Persistent calls lead seminarians to lives of service

Apr 18, 2024
Diocese of Orlando seminarian William Burns receives the Book of the Gospels from Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito during the transitional diaconate ordination April 13, 2024. (PHOTOS BY TOM TRACY | ST. VINCENT DE PAUL SEMINARY)

BOCA RATON | Diocese of Orlando Deacons John Triolo and William Burns are one step closer to the priesthood, after their Ordination to the Diaconate, April 13, 2024.

Held at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Boca Raton, the men were two of 10 seminarians from six Florida dioceses who committed themselves to a life of service to the Church. The two shared their stories of long journeys, struggles and graces on their way to becoming Christ bearers.



“I think I always knew,” said Deacon Triolo of his vocation. Coming from a devout Catholic family, he moved with his family from Long Island, New York, to Florida in 2006. They became parishioners of Corpus Christi Parish in Celebration when it was only established for one year. At that time, Father Gregory Parkes, now bishop of St. Petersburg, was pastor. Deacon Triolo saw him as a role model.

Seminarian John Triolo becomes a deacon as Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach imparts the Laying of Hands and Prayer of Ordination. (PHOTOS BY TOM TRACY | ST. VINCENT DE PAUL SEMINARY)

“I saw him as a Christ — the way he celebrated Mass, his humility and his leadership in prayer, owning the liturgy and pastoring the community,” Deacon Triolo recalled. “I was really inspired by him. It made me want to be more active in the parish.”

This led him to a deeper connection with the Eucharist, a deeper understanding of the Mass, and further involvement in ministry. On the dedication of Corpus Christi’s new church building in 2010, Deacon Triolo recalled lining up for the Mass procession and a priest coming up to him. It was Father Miguel González, the vocations director at the time.

“He came up to me with that smile and charm and said, ‘Have you ever thought about becoming a priest?’” Deacon Triolo recalled. “Priesthood was not even close to my mind. I said, ‘Are you talking to me? I’m not worthy to be a priest or holy enough.’”

At that time, he was a junior in high school. The question had lingered, and his discernment began. His first vocations retreat dispelled his ideas of seminary.

“I thought a seminary was a place where these holy men would just be praying 24 hours a day, in the dark. But it happened to be guys just like me with a desire of serving the Lord and a love for the liturgy and prayer, trying to grow in holiness.”

It made an impact, but he still wasn’t quite ready to say, “yes”.

During that time, Father Richard Trout became pastor and took him under his wing, showing him the joys of priesthood. Deacon Triolo went on to get a degree in hospitality management. On a second retreat his senior year in college, he sat in the chapel alone.

“I heard a small voice say, ‘Come, follow me.’ I knew it was from the Lord,” he said. He applied to seminary at peace with his decision.

But a few years later, he found himself struggling and chose to leave. It would be two years before his return.

On April 13, he professed his unwavering commitment.

Diocese of Orlando seminarians John Triolo, left, and William Burns, prepare for their Ordination as deacons at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Boca Raton, April 13, 2024.

“After all that I’ve been through, the trials, struggles, graces and joys within those two years that made me be the man and deacon I am today, I ask myself, is this real?” he said. “I take all those experiences with me in my ministry and my relationship with the Lord. I really feel sustained in who I am as a beloved child of God, as a servant of the Lord, which I’ve now been ordained to be.”

As he offered the cup of Christ’s blood to parishioners at Corpus Christi the day after Ordination, he said it was a powerful experience to see the faces of those who fervently prayed for him over the past six years. He sees his mission as that spoken of in the Canticle of Zachariah (Lk 1:76), “You my child shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way.”

“I really see that as what my diaconal ministry is — to go before the Lord to prepare for His coming to us to encounter us, to bless us, to sanctify us,” he said. “I see myself being in the shadows as a servant to announce and prepare His way, His mission of salvation and hope.”



Deacon William Burns’ path to the seminary was arduous and long. His parents moved from Massachusetts to Wildwood when he was 8 years old. St. Vincent de Paul Parish was not even a mission church then, so the family drove to St. Lawrence in Bushnell.

Following his Confirmation, he became active in the parish. After high school and living at home, he didn’t know what to do next.

“Part of me felt the call to priesthood, but I was afraid,” he recalled. “My concerns included the perceived loneliness of a life of celibacy as well as other perceived restrictions of the life of a Catholic priest.”

He hoped community college would give him time to sort things out. Then he started learning about lay people who taught theology and had careers in the Church. He thought that was the way to go.

“It was a way of saying I can stay in the orbit, but not make that commitment,” he said.

He pursued a degree in religious studies from St. Leo University and returned to ministry in St. Lawrence before going to Boston College of Theology and Ministry where his masters focused on sacramental and liturgical theology. Homesick, he returned to Florida and went to work at St. Timothy Parish in Lady Lake.

He married in 1998 and his daughter, Sarah, was born two years later. He continued parish ministry and taught theology at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala. His marriage ended in 2008 and the call to priesthood resurfaced, but it would have to wait until his daughter was old enough to be independent.

“It was a built-in discernment process for me,” he said.

He was also unsure how others would receive his desire for priesthood after the end of his marriage. He was surprised to find encouragement from his community.

As the time approached, he was taking care of his mother. In prayer, he surrendered his trust to God, promising to focus on a life of holiness until the Lord should provide further direction.

In 2021, things came together. His daughter was well into college and his mother, whom he cared for, needed nursing home care. He discerned in prayer it was the right time. He entered Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, a seminary dedicated to men with a vocational call later in life. His daughter gave him her full support.

“Because I’ve been in church ministry all her life, I think she sees it as a natural progression. It’s never been a question in her mind,” he said.

On the day of his Diaconate Ordination, Sarah held her father’s vestments until the time for his vesting.

“Bishop Gerald Barbarito laid on hands. We had the prayer of Ordination,” Deacon Burns recalled. “Then my dear, dear friend Deacon Ron L’Huillier brought up those vestments and vested me. He was holding back tears because at that
moment you are a deacon. I almost cried. He’s been in my life for 23 years now and he’s been through it all with me. He’s seen the toughest times in my life, all my vocational struggles, and here we were. When I saw his joy, he was an instrument communicating to me the love of Christ, the joy of Christ at that moment.”

The next step was kneeling before the bishop.

“When Bishop Barbarito, with this broad grin, wonderful smile, and warm eyes handed me the Book of the Gospels and said, ‘Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach,’ that was a sense of warmth, love and acceptance, and in the midst of all that, peace,” he said. “It’s been a very long journey. My Ordination hasn’t fully processed, but I do feel a renewed and distinct sense of conviction to serve the people of God. There is clarity of focus, and peace comes with that.”

Deacon Triolo and Deacon Burns will be ordained to the Order of the Priesthood in 2025.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, April 18, 2024