One man began formal pursuit of his vocation right out of high school; the other didn’t enter formation until he was 50.
Despite the contrasting paths Aaron Kelly and Brian Mizzoni have followed, both Southern Tier natives will soon arrive at the same destination: diaconal ordination for the Diocese of Rochester.
The two-man class of 2021 is set to be ordained Aug. 21 by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, during a liturgy beginning at 10 a.m. at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral. Kelly will become a transitional deacon on the path to the diocesan priesthood. Mizzoni, meanwhile, will be ordained to the permanent diaconate.
“It doesn’t seem possible, eight years already,” Kelly remarked about his seminary training thus far.
Shortly after his 2013 graduation from Horseheads High School, Kelly entered Cathedral Seminary House of Formation and St. John’s University in New York City. In 2016, he began studies at Theological College at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he remained until 2018. Since then, he has studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
Kelly was due to return home in late July for diaconal ordination before going back to Italy in early September to resume studies. He noted that the extent of his diaconal ministry — which can include preaching the Gospel and delivering homilies at Mass, as well as presiding at funerals, weddings and baptisms — will hinge on how quickly the COVID-19 pandemic subsides over the next year; he explained that a high infection rate might curtail the amount of public events at which he’d ordinarily serve.
Then — “God willing,” he said — he will be ordained to the diocesan priesthood in mid-2022. His priestly ordination will be followed by two additional years of schooling as he pursues a licentiate in canon law.
Kelly, 26, grew up in Horseheads’ St. Mary Our Mother Parish, and his family currently belongs to Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Tioga County.
“I consider the entire Southern Tier to really be home. Many of the parishes in the Southern Tier have played a part in my journey,” he said.
In addition to his parents, Jeffrey and Kimberly, he has two younger sisters, Abigail and Emma. Kelly is eager to add the title of “Father” to his roles as son and brother in the not-too-distant future.
“I’ve always been drawn to the priest being called ‘Father,’” he said. “My desire has always been to give back, to serve all those people who have been so good to me — to be a father to them.”
Kelly acknowledged that seminary studies have kept him away from the Rochester Diocese for extended periods of time. However, he remarked, “I’m always having in mind the people in the Diocese of Rochester, being able to go back and minister there and serve there permanently. It’s certainly a great desire and something I look forward to. ”
Also ready to embrace ordained service is Mizzoni, who has compiled a long list of ministerial activities leading up to his ordination to the permanent diaconate.
Mizzoni’s involvement at his parish, All Saints in Corning, has included lectoring; coordinating Divine Mercy celebrations, the Miraculous Medal Novena and other devotions; setting up for Mass; teaching confirmation classes; arranging Latin Masses; assisting the parish Schola with vespers programs; helping facilitate Bible-study sessions and giving presentations for the parish men’s group; and bringing Communion to the homebound and residents of nursing facilities. In addition, Mizzoni worked with the Knights of Columbus to establish a Memorial to the Unborn that was erected in 2004 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Painted Post.
Mizzoni said he began sensing a call to the diaconate around 2008. Several years later, he finally acted on that call, beginning formation in January 2017 and taking classes through St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry. For his required field ministry, Mizzoni shadowed Deacon Jim Hankey — also from All Saints Parish — in hospice care at Arnot Ogden Medical Center in 2017; ministered to elder patients at Absolut Care in Painted Post in 2018; and took part in an ecumenical initiative that brought together Corning-area religious leaders in 2019. This past year, he has worked closely with Father Matthew Jones, pastor of All Saints, on a variety of parish activities.
Mizzoni, 54, is a native of Corning. He graduated from Corning-Painted Post East High School and went on to attend Elmira College, receiving a bachelor’s degree in business. He currently works at Corning Inc. as an IT engagement leader for the company’s manufacturing, technology and engineering division. He and his wife, Tracy, have three children: Michael, 25; Dominic, 23; and Christina, 20.
Asked what he’s looking forward to in his ministry as a permanent deacon, Mizzoni replied, “Serving Christ, his church and his people. Whatever by the grace of God I am assigned to do, I more than welcome it, because I know it’s from God.”