World Youth Day experience spurred Italian native to seek priesthood
Jun 9, 2015
Deacon Daniele Rebeggiani, one of nine men to be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington on June 20, says that as a priest he most looks forward to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.
“I think the best thing would be through the Eucharist and Confession to reach out to as many people as possible to evangelize them,” said Deacon Rebeggiani, a native of Italy.
His desire to become a priest, he said, was spurred by his evangelization efforts in the main square of Strasburg, Germany, while traveling to World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005.
“I had been going to World Youth Day since 1995, but the Cologne World Youth Day really made the difference,” he said. Participating in a mission there, he said, “I had such joy in announcing Jesus Christ. Something just clicked in me, and I entered the seminary.”
Deacon Rebeggiani attended that World Youth Day as a member of the Neocatechumenal Way. Founded in Spain in 1964, the Neocatechumenal Way is a Catholic movement dedicated to adult and family faith formation. An estimated 1.5 million Catholics belong to the Way in about 40,000 parish-based groups worldwide. The Neocatechumenal Way has also established more than 70 Redemptoris Mater diocesan mission seminaries around the world, including one in the Archdiocese of Washington.
Deacon Rebeggiani’s parents were members of the Way in Rome, and the future priest was active in the community. Growing up in the Way, he said “provided me a great Christian environment. I grew up with a lot of kids who had the same experience and world view as me.”
One of eight children – five sons and three daughters – born to Sergio and Laura Ferracuti Rebeggiani, Deacon Rebeggiani is the first of three Rebeggiani sons to be ordained. He has a brother studying for the priesthood in South Korea and another studying for the priesthood in Taiwan. Both are also studying in Neocatechumenal Way seminaries.
“Mom misses us, but she is very happy,” he said.
Deacon Rebeggiani’s journey to the priesthood was not without a slight detour. During his teenage years and later while studying at university, Deacon Rebeggiani said, “I started drifting away from the faith. The Church was always there, but little by little I stared to drift. I never left the Church, but my relationship was superficial.”
He said that pursuing studies that would be a means for success and having a girlfriend “are what I thought would make me happy.” It was then that he experienced what he called “an existential crisis.”
“I realized I was not happy. All the big plans I had for my life crumbled,” he said. “It was through a period of existential crisis … that the Lord came to my rescue. In this time, I became aware of how empty my life had become and how unhappy I was.”
Around that time, he attended the 2005 World Youth Day gathering in Cologne, Germany. After completing his studies and earning a degree in physics from a university in Rome, Deacon Rebeggiani entered the seminary. He said he sees compatibility between his previous studies and his future ministry as a priest.
“Studying physics gives you a sense of wonder at the universe. You can’t help but wonder who created this universe. If you pursue physics with intellectual honesty, it points to beyond this world,” he said. “Also, like physics, theology is a science.”
And, as he is ordained a priest, he said one thought will be going through his mind: “I will think that I am saying ‘yes’ one more time to the Lord out of gratefulness for all that He has given me.”
“My vocation is like winning the lottery. The Lord promised to make me happy, and He did. I have no doubt the Lord will continue to be faithful to me.”
His decision to become a priest, he said, “is the best thing I have ever done in my life. I have received one hundred-fold from the Lord what I have given Him. I have so much gratitude when I see how the Lord has been faithful to me. I feel blessed the Lord gave me this life – a life in which I feel very fulfilled.”
As a priest, he looks forward to celebrating Mass and offering the Eucharist to the faithful. “So many times I have gone to the Eucharist crushed and broken and came back rebuilt,” he said.
The new priest will celebrate his first Mass June 21 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Jerome Church in Hyattsville.
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