Father Alessandro Linardi, 35, began his worldly travels in childhood, but the Holy Land captured his heart so profoundly that he gave himself completely to the One Who called him there.
Father Linardi was born in Germany where he began his education. By the age of seven, his family moved to Bocchigliero, a small town in the La Sila Mountains of Calabria in southern Italy. He studied in Cosenza for nearly eight years.
As his family traveled, one thing they never abandoned was their faith. His parents, Francesco and Angela, and grandparents Giuseppe, Giuseppina, Francesco and Maria Felicia, helped to form him spiritually.
“They are the most important instruments of God for my Christian life and my vocation to the priesthood,” he said. “Every day I thank God for the great gift of my family He gave me.”
As he entered his 20s, he divided his time between Germany and northern Italy for work and study. Though he did not understand it yet, his grandmother knew that he has a spiritual calling.
“She asked me why I didn’t want to be a priest,” Father Linardi recalled. “I said I wanted a family.”
Even at the age of 97, his grandmother would sacrifice and pray fervently.
“The prayers of my grandmother were fundamental in my vocation,” he said.
At age 22, his interest in international politics and world culture brought him to Rome, where he studied political science at La Sapienza University. Although he was physically close to the Vatican, he did not yet feel that it was where he belonged. His relationship with the Church was there, but not yet solidified. He said it was more of a spiritual connection that had not yet defined him.
“But for me, God and His Church were always in first place,” he said.
In 2004, when Father Linardi was still 22, the Sanctuary of Padre Pío, 180 miles east of Rome, felt like a refuge to him.
“Padre Pio was always present in my life,” Father Linardi said. “When I went to his sanctuary, I had a personal meeting with Jesus Christ, through the intercession of Padre Pio… What changed my life was the personal experience of love, mercy and compassion with Jesus.”
Three years later, Father Linardi went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He intended to stay for just 17 days, but then extended his trip to three months.
He started to drift away from his studies and his job. He discerned his vocation at a monastery for a year and a half before realizing that was not where God wanted him. So he returned to the Holy Land, this time for nine months. He went on pilgrimage, he volunteered and he worked.
When he returned to Rome, he attended the Seminary of Our Lady of the Divine Love, and studied theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University. He also made his way back to the Holy Land.
After studying in Rome, Father Linardi said the expectation is to go back to one’s own diocese. But his bishop in Calabria said he was meant for something else, where his extensive education and knowledge of world affairs and languages, including Italian, English, Spanish and German, would be better utilized. He suggested going to New York.
So the future priest sent an email to the Bishop of Brooklyn and he prayed – a lot. Six months later, he received his answer from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.
Father Linardi came to dedicate himself to what he sees as the place of the modern Pentecost, where people of different languages and cultures live and pray together.
To complete his formation, he attended St. Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie, and served at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Astoria.
Father Linardi will offer his First Mass of thanksgiving at Immaculate Conception Church, Astoria, on Sunday, July 1 at 1:30 p.m.