Over the next three days, these young men and women, boys and girls will be attending daily catechesis, prayer vigils, Eucharistic Adoration and Mass in the shadow of the Olympic stadium.
There were many proud moments during his sports career — which included a decade traveling with the national handball team and a year playing professional handball in Sweden — but none compared to how he felt this past June 10. On that day he did actually celebrate his first mass as a Roman Catholic priest, after completing his studies at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception on Long Island. More than a dozen IC friends attended Joe’s ordination the day before at St. Agnes Cathedral. Since then he has been serving as one of four priests at St. Killian Church in Farmingdale, a large congregation with a bishop in residence.
A few weeks after that momentous day, on August 3, Joe married Lauren Avellino ’04 — to her Ithaca College sweetheart, Jason Macy ’03; it was Joe’s first time officiating at a wedding. “Ithaca College was such an important part of our lives,” says Lauren. “We were blessed to have Father Joe initiate our life together.”
Despite the great change in his life, much has remained the same for this athlete and believer. “The spiritual journey,” Joe observes, “is very similar to training for an athletic event. They both take a great deal of discipline.”
Joe still works out when he can — he completed the New York City Marathon last year with a time of 4:11:12 — but now he views athletics as a way to reach and relate to people. “People love their priest,” he says. “There aren’t too many Olympic priests, or priests who played football at a great school. My experiences help me get into lives in a different way.”