WESTFIELD, N.J. (OSV News) - While many fifth graders typically request toys and games for Christmas, Dominic Auricchio surprised his family this past Christmas by asking for a military Bible and a rosary blessed by Pope Francis.
He received seven religious gifts in all and since then has been sharing his joy over the items with family and classmates at Holy Trinity School in Westfield, even taking them to school for a classroom display.
Dominic said that he requested the items because he enjoys learning about religion at school and because he wants to become a priest and a military chaplain when he grows up. He also dreams of meeting Pope Francis.
"If I met him, I'd like to tell him that I want to be a priest," Dominic told Jersey Catholic, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Newark. He has many questions for the pope such as how a priest becomes a bishop, he said.
Dominic said his parents were surprised when they saw his Christmas wish list. Nonetheless, the whole family shared his excitement on Christmas morning when he joyfully unwrapped seven religious gifts: a military Bible, a crucifix featuring the Stations of the Cross, a rosary, a miraculous medal, a vial of holy water, a chalice made of wood from the Holy Land, and an Italian prayer card.
The Bible, holy water, rosary beads and crucifix came from the Vatican and were blessed by Pope Francis. Dominic brought the other items to the church, where Msgr. Thomas Nydegger, pastor of St. Helen's Catholic Church in Westfield, blessed them.
"He was so happy when he opened these gifts and he couldn't wait to tell everybody," his mother, Maria Auricchio, said. "It was the first thing he wanted to do."
Dominic shared his gifts with family members at Christmas dinner, and when school resumed in January, he brought the items in to show his classmates. Caroline Ponterio, his religion teacher, inspired him, he said.
Ponterio said that Dominic is a very thoughtful and hard-working student and seeks to help his classmates whenever he can. "It is evident how much Dominic loves his faith by the way he shares it in class and treats others," she said.
He set up a table to display the items in the back of his classroom. The other two fifth-grade classes were invited into the room, and Dominic provided information about each of the items. He translated the Italian prayer for his classmates, as well.
Dominic said he is proud of his faith and that he "loves everything about being Catholic."
He is an altar server at St. Helen's in Westfield and said he enjoys helping the priest during Mass.
His great devotion to the Catholic faith was emphasized by a personal apparition of the Virgin Mary in his bedroom that he described to Jersey Catholic in a recent phone interview.
In January 2023, Dominic received a serious medical diagnosis - a brain mass - detected through an MRI conducted in response to persistent headaches. Although antibiotics and migraine medication were administered, they did not provide relief to the symptoms, and the doctors informed the family that an operation would be necessary.
Every night, his mother prayed to the Blessed Mother before going to bed. One night in May, while everyone was asleep, Dominic awoke to a vision of a woman in his bedroom, who he said was the Blessed Mother, his mother said.
Dominic described the woman as "wearing blue, and with scarves on her head like they wore in the old days." The woman instructed Dominic to tell his mother, "Do not worry" and "Everything is going to be OK."
Dominic ran to his mother's room and told her about his vision. She followed him back to his room but saw no woman there. The next month, according to his mother, Maria, the doctor informed the family that surgery would not be necessary for Dominic. A CT scan revealed that the mass had begun to shrink on its own, without medical intervention, his mother said.
Maria said that the vision brought the entire family an immediate sense of relief.
Dominic's connection with the divine has been a consistent theme throughout his young life. At age 4, he claimed to have heard the voice of God instructing him to become a priest.
"I had a dream, and God told me he wanted me to be a priest," he said.
This conviction to become a member of the clergy has remained steadfast, shaping his devout journey within the Catholic faith.
"Dominic is one of our altar servers and he is one of our best," said Msgr. Nydegger. "Dominic himself is a very, very fine young man. He serves at the altar faithfully and does it well. He is just a very good person and a fine, young parishioner."
Caption: Dominic Auricchio, a fifth grader at Holy Trinity School in Westfield, N.J., is pictured in an undated photo with seven religious items he received as Christmas gifts; a military Bible, a crucifix featuring the Stations of the Cross, a rosary, a miraculous medal, a vial of holy water, a chalice made of wood from the Holy Land and an Italian prayer card. Dominic had requested items from the Vatican. The Bible, holy water, rosary beads and crucifix came from the Vatican and were blessed by Pope Francis. (OSV News photo/courtesy Auricchio family)