Fr. Robert Di Nardo

Fr. Robert Di Nardo

July 13, 2015
JEAN KO DIN
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

TORONTO – The road to the priesthood for the first North American Spiritan to be ordained in 26 years began while flipping through the pages of a Catholic newspaper.

In 2003, Robert di Nardo came upon an advertisement in The Catholic Register that invited men and women considering the religious life to submit their contact information to connect them with vocations directors of religious communities across the country.

"I sent in my name to the database of people interested and . . . I was contacted by the Spiritans and the Redemptorists," said di Nardo.

He got together for coffee with Spiritan Father Mike Doyle and from that moment his relationship with the order developed organically.

He was ordained May 23 in Scarborough, Ont. Di Nardo celebrated his first Mass May 24, Pentecost Sunday and the Spiritan feast day.

Father Paul McAuley, the Spiritans provincial bursar, said welcoming

di Nardo to the Spiritan family is exciting for the whole community. In North America, Spiritan ordinations are rare. Most recruitment happens in Africa where the Spiritans are one of the largest mission congregations.

Di Nardo said he had always been attracted to the Church. During his childhood in Italy, his family's relationship with the Church was fluid.

"In Italy, we didn't so much differentiate between Church life and family life."

MOTHER'S ILLNESS

But when di Nardo moved to Canada at the age of seven he began to yearn to be in the Church. As an altar boy at St. Brigid's Parish in Toronto, he had a front row seat to the Mass.

"At that point, I felt that I wanted to do something with what was going on there," he said. "That grew as I got older, into my teens."

It was also fostered by his family, the parishioners and priests at the parish.

At age 15, di Nardo was already discerning with the Redemptorists. However, his discernment was put on pause when his mother grew ill.

"For the next four and a half years, that really took a lot of the energy taking care of mom and being with mom."

After her death from cervical cancer in 1981 when he was 20, he was exhausted.

During his young adulthood, he studied and worked in information technology. In 1996, at the age of 36, Di Nardo began to think about his desire for religious life again.

He entered the Spiritan seminary in 2004.

SPIRITUAL MENTOR

He was in formation at St. Paul's University in Ottawa for three years where he met his spiritual mentor Father Barney Kelly, who became his formation director.

"Barney is very special to me. He has been there with me since the beginning," he said. "He's been very influential in forming my priestly identity."

After his novitiate year, di Nardo travelled to Mexico in 2010 to study Spanish in preparation for his mission trip with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

"Missionary life really drew me," he said. "I saw poverty that I have not seen before." His jaw dropped when he saw the poverty in Haiti, and yet he was impressed by the people's smiling faces.

Di Nardo said he hopes to return to missionary work sometime in the future.