Bishop O'Connell poses for a photo with Father Rjoy Ballacillo in Trenton's Cathedral after the Ordination Mass. Jeff Bruno photo
Bishop O'Connell poses for a photo with Father Rjoy Ballacillo in Trenton's Cathedral after the Ordination Mass. Jeff Bruno photo

Moments before he would become a priest, the Rev. Mr. Rjoy Ballacillo listened intently to the First Reading from Jeremiah.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you,” the Reading proclaims. “‘Ah, Lord GOD!’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak. I am too young!’ But the Lord answered me … To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.”

“When I heard that – that the Lord will always be with me – that gave me strength and courage to fulfill my ministry,” the 26-year-old said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Priestly Ordination of Father Rjoy Ballacillo

PHOTO GALLERY: Father Ballacillo's First Mass

Indeed, a supportive strength was palpable throughout St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, as Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated the June 5 Ordination Mass of Father Rjoy Ballacillo.

The voices of nearly 50 concelebrating priests and more than 100 faithful joined the diocesan Festival Choir in songs of faith during the Mass, which was livestreamed on all diocesan media platforms. In addition, Father Ballacillo’s family watched the broadcast from the Philippines, as they were unable to travel due to pandemic restrictions.

The new priest’s older brother – Father Roy Ballacillo, ordained for the Diocese of Trenton in 2017 – served as his vesting priest.

“I’m reminded so much of Jesus and the Apostles, especially the brothers – Peter and Andrew, James and John,” Father Roy Ballacillo said. “For a time, I thought my vocation to the priesthood is just between me and our Blessed Lord. Today, I realize it’s not just me. It’s between us – me and Rjoy and our Blessed Lord.”

Father Rjoy Ballacillo agreed.

“I know that he will be there for me. He is my role model. I am always following his footsteps,” he said, reflecting on how he entered the seminary at age 11 and followed his brother to New Jersey to prepare for the priesthood.

A Personal Gift

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell spoke on how the younger Ballacillo was chosen for the priesthood by God.

“God wanted YOU to receive this gift,” he preached. “Believe that with every fiber of your being. … The gift you receive this day will bring the God of heaven and earth to the altar, to bread and wine at your hands; will guide the consciences of those who listen to your words and see your example; will make believers of those who doubt and strengthen the faith of those who do believe.”

“The gift you receive this day will reveal the truth of God’s Word through what you preach … will lead you to counsel, to seek and to save the lost; will bring light to their dark places; will turn time into eternity as you mirror the face, the heart of Christ, who came to serve and not to be served,” Bishop O’Connell continued. “All this you will do, even when you stumble along the way, because of the gift you receive this day in love.”

At the conclusion of his homily, Bishop O’Connell called then-Deacon Ballacillo to the Promise of the Elect, and he declared his intention to assume the responsibilities of the priest. He walked over to the Bishop and kneeled, putting his hands in those of his shepherd and promised obedience.

Deacon Ballacillo lie prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary as the solemn chant of the Litany of Saints echoed throughout the Cathedral. He then once again kneeled before the Bishop so Trenton’s shepherd could impose his hands on the soon-to-be priest’s head, a gesture indicating the bestowing of the Holy Spirit. Afterward, the voices of the Festival Choir rang out as the Diocese’s priests each laid their own hands upon Father Ballacillo’s head.

Father Roy Ballacillo then bestowed the vestments of stole and chasuble to Father Ballacillo, and the two brothers embraced as an emotional Bishop O’Connell looked on.

Kneeling before the Bishop once again, Father Ballacillo had his hands anointed with the sacred Oil of Chrism and then wrapped in a linen cloth. 

After the Kiss of Peace – bestowed by the Bishop and then by the concelebrating priests who one by one embraced Father Ballacillo in a fraternal hug – the Mass continued with the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

A Faithful Presence

“Grace is fully alive,” a smiling Father Rjoy Ballacillo said after Mass. To the faithful of the Diocese, he pleaded, “Please pray for me, that I may become a humble priest, a faithful priest to all of you in the Church and a holy priest.”

His brother reflected on his parents and siblings watching the Ordination Mass from the Philippines.

“Our family has always been instrumental in bringing the faith to us,” Father Roy Ballacillo said. “On behalf of my family, I wish to congratulate him on his Ordination Day.”

He continued, “Rjoy has this wonderful desire to serve God, and especially to meet people where they are at, to bring hope, love and healing to their lives. I’ve seen how determined and committed he is. I’m so thankful to be his brother, and I admire that he never lost sight of his vocation.”

A few days after the Ordination, Rex Ballacillo sent an email in which he shared sentiments about Father Rjoy on behalf of family members in the Philippines.

"It was wonderful, joyful and awesome to watch another brother's consecration" to the priesthood," he said.

"Rjoy is the youngest among us. He is a good, lovable, diligent, intelligent, simple, kind, generous and religious person," Rex Ballacillo said.

He added, "A priestly vocation is the noblest and highest profession of man here on earth and worthy only for those who possess an excellent character and intelligence.

"A priest like Rjoy is mandated to perform earthly  undertakings concerning the salvation of man. So, we hope and pray that he will be a good priest worthy of its calling," said Rex Ballacillo.

Kyle Galante, a longtime friend of the Ballacillo brothers, proclaimed the Second Reading during Mass.

“To witness anybody saying ‘yes’ to God and leading a faithful life is moving,” said Galante, of St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel. “Father Rjoy has a very welcoming spirit, and I believe that his faith for building the kingdom and recognizing that we are all Church will come across in all that he does.”

Angela Kinlin became friends with Father Ballacillo when he was a seminarian serving a summer assignment in St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck.

“He has a beautiful heart,” she said. “He always felt like he had a calling to the priesthood, and he was determined to do it.

“I always used to tell him, ‘What you will do one day is the most awesome thing that could happen to anybody: turn the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ,’” Kinlin said.

Indeed, Father Ballacillo said he is looking forward to celebrating Mass, preaching and presiding over the Sacraments in his role as priest. “I want to be present in the lives of people both in the wonderful moments as well as the challenging times.”