I am always impressed at the many and varied ways that God leads people into the Catholic Church. Dominican Father Raphael Mary Salzillo was just ordained a Dominican priest last month, years after his mother led him into the Catholic Church at the age of 15:
He grew up an evangelical Protestant here, suspicious of Marian theology. Now he’s a Catholic priest and a physicist. He’s even taken the name of the Mother of God…
Born Wesley Salzillo in 1976, [Dominican Father Raphael Mary Salzillo] grew up in this small coastal town. He’d been raised with a strong Christian faith by an evangelical mother. The father, a chemical engineer raised Catholic, would sometimes attend church with the family, but tended not to participate.
The mother yearned to have the family worship together, and despite what she had been taught about Catholicism as a girl by her minister relatives, she shyly rang the bell at Our Lady of the Dunes Church one day. She wanted to learn about Catholicism, thinking perhaps that would help her husband join the family worship…
Wesley was 15 at the time and had siblings of 12 and 9. The children were to prepare to join the church, too, and were at first “stiff and reserved,” Father Cunniff says. But after some gentle care, they seemed to embrace Catholicism. It was 1991.
Some would question the conversion of a teenager who became Catholic under the influence of a parent. Yet God worked with the future Father Salzillo and led him to embrace the Faith unreservedly. Along with Mary, I’m sure St. Monica also had a role in praying for the children of such a wonderful mother.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for priests!
Update: Father Raphael’s father clarifies some of the details of this story in the comments below.