherd, being with parishioners in good times and bad, praying with them and helping them in their spiritual journey to holiness,” Rev. Mr. Ballacillo said.

“The people in the parish assignments were really good people,” he added. “I want to thank them for their support and prayers.”

He expressed warmth for how the faithful have made it through the past pandemic year. “They are always in my prayers. I think of what it meant to reach out to them in livestream Masses, to let them know that they are loved and cared for and that we miss them and want them to come back.”

Prayers From Near, Far

Though pandemic restrictions are easing, as was the case last year at his ordination to the diaconate, the only family member present will be his brother.

But Rev. Mr. Ballacillo takes heart knowing that his parents, siblings and family members will be watching from afar his Mass of Ordination on the diocesan livestream.

“Even if they cannot come, I know they are praying for me,” he said. “I’m really blessed to be ordained as a priest, and it’s an honor to be ordained for the Diocese.”

Father Ballacillo said he is overjoyed to be the in-person family representative and honored to be his brother’s vesting priest. “I am so happy for my brother and proud of him. He worked hard to be able to get through formation.”

“I’ve seen him grow. My prayer for him is that he will find joy and happiness in the priesthood. I know this is what he wants. And his ordination is what people need now, a message of hope.”