His path to the priesthood

Deacon Andy Vill stands with his parents, Andrew and Angela, outside St. Elizabeth Ann Seton after delivering his first homily on June 23. Deacon Vill will return to Rome in September to begin studying for a license of sacred theology. He will be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest next May. —Renee Stamatis photo

Deacon Andy Vill stands with his parents, Andrew and Angela, outside St. Elizabeth Ann Seton after delivering his first homily on June 23. Deacon Vill will return to Rome in September to begin studying for a license of sacred theology. He will be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest next May. —Renee Stamatis photo

Andy Vill asked for a sign from God seven years ago when he was uncertain about his future, and he got one.

“Throughout the fall of my freshman year of college, I kept asking myself ‘What do I want do for the rest of my life?’” said Mr. Vill, who was ordained as a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Bridgeport on Saturday, June 22.

“I was coming back from class in Stamford, and I usually take the Merritt home, but I was on I-95 going to Milford for Boy Scout meeting when I saw a billboard that read, ‘Do you know what you want to be? Have you asked me? Signed – God.’”

“I asked for a sign and I got a 30-foot billboard.”

Mr. Vill,  a member of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, had been getting progressively more involved in the church following his graduation from Ridgefield High School in 2006, but he was majoring in mechanical engineering at UConn-Stamford the day he saw the billboard.

“I was raised Catholic and went to Mass on Sundays but I didn’t have a relationship with God until I went on a retreat for teens called Emmaus during my senior year of high school,” he recalls.

“I had never made a real confession before that trip — I never really understood what making a true confession meant, but what I learned was confession that was an all or nothing exchange with God where you have to confess everything in order to be truly forgiven.”

Following the retreat, he joined a youth group at St. Mary’s. Through that group he was invited to go another retreat to Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he made his first real confession.

“I was so excited because I wanted for God to forgive me and he had,” Mr. Vill said. “I felt light as air and came back with a big smile on my face.

“I felt God was truly present from there on.”

Deacon Andy Vill blesses a child with the sign of the cross at his first Mass on June 23 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic deacon on June 22 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Fairfield. —Renee Stamatis photo

Deacon Andy Vill blesses a child with the sign of the cross at his first Mass on June 23 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic deacon on June 22 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Fairfield. —Renee Stamatis photo

He began college in the fall of that year, commuting back and forth between Ridgefield and Stamford, but always stopped at the Adoration Chapel at St. Marys every night before arriving home.

After seeing the sign, Mr. Vill contacted  Father Nick Cirillo, who he had met on the Emmaus retreat, to talk about studying at the St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford and one day becoming a priest.

“He had been put in my life earlier so he could help me transition,” Mr. Vill said. “He wanted me to see the seminary and I remember when I left, asking him for an application.”

The process was a little different from applying to non-seminary schools.

“They invite you to apply,” Mr. Vill explained.

He was invited in May 2007 and was accepted two months later.

Mr. Vill’s education has taken him to several places — local and abroad.

He graduated from Sacred Heart University with a bachelor’s of arts in philosophy in 2010.

Following his undergraduate experience, Mr. Vill embarked on a journey to Rome, where earned his bachelor’s of arts in sacred theology at the Pontificial Gregorian University this year.

In Italy, he served as a tour guide at St. Peter’s Basilica and worked at the Saint Lawrence Center, leading interested youth in prayer and song.

In addition, he was able to continue one of his favorite hobbies — cooking.

“I ran the student kitchen at the Pontificial North American College, where I lived while going to school, which was such a unique experience,” he said.

While in Europe, he was able to visit family members on his father’s side in Germany as well as  a friend in Madrid, where he studied Spanish.

Now, he is a deacon at the Cathedral Parish in Bridgeport for the summer until he returns to Rome in September to begin studying.

When he comes back to America, Deacon Vill will be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest next May.

Deacon Vill delivered his first homily on June 23 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in town.

“It was really cool to deliver my first homily at my home parish,” he said. “I had people from all stages of my life there, which made it a special moment. I was told beforehand not to try and fit everything you know in your first homily, which is good advice…

“I was preaching to a whole spectrum of believers, but I made sure to address all phases of belief in the homily I gave.”

Mr. Vill grew up in Ridgefield, where he attended Ridgebury Elementary School and East Ridge Middle School before graduating from RHS.

His parents, Andrew and Angela, his brother, and his two sisters live in town.

The road to priesthood had its challenges though, none more greater than losing a brother Chris in a car accident in 2010.

“Chris’s passing hit me really hard and I had to ask myself, ‘Do I believe everything I’ve been studying? If not, I should quit the seminary,’” he said. “As soon as I asked myself that, I had assurance in my faith and I knew I was meant to continue.

“It was a very difficult moment but God helped me handle it with a lot of grace.”

Through overcoming his doubt, Mr. Vill learned the power of his own faith.

“The most important lesson I’ve learned in the process is that I answer to only person and that is Jesus,” he said. “I only need to be concerned with him and the strength he gives me.”

Mr. Vill’s upbringing in town was similar to that of most children.

In high school, he worked at Stop and Shop, while wrestling on the varsity and camping and playing Frisbee in his free time.

He  became an Eagle Scout and a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scout’s National Honor Society.

While at UConn-Stamford, he worked as admissions adviser for the American Institute of Foreign Study and interned as a technician for Pitney Bowes in Danbury in his summer before college.

As for this summer — now that he started his assignment as a deacon, he is able to deliver homilies, lead people in prayer and proclaim the Gospel. Most notably, he is able to officiate at weddings, which he will do for the first time in August.

“I’m really excited about having that opportunity,” he said. “After being in the seminary for six years, to finally be able to do the work God has been calling me do, feels relieving.”

Although he is unable to perform tasks only priests can — such as anoint the sick and hear confession — Mr. Vill is actively learning in the community.

“There isn’t a normal day really,” he admits. “I spend a lot of time visiting the sick at St. Vincent’s Hospital here in Bridgeport and I have a lot of meetings during the day but it all feels so natural to me — being a priest.”

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