"Find a priest who understands English and doesn't look like Rasputin."
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY -- We recently had the privilege to attend the Mass officiated by a Filipino priest, Fr. Adolfo Novio, at the St. Patrick's Cathedral here.
Novio was among the 12 newly-ordained priests in New York and members of the Filipino community were very much excited to welcome him in the Big Apple.
They were ordained by New York Archbishop, Cardinal Dolan, at the Cathedral on May 23.
Known as "members of the Class of 2015 at St. Jospeh's Seminary in Dunwoodie," Novio's fellow newly-ordained priests were Fr. James Benavides, Fr. Sean Connolly, Fr. Jose Cruz, Father Ricardo Garcis, Fr. Christopher McBride, Fr. Adolphus Muoghalu, Fr. Matthew Reiman, Fr. Stephen Ries, Fr. Elvin Rivera, Father Ignatius Shin, and Fr. Jean-Marie Uzabakiribo.
Every young striver who has ever come to New York to make his way has experienced it, the exhilaration of their first glimpse of that celebrated skyline.
“I arrived in Newark,” Father Adolfo Novio recalled. “Crossing the George Washington Bridge looking at the skyline of Manhattan, wow! You know, the excitement!”
According to the Catholic New York, Novio, 36, was not arriving in the Big Apple to try to “make it” on Broadway or to land a position at a prestigious Wall Street firm. He sought to make it in a more celestial sphere. He was hoping to become a New York priest.
“It was a combination of fear and amazement,” he was quoted by the Catholic New York. “This was not my plan. I was really scared but I thought, what the heck, while I’m here I should enjoy New York!”
It was a long way from the orphanage he grew up in his native Philippines. Abandoned before birth by his father, he was raised in an orphanage operated by the Daughters of Charity.
His mother went there to have her baby boy and to work as a cook.
“When you grow up with the Sisters you are exposed to all religious activities, prayers and especially the Mass,” he explained. “I was fascinated with the work of a priest.” When he was a young teenager his mother left him with the Sisters to seek employment in Manila. Deciding it was better for the boy’s development, they transferred him to the cathedral rectory, where he continued his education while serving as an altar boy and even played the organ and the guitar in the cathedral.
After seeing Pope John Paul II when he visited the Philippines for World Youth Day in 1995, he decided to act on his growing sense of vocation to the priesthood.
“I saw this holy man. At that moment I said yes, this is my life. I will be happy in this life of a priest,” he told CNY.
Raised in the Vincentian tradition among the Sisters, he decided to join the Vincentian community, serving in Palau, Micronesia. He began to discern a calling to the diocesan priesthood and asked his pastor what he should do.
Because he had been working with American-run Catholic schools in Palau he held a U.S. visa, so his pastor recommended he apply to dioceses in the United States. He did, and soon heard from Father Luke Sweeney, then the archdiocesan vocations director, who invited him here for an interview. He arrived in New York Sept. 22, 2009.
He found that while New York may be one of the most frenetic cities on earth his own immediate environment at St. Joseph’s Seminary would be quiet indeed. “My first two and a half years I experienced a huge building with nobody here,” he said, noting the limited enrollment when he first arrived.
“Most of our time was just alone in the seminary. It was time for me to be able to discern. So it was a very prayerful transition for me as I began my new life in New York.”
In late 2011 Cardinal Dolan, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre signed a joint agreement making St. Joseph’s the site for the training of seminarians from the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
On Sept. 5, 2012 the Mass of the Holy Spirit marked the start of the academic year with nearly 100 seminarians in residence.
“When the merger happened, I said this is the real seminary where people interact,” he said. “The program here is just so excellent. We have seminarians from Africa, Europe Asia, Latin America, a mixing bowl of cultures.”
Kind of like New York, the archdiocese he will soon serve.
Father Novio celebrated his first Mass on May 24 at 3 p.m. at Our Lady of Pompei Church, Manhattan. Msgr. Romualdo Sosing, pastor of Holy Name parish, Valley Stream, was the homilist.