VERONA, NJ – When the Reverend Gerard (Jerry) A. Racioppi accepted the position as Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Verona, it was like coming home.
For Racioppi, who was born and raised in Verona, “the position just felt right.” Racioppi’s roots in Verona run deep. “My great-grandfather, Warren Hogan, was Badge #1 on the Verona police force, my grandparents met at the Verona Diner, and my grandmother, mother, and four aunts still live in town,” says Racioppi.
On Thursday he will be installed as the seventh Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Verona. The Celebration of New Ministry service, which the Right Reverend Mark Beckwith, Bishop of the Diocese of Newark, will preside over, takes place at the church, located at 36 Gould St., Verona, at 7 p.m. A reception follows and all are welcome.
Racioppi’s journey to his new position was not direct, even though he knew as a child that he wanted to become a priest. Racioppi attended Our Lady of the Lake Grammar School and Essex Catholic High School in East Orange before leaving Verona to attend Iona College where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communications and a Masters in Counseling from Fordham University in Lincoln Center.
He began a career in Human Resources at Marriott International in 1992, remaining with Marriott and a parent company for 20 years before leaving to pursue his childhood dream of entering the ministry. By this time, however, he had joined the Episcopal Church. “The beliefs of the Episcopal Church echoed my own beliefs more closely than those of the Roman Catholic Church,” says Racioppi.
Racioppi attended Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey, earning a Masters of Divinity in May 2015. He was ordained an Episcopal priest on June 6, 2015, at St. Luke’s Church in Montclair, where he served as a seminarian for two years.
Although Racioppi has been at Holy Spirit Verona since May, the Installation and Celebration of New Ministry is a traditional service in the Episcopal Church that formally welcomes a new priest to a congregation.
“This may be the formal welcome,” says Racioppi, “but I was entrenched in this community in less than a month. I was immediately impressed with the way this congregation cares for each other and the church.”
Says Karen Blasi-Blinder, a membership of the leadership team at Holy Spirit, "We are blessed to have Jerry at Holy Spirit. His leadership skills and his infectious enthusiasm for serving God in the town in which he grew up are already evident in the short time he has been here."
Racioppi lives in West Orange with his husband Randy Johnson and their two dogs Max and Bear.