Gregory Vozzo Pilot file photo/Gregory L. Tracy
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Home Parish: St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Acton. Seminary: St. John’s Seminary. High School: Bay Shore High School. College: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Hobbies: Computers, home theater, racquet sports, movies.
When was the first time you thought of priesthood?
I first considered the possibility of becoming a priest as a sophomore in college, while attending a Catholic youth rally. I came across some promotional materials from the Albany, N.Y. vocations office which inspired me to pursue a more active role in the Church in the years that followed.
What were major Catholic activities you participated in prior to the seminary?
Newman student organization in college. Attended and volunteered at various parish social events. Attended a Life in the Spirit weekend retreat. Some community service with Catholic groups.
Who influenced/inspired you to priesthood? Please explain.
It’s hard for me to be specific about this. The priests in my college parish first inspired me to consider the priesthood as a vocation through their dedication to the community and through their preaching. Since childhood, however, I had drawn inspiration from the Apostles and the saints in trying to discern how I could serve God better in my life. Gradually, this helped me to give God enough control over my life such that I could at least be open to the possibility of becoming a priest. Only much later did I feel I was ready and able to engage in serious discernment for the priesthood.
What would you say to a young man who thinks he may have a vocation?
Don’t be afraid to talk to a priest and ask questions. Tell friends and family about your interests and be open to both positive and negative feedback. Don’t rush your decision, and pray about it constantly. Reflect on your life and how you came to consider a vocation to priesthood; ask God for clarity and be honest and sincere, especially with yourself, as you discern. Finally, talk with the vocations office about what life as a priest might be like, attend discernment meetings, and visit a seminary or two. Whatever your final decision, it ought to bring you peace; otherwise, you might need to discern further.
Is seminary formation what you thought it would be? How is it similar and different from your expectations?
Seminary formation is a very exciting and challenging time in my life. I learn so much every day and have grown a great deal in ways I could never have imagined. The seminary fosters greater dependence on God and on a diversity of relationships with priests and laity -- all very important. It forms and trains people at many levels. At the same time, seminary life isn’t as strict as I thought it might be. I’m not giving up being the person I was before; just becoming a better person -- that is, more oriented toward Christ, more balanced and mature, and happier than I’ve ever been in my life.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I’ve had great doubts about my faith. There have been times when I thought God might actually be leading me away from the Catholic Church. However, prayerful discernment and study of Church teachings, even years of conversation and Bible study guided me to a deeper relationship with Christ.
What activities would you recommend in order to foster a culture of vocations?
Prayer groups and making time for individual prayer each day; family prayer; intensive Bible study (as challenging as one can handle); retreats; greater participation in liturgical celebrations (especially Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, eucharistic adoration); spiritual reading (i.e., books about saints, apologetics, prayer, and serving others); visiting shrines and seminaries.
Did anyone invite you to consider priesthood? Please explain.
No; prayer, processes of self-understanding, seeking growth in areas of my life that were lacking, and drawing inspiration from spiritual leaders and historical figures have helped me to discern where God has been leading me in life and where he might be.
What influence (if any) has Pope John Paul II had on your vocation?
I was very young when JP2 became pope. I began to read papal encyclicals and other such works in high school -- especially those written by him. I was particularly inspired by his ecumenical works, which helped me to foster good relationships with non-Catholics -- especially, Protestants. I became very interested in apologetics, Scripture study, Church history, the saints, and Mary. (Pray the rosary!)
How did you come to know Jesus Christ?
I was raised on Catholic principles, especially by my mother, and attended Catholic school until fourth grade. As I grew, I became more aware of my own need for Christ and of the importance of living virtuously and in accord with one’s conscience. I especially knew Christ in my own experiences of suffering.
What were the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and shape your personal relationship with Christ and his Church?
The sacraments of the Church are all of great importance, as is good preparation for receiving them. I was especially helped by the spiritual lessons of my confirmation teacher and my family. Retreats, prayer groups, and Bible study groups helped me greatly in college and beyond. Parish life, also -- indeed, any service to others, especially to the poor and needy (the sick, prisoners, the lonely...). It’s important to learn to encounter Christ in others and how to be Christ for others.
What signs led you to believe that God was calling you to be a priest?
As dissatisfaction with my career and financial goals began to weigh more heavily upon me, and I wondered more seriously why that was, I came to see my life as a process of formation toward something having a purpose for God. It became clear over time how much I really desired to serve God, and so I finally accepted the need to seriously consider the possibility of becoming a priest.
How does the priest best follow in the footsteps of the Apostles?
I think that the virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience are the primary dispositions of the priest’s heart. Even if a priest doesn’t renounce all earthly possessions for the good of the Kingdom of God, he must have a healthy disinterest in worldly things. He must be generous, willing to make sacrifices, and unattached to possessions. He ought to be spiritually poor -- humble and dependent upon God for his success and well-being-- but also patient and trusting when facing difficulties. Chastity means developing healthy relationships with all kinds of people and nurturing his own wholeness (completeness, integration) as a person and as a man who offers himself to the Church and to God. Obedience involves not only accepting the due authority of Church leaders and of God, but understanding himself to be a servant in all of his ministerial capacities. His priesthood is modeled after Christ -- priest, prophet, and king. It is rooted in love.
The Pilot, in cooperation with the Office of Vocations, is publishing a series of brief profiles of the men preparing for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Boston. For other profiles or if you think God may be calling you to a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, visit the Vocations Office Web site at www.VocationsBoston.org.