A true pilgrim of Christ who is at home with Catholics halfway around the world as he is with parishioners in his home parish, the sole seminarian from the Diocese of Orlando to be ordained to the priesthood this year is Deacon Nicholas Anthony Tocco. Deacon Nick graduates from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach on May 12 and he will be ordained a priest by Bishop John Noonan at St. James Cathedral in Orlando on May 28.
Deacon Nick was born in Manhassett, New York. At the age of four his family moved to Florida and joined Annunciation Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs. Deacon Nick graduated from Lake Brantley High School in 2002 and entered the University of Florida, but he soon began to question the direction his life was taking.
“I was born and raised Catholic but then I left the Church in high school,” he said. “Basically I had a big conversion in college. It was my first year at University of Florida and I was doing a pre-med program and I fell in love with the Lord. I was up at night reading the Scriptures, reading the Bible. Reading the words of Christ struck me in such a way that I knew if anything was true–this was true.”
Annunciation pastor Monsignor Patrick Caverly, who encouraged Deacon Nick to consider the priesthood when the young man was rediscovering his faith as a college student, describes Deacon Nick as “outward looking as well as inward looking.”
“He is interested in the larger Church as well as his own diocese,” said Monsignor Caverly. “We are very proud of him and we hope that others will follow in his footsteps.”
In 2003 Deacon Nick was admitted to St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, and by the next summer he had saved up enough money to make a five week pilgrimage to Israel on his own. “What I went there looking for was an encounter with Jesus,” he said. “I was begging God to help me understand who Jesus was and what better way than to go to Israel and walk where He walked and pray where He prayed…When I came back from Israel I felt that I got to know the Lord more deeply.”
In 2005, Deacon Nick traveled to Cologne, Germany to join more than one million young people for the first World Youth Day attended by Pope Benedict XVI. “The Church is alive and thriving and it’s growing fast. When you go to World Youth Day you can see it,” he said, adding that the highlight of that experience was spending a night in adoration of the Eucharist under a tent with thousands of Catholics from different parts of the world.
After Deacon Nick’s graduation from St. John Vianney College Seminary in 2006 he entered St. Vincent de Paul. He completed a Clinical Pastoral Experience course at Tampa General Hospital during the summer of 2008 and then did a pastoral year with Father Matt Mello at Church of the Resurrection parish in Lakeland. He is currently assigned to St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Cathedral in Palm Beach on weekends, and will be begin his first assignment as a priest at St. James Cathedral in Orlando starting July 1.
“Every day is such a precious gift. I’m constantly being overwhelmed by the beauty and glory of God every day,” said Deacon Nick. “I cannot wait to really give myself in love as a priest.”
For more information about Deacon Nick Tocco read the May 20 edition of the Florida Catholic.