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Archives Former Lake Placid resident ordained

August 25, 2021

By Darcy Fargo

LAKE PLACID – Father Pier Giorgio of Christ the King, born Alexander Pacelli, was ordained as a priest of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of the Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary after a long journey that traveled through Lake Placid, Camp Guggenheim and the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

He was ordained by Cardinal Lars Anders Arborelius, also a Discalced Carmelite, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wisconsin on July 18.

“It has been a long process, but on the other hand, it’s been a confirmation of what God is already doing in my life,” said Father Pacelli, age 33. “In the abundance of what he’s given me already, this is super abundance. Supernatural graces come from ordination. It’s the next part of his love in my life.”

After growing up in Saratoga County, Father Pacelli had a conversion experience in college that soon led him to discern a calling to the priesthood.

“I think many people who read the North Country Catholic will remember me as a seminarian for the Diocese of Ogdensburg,” he said. “My parents moved to Lake Placid a few months after my conversion experience. I’d go home to Lake Placid when I was in college. My only experience of the priesthood was diocesan priests. I went to seminary knowing almost nothing; I had only been confirmed 15 months or so prior.”

In addition to growing in his knowledge of the faith, his time as a seminarian with the Diocese of Ogdensburg also helped him find Catholic fellowship.

“I learned so much, and I gained relationships I still have to this day,” Father Pacelli said. “I worked at Camp Guggenheim for three summers. That’s where I made my first Catholic friends, and they’re still some of my best friends. The Diocese of Ogdensburg is a huge part of my vocation, as is St. Agnes in Lake Placid. Father (Joseph) Morgan and Father John Yonkovig – two powerhouse priests in my book – were great witnesses to me in their witness and generosity. Working at Guggenheim, I got to know Father Scott Belina and Father Bryan Stitt.”

Father Pacelli said he was also able to grow in his vocation during his times of service in the diocese, including time at St. Alexander’s in Morrisonville and St. Peter’s in Lowville, St. Mary’s in Glenfield and St. Hedwig’s in Houseville.

It was also in seminary where he was first exposed to priests serving with various religious orders.

“There were religious priests on the faculty,” he said. “That’s when I came to know the idea of charisms.”

While he encountered Dominicans, Franciscans and priests of other orders, Father Pacelli said he felt particularly called to the Discalced Carmelites. He also had a family connection to the order.

“When I was a seminarian, my mom was doing formation with the secular order of Discalced Carmelites at St. Bernard’s in Saranac Lake,” he said. “My mother’s journey back to the Church preceded mine by a few years. When I was in high school, statutes of St. Therese, the Little Flower, started to appear in our house. When I got to seminary, the first book I read on my own was ‘Story of a Soul.’ I started learning about St. Therese and St. John of the Cross. I kept seeing a unified spirituality of friendship with God. That’s what I was really yearning for – friendship with Jesus. That was my first sort of call, ultimately – I was called to be a friend of Jesus. My vocation is to be a friend of Jesus. That’s what the Discalced Carmelites say they’re about. I haven’t been disappointed yet. I continue growing in that relationship with Jesus. It’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful and powerful that it continues to increase.”

Additionally, when he first visited the Carmelites in Wisconsin as part of his discernment process, “everything fell into a groove, so to speak.”

“I felt at home,” Father Pacelli said. “The friars get moved around a lot. I’ve been a Carmelite seven years, and I’ve lived in three different places – Wisconsin, Washington DC and Oregon. Throughout those moves, Carmel – the mystical home – exists no matter where the monastery is.”

Father Pacelli said he will remain in his current ministry now that he’s received holy orders.

“The main thing that’s different is that I’m on the other side of the altar now,” he said, laughing. “My ministry will essentially remain the same. I’m an editor. I work for our publishing apostolate, and I’ll continue doing that work.”

Additionally, Father Pacelli assists with weekend Masses at the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill in Wisconsin.

“I’m also studying part-time for a master’s degree at University of Wisconsin,” he said. “I have a lot on my plate. And because a lot of my apostolate is working in an office, I get the opportunity to travel a lot. I don’t have schedule commitments like a lot of priests have, and that frees me up to do things for which priests are normally difficult to find. I just recently served as chaplain for FOCUS, working as a spiritual director and confessor and saying Mass for 50 college undergrads from all over the country participating in a summer program in northern Michigan.”

Father Pacelli’s travels are also bringing him back to the North Country.

On Aug. 29, he’ll celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Agnes in Lake Placid at 10 a.m. He also plans to celebrate a Mass with friends from Camp Guggenheim during his time in the area.

“The Diocese of Ogdensburg still has a special place in my heart,” he said. “Long term, I’m also planning to visit the places I was assigned as a seminarian.”

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