When Fr. Frankie Cicero’s mother Olga was eight months pregnant with him, doctors discovered her unborn child had a devastating condition: He would be born with his intestines outside his body. Given a 2 percent chance of survival, Olga clung to a sliver of hope.
Her son’s birth, she said, “was a true miracle. I just knew he was destined for something special.” Now, decades later, those prophetic thoughts are bearing fruit.
Fr. Cicero reflected on the winding road that ultimately led him to the priesthood. Seven surgeries early on saved his life but the scar tissue generated a lifetime of suffering. Then there were the repeated hospitalizations, including one that prevented him from being ordained to the transitional diaconate with his classmates. His health condition also stalled his ordination to the priesthood last year.
EN ESPAÑOL: Saluda al P. Frankie Cicero: Problemas de salud recurrentes llevaron a un sacerdote a confiar en la Providencia de Dios
“It’s all been worth it,” Fr. Cicero said. “Everything the Lord has asked of me, whether it’s been an experience of joy or tears, has been worth it and has been an encounter of deeper intimacy.”
Fr. Cicero said he never considered the priesthood until a radical conversion experience at 24. He’d left the Church and was working as a bartender at the time.
He remembers the moment that grace pierced the darkness and flooded his soul. It was 1 a.m. and he was busy serving drinks in an upscale, crowded bar. He had everything the world says brings happiness, he said — drugs, alcohol, women and popularity — yet he still felt lonely and broken.
“And it was in that moment that I prayed for the first time in five years. I said, ‘Lord, I’m back. What do you want with my life?’” he recalled. “That was the moment that began opening my heart up.”
A year later, he began studying at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
Vocations director Fr. Paul Sullivan said facing challenges is something all seminarians experience and is one of the ways the Lord prepares them for future ministry.
“Frankie is no different. His challenges included many medical concerns that he has faced head on,” Fr. Sullivan said. With 14 hospitalizations during his nine years of preparation for the priesthood, Fr. Cicero has learned to embrace the cross.
“I had to learn to stay patiently waiting at the cross and wait for the Lord, trusting that He is actually going to take care of me,” Fr. Cicero said.
In the days before his ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Cicero’s eyes filled with tears and his voice shook as he reflected on the gift of Holy Orders. What was he looking forward to most about his ordination day?
“Being utterly overwhelmed — allowing the nine years to hit me. Like all of heaven … will be saying, ‘We did it.’”