Christopher Pinto
Christopher Pinto

Editor's Note: Taking the next step on his journey toward the priesthood, diocesan seminarian Christopher Pinto will receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders when he is ordained a deacon by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., during the 10 a.m. Mass, May 19, in St. Raphael Church, 3500 South Broad St., Hamilton. With his ordination, the new deacon will continue his seminary studies, as well as be assigned to parishes where he will assume duties such as presiding over weddings, Baptisms, wakes, funeral services and committals, proclaiming the Gospel and preaching homilies. Pinto is expected to be ordained a priest next year.

By Christina Leslie | Correspondent

Christopher Pinto, who once served as a public school band director and music teacher, will now follow a different maestro and adhere to a different score.

Pinto is the son of Anthony and Rita, and brother to older siblings, Michael and Lorraine. His home parish is Hamilton’s St. Raphael-Holy Angels. He attended Pemberton public schools, then graduated from then-Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey), Ewing, in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

Pinto enjoyed a 15-year career as a middle and high school band director in the North Burlington County Regional schools and served on the Pemberton Township Board of Education as a vice president and curriculum committee chairman for eight years.  Concurrently, he spent time as a personal aide to two New Jersey lawmakers: Congressmen Mike Ferguson and Jim Saxton.

An invitation to the priestly life, which he had realized in his teen years, intensified over time, Pinto said. “It popped up every five or six years because I couldn’t see myself retiring as a teacher, though I believed teaching was my ministry to build God’s kingdom.”

Weighing his future direction, Pinto resigned from his duties as marching band director “to give myself a little time to think,” he said, “but delayed the leap from stability for a while,” remaining school band director. During this period, he obtained a real estate license and almost fully restored a 1929 Sears and Roebuck home in Pemberton.

“After two years, I decided to either re-enter public policy or teaching,” Pinto, now 43, recalled. “Grateful for my newfound clarity, I went to a church for Eucharistic Adoration. It was just me and an elderly woman there.”

Chuckling, he continued, “Within 20 to 30 minutes, I heard an undeniable call from God: ‘Be a priest.’ I found myself saying aloud, ‘Oh, no, God, I thought we just settled this!’ and startled the woman who probably thought I was talking to her.

“But I felt an electric joy about the thought of being a priest,” Pinto said. “I sat on it for three weeks, but after that time the thought was just as joyous.” 

Informing his students about the momentous decision was difficult, he confided, but they understood how important the priesthood was to him. “I told my kids that I wanted to be in a place where I can talk openly about how my faith impacts my life,” he said.

Pinto has remained in touch with many former staff and students, noting, “It is tremendously moving to go back and serve as a minister of Christ to them.”

Pinto entered St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore, in 2013 and has served the Diocese of Trenton in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, and St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown. In addition, he has participated in hospital ministry at Baltimore’s University of Maryland Medical Center and Sts. Philip and James Church and University Parish, which ministers to Johns Hopkins University. 

Looking ahead to his May 19 diaconate ordination, Pinto declared, “I am most looking forward to walking with people at the best times, the worst times, and the everyday times as a fellow disciple of Christ.”