St Rose Welcomes Parochial Vicar Andy Vill
Andy Vill remembers wanting to be a chef while growing up. That career path was not favored by his father, however.
The recently appointed parochial vicar for St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Vill laughed at the memory.
“I remember him telling me ‘You won’t make money, and you’ll be on your feet all day,” Vill said. “Now that I’m a priest, I’m on my feet every day, and it doesn’t pay very well.”
His heart is full, however, and his demeanor is very welcoming.
The main aspect of his job, Rev Vill said, is to assist the pastor. In addition to Father Vill, Father Alphone Arokiam is also serving as a parochial vicar at St Rose; both assist Monsignor Robert Weiss, the senior pastor of this town’s Catholic church. The parish also has three deacons who can preach Mass and serve in other ministries.
Father Vill will be celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, officiating baptisms, witnessing marriages, and working the youth group, he said July 18.
“Working with the youth is very dear to my heart,” he added. “St Rose has a very active youth group.”
The youth group’s largest annual event, in fact, will be among the first things the new vicar will enjoy. The annual Fan The Fire Youth Rally, presented by the Diocese and hosted by St Rose, is scheduled for Saturday, August 17.
“We’re very excited for that coming up,” he said.
Earlier this year, Father Vill was at The Basilica of St John Evangelist in Stamford. He spent four months in Spain with a religious community, he said, before arriving last month in Newtown.
Just a few weeks into his appointment at that time, Father Vill was still learning about his new parish.
“St Rose is a very active parish,” he said. “There’s a school here, we have two daily Masses, there’s Bible studies, a preschool group, and there is stuff I have yet to find out about,” he added, laughing.
A Life-Changing Confession
Father Vill did not grow up planning to become a Catholic priest. It was a Confession that transformed his life 12 years ago, the 31-year-old shared recently.
Andy Vill was baptized and then raised Catholic, the middle child of five born to Angela and Andrew Vill. He grew up in Ridgefield and graduated from Ridgefield High School in 2006.
It was during his freshman year at UConn-Stamford, where he was studying engineering, that he was called to become a priest, he said.
“I grew up going to Mass and attended Vacation Bible School,” he said. “I even occasionally attended youth group events.”
The youth group in his church at the time was “kind of on and off,” he said.
His senior year of high school, he was invited by friends to attend an Emmaus Retreat. He did Confession for the first time in years, he said, “but it wasn’t a good confession. It’s all or nothing. With the Lord, if you have sins that you’re not sorry for, or don’t want to ask forgiveness for, the Lord doesn’t forgive you.
“It’s not like the Lord can’t forgive you,” he clarified. “He’s waiting, and he’s saying ‘I’m ready to restart when you are. Until you’re ready to restart, I’m going to respect your freedom.’”
That’s what Father Vill meant by his non-fulfilling Confession at Emmaus.
“There were sins that I had that I felt embarrassed to talk to the priest about,” he said.
By the following summer, Vill was part of a youth group associated with St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Ridgefield. That group had planned to go on a retreat to Steubenville, Ohio, home of Franciscan University of Steubenville.
The morning of departure, the two other young men who were registered for the retreat decided to not go. Vill ended up traveling to Ohio with Laura Danner, the new youth minister of the church; and a male chaperone.
Even during the Mass at that retreat, Vill says he recalls looking at the tabernacle — in which the bread and wine rests, and Catholics, through Eucharistic Adoration, believe that the elements are actually transformed into the real presence of God, not just symbols — and thinking “I want to believe, but I don’t.”
Vill went to Confession one more time after the Emmaus conference. That time, he said, for the first time in his life, he confessed everything.
He recalls walking out, and seeing Rev Danner.
“She said ‘Andy, you look different,’” he said. “I felt different. I felt light as air. I felt warm. I had a big smile on my face because for the first time since my baptism at three months old, I was totally free from sin. I felt the freedom of being totally free from sin, having gone to that Confession.”
That was the turning point for Andy Vill. During Adoration that evening, he was convinced, “for the first time in my life, I was convinced that that was God on the altar.
I don’t think you can believe in the true presence of the Eucharist, that God really makes himself present in that bread and wine, until you believe that God can and does forgive sins and you have experienced his mercy in Confession,” Father Vill stated.
“When you recognize that God has created the whole universe and can forgive you of your sins, where is the intellectual leap to say that He can’t make himself present in bread and wine? From that day on, I had this realization and belief in the true presence of the Eucharist.”
The act of Confession continues to hold a very special place in the heart of the vicar.
“Now, to be on the other end, to be present at that moment when God forgives somebody of their sins, and to be able to help people to encounter God in those moments, has been a privilege for me,” Reverend Vill said.
He changed his plans in 2007, so instead of transferring to the University of Connecticut at Storrs, he entered St John Fisher Seminary in Stamford. He did his undergrad work at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
Vill graduated from SHU in 2010, having earned a Bachelor in Philosophy. The next five years were spent in Rome, at Pontifical North American College. There, he earned a second Bachelor degree, this time in Sacred Theology; and then a Licentiate in Sacred Theology, with a focus on Studies of Marriage and Family.
During his time in Rome, he did have the opportunity to enjoy one of his favorite avocations.
“One of my house jobs in the seminary in Rome was head of the student kitchen,” he said. While that sounds glorified, he said, the job in fact meant he had to make sure cleaning supplies were ordered and stocked and towels were laundered for the kitchen, among other duties. One of the student groups he was in, however, did allow him to enjoy cooking time in the kitchen. He was in groups that were charged with organizing Mardi Gras and Christmas parties, among others, he said.
“During Lent, we’d do Grilled Cheese Fridays,” he said. “We’d make about 140 grilled cheese sandwiches, and we’d sell them as a fundraiser.”
Having a grandfather from Germany, Father Vill’s favorite dishes tend to be of German origin, and he has challenged himself with those as well. For Oktoberfest one year, his student group made the German pasta spaetzle.
“It was about 50 pounds worth of flour and 200 eggs, and it took eight guys about four hours to make enough for 270 people,” he said.
Father Vill can crank out cookies too.
“We also did about 750 cookies for a Christmas party — three types of cookies, 250 of each kind,” he said. “I think in my five years in Rome, we probably made close to 6,000 or 7,000 cookies for different events.”
Large-scale cooking opportunities did not present themselves while he was at St John, he said.
“We’ll see what St Rose has in store for me,” he said with a smile.