Deacon Thomas M. Bello died March 29 at his home in
McLean following a battle with cancer.
He is survived by his wife, Judy, three adult children and
A funeral Mass was offered April 2 at St. James Church in
Falls Church with Father Patrick L. Posey, pastor, as the
main celebrant and homilist, along with Father Thomas P.
Ferguson, vicar general and moderator of the curia, and
Father Paul D. Scalia, vicar of clergy.
Dozens of the people whose lives he touched attended his wake
April 1, including St. James parishioners, members of the
clergy and Third Order Franciscans and friars from all over
Many people told stories of how Deacon Bello had impacted
"I've known the Bellos since the third grade," said family
friend John Rozada. "I always remembered the love between all
the Bellos and the love between Judy and Tom. So when I found
the love of my life, Victoria, we thought, 'What better way
to start marriage than with the great example he set for all
of us?' So we asked Deacon Tom to marry us," said Rozada.
"What I didn't know until recently was that Tom's birthday
was on the same day as our wedding. He never said anything
when we told him the date. He was always a selfless man - you
asked him and he'd do it," he said.
St. James parishioner David Schwind reminisced over Deacon
Bello's infectious laugh and the positive influence he had
over Schwind's children, who are altar servers at the parish.
During Schwind's illness, Deacon Bello was there for him as
"I was using a walker, and he would come by and bring
Communion. When I could finally make it back to St. James, I
realized the power of the Eucharist. He gave me the Eucharist
the first time back," he said. "Now I'm going to become a
Deacon Bello was born in Durham, N.C., Sept. 17, 1949, and
raised in Raleigh. He attended the University of North
After earning a master's degree in history from Oxford
University in England, he married his wife, Judy, and moved
to Northern Virginia in 1975.
He was drawn to the spirituality and nonviolence of St.
Francis and joined the Secular Franciscans in 1983. He was
elected national minister of the Secular Franciscan Order in
the United States in 2009.
"I could see that (being with the Franciscans) was like food
and drink to him," said his wife, Judy. "He walked on the air
after he had spent time with them."
Though he was very ill last fall, Deacon Bello was determined
to attend the national conference of Franciscans, she said.
"I said, 'Tom, I'm sorry that is not possible.' And he said,
'Judy, all things are possible with God and the Secular
After his diaconate ordination in 1987 by Arlington Bishop
John R. Keating, Deacon Bello was assigned to the Cathedral
of St. Thomas More in Arlington. He later served at St. James
and St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church. He spent 19
years serving St. James Church.
Deacon Bello visited patients at the Virginia Hospital Center
in Arlington, the home-bound, and he distributed food to the
Deacon Bello also taught classes for the Rite of Christian
Initiation for Adults. He was the former chairman of the
Arlington Diaconal Council and served on the board of
directors of Hogar Hispano.
Father Bill I. Korpi of the Church of the Nativity in Burke,
a permanent deacon who later became a priest priest, said
Deacon Bello had been a role model for him in the permanent
A longtime family friend, Father Scott Holmer from the
Washington Archdiocese, offered Mass in Deacon Bello's sick
room and anointed him shortly before he died.
"As a priest, I help a lot of people die. Tom was one of the
most ready to meet God," he said. "Walking in there and
celebrating Mass, there was such a peace he had in his