For interview and photo requests, contact Jocelyn Thomas, director of communications, at 646-473-0265 or JThomas@HNP.org.
LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — Dec. 21, 2020 — Life experience, religious training and early ministry assignments came together for Fr. Roberto “Tito” Serrano, OFM, when the Franciscan friar was ordained to the priesthood earlier this month at a church he attended as a high school student in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Dec. 5 Mass was celebrated by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix at St. Mary’s Basilica, the church associated with St. Mary’s High School, where Fr. Serrano graduated. The 33-year-old friar, who is a member of the New York-based Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province, has served at HNP’s ministry sites in the Midwest, South, and Northeast.
The Mass, which was live-streamed on the Province’s Facebook page, was concelebrated with the bishop by several other priests, including Fr. Julian Davies, OFM, and Fr. Mark Reamer, OFM, both HNP members, who traveled from Siena College, where Fr. Serrano has been assigned in ministry since the summer.
The Southwest was the perfect venue for Fr. Serrano to enter the sacred order of the priesthood, according to the friar himself.
“It was great having the ordination in Phoenix because I was able to have people in attendance who were an important part of my development during my teenage years,” said Fr. Serrano, whose mother and sister, both currently employed at his high school alma mater, had front-row seats at the ordination Mass.
“Former teachers and coaches who I admired, as well as family and friends, were able to attend. And I must admit, it was also nice to be in the warmer weather of Phoenix in early December,” added the Florida native, who spent some of his adolescent years in Germany when his father was stationed there with the U.S. Air Force.
Although the ongoing pandemic limited in-person attendance, the live-streamed ordination Mass was viewed by many of Fr. Serrano’s friends and acquaintances throughout the world – from Chicago, Illinois, and Greenville, South Carolina, to Kenya and Toronto.
Both his mother and sister presented scripture readings at the Mass, which had originally been scheduled for August, but was postponed due to travel logistics related to the pandemic. His family’s participation calmed his nerves.
“I was nervous until things got started. My mother was beside herself with excitement. She was so happy and cried a few times during the Mass. My sister told me she was proud of me, which meant a lot,” Fr. Serrano said.
In his homily, Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM, the guardian of the basilica friary and – like Fr. Serrano – an alumnus of St. Mary’s High School – spoke of the importance of priesthood.
“I asked Tito what drew him to the priesthood. He said he had developed a respect for priests as a child while attending elementary and high school. Those years, and a trip to Assisi, drew him to religious life,” Fr. Weldon said. “We Franciscans are blessed with the call to take the priesthood to places behind the parishes – to the breadlines and schools – and to bring the Gospel to people on the margins. Sharing is both priestly and Franciscan.”
Bishop Olmsted noted that the history of the Franciscan friars in the Phoenix area was one of evangelization. Although Fr. Serrano serves in ministry in other parts of the country, the bishop said he was pleased to ordain a Franciscan and son of the diocese.
“We’re so grateful to God for the gift of St. Francis of Assisi and the gift of this young man who is being ordained,” the bishop said.
Liz Salgado, Tito’s mother, who teaches Spanish at St. Mary’s High School, said witnessing her son’s ordination gave her a combined sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and peace.
“I felt accomplishment because of my role in making sure that my son followed Christ wherever he was called – and a sense of satisfaction because it gives me great joy to see Robert giving himself completely to the Lord in this way,” Salgado said. “And finally, peace, because even though I know I must continue to pray for him and support him, he could not be in better hands – the hands of Jesus and Mama Mary.”
A recent graduate of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago with a master of divinity degree, Fr. Serrano is stationed at Siena College near Albany, N.Y., where his primary role is with the chaplain’s office and sacramental ministries – where he assists with student-athlete academic and spiritual advisement, campus ministry, interfaith outreach, and programming and mentoring at the college’s Damietta Cross-Cultural Center.
Before joining the Franciscan formation program, Fr. Serrano – whose parents both grew up in Puerto Rico – worked in fitness and other private sector jobs. He joined the Franciscans in 2011, made his first profession in 2013, and professed his solemn vows in August 2019.
“His easy-going nature coupled with his habit of getting around campus on his skateboard draws students into conversation with him,” said Fr. Reamer, who represented HNP’s Provincial Minister Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, at the ordination Mass. “His enthusiasm for our Franciscan life has him taking the lead in redeveloping a vocation program on campus.”
In looking forward to his ministry at the Siena campus, Fr. Serrano said, “I want to grow in my religious priesthood. There are many things I would like to do in the future – perhaps go to a foreign mission. Who knows what the future holds?”
About Holy Name Province
Holy Name Province is the largest of seven entities in the United States belonging to the Order of Friars Minor. With ministries in 12 states along the East Coast, its nearly 300 Catholic priests and brothers serve in colleges, parishes, urban ministry centers and a wide variety of social service ministries, as well as in overseas missions. The Order, founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi, commemorated its 800th anniversary in 2009. Today, St. Francis, whose feast day is Oct. 4, remains one of the most widely known saints, revered for his affection for nature and care for creation.