ATHENS, Ga. — Family and friends of Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, gathered earlier this month at University of Georgia’s Catholic Center, where Tom is director, to celebrate the friar’s 25th anniversary of priestly ordination.
The reception was held Oct. 2 following 5 p.m. Mass at the center. Though his official anniversary was Oct. 19, Tom said celebrating his anniversary the same weekend as Francis Day celebrations made the occasion “even more of a gift” and “quite memorable.”
“When Fr. Tom announced that many of his family and friends from New York would be visiting Athens in early October,” said Linda DiPietro, Friars Fund manager for the center, “it was only natural that the celebration be planned to take place during their visit.”
Tom expressed deep gratitude to his family for their willingness to travel to celebrate his jubilee. “There are no words to describe my gratitude to my 87-year-old dad and my six siblings for making the long trek from New York to Georgia to be with me,” he said. “They were then and are now my best friends.”
He added, “I have very fond memories of Oct. 19, 1985, not the least of which was my family, extended family and many friends were there with me. Twenty-five years later, my family rekindled that day for me by coming to Georgia. The community here in Athens got to meet my family from Long Island, and I got to introduce my family to my extended family here in Athens.”
DiPietro described Tom’s father, also named Thomas Vigliotta, as “beaming with pride over the accomplishments of his seven children and their families.” The Vigliotta patriarch spoke to the Catholic Center community, DePietro said.
Despite not being able to be physically present, Tom’s mother, Rosella, who died last November, was clearly there in spirit.
“Before the reception, my family and I sat together in a garden that is dedicated in memory of my mom,” said Tom, who was ordained in Silver Spring, Md. Rosella’s Garden was dedicated in summer 2010. “We wished that she could be with us, but we felt her presence in our shared love for each other and in the Eucharist offered in her memory that weekend.”
A scrapbook, made by Rosella for Tom’s 50th birthday, was displayed at the reception. “Everyone enjoyed seeing pictures and memories of Fr. Tom’s life prior to his arrival in 2005 at the Catholic Center,” DiPietro said.
Reflecting on his years as a priest and Franciscan, Tom said, “I think it is a good thing that the time has gone by so quickly. The past 25 years have been such a good engagement in ministry from parish work, Ministry of the Word and now in campus ministry. I don’t think I could have maintained any real sense of peace or humor had it not been for the fraternal life that I have shared with so many brothers over the years.”
— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.