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Ten years ago, Fr. Walt Szczesny, then Vocation Director for the Diocese of Buffalo, came up with the idea of featuring the “Road to the Priesthood” story of a different priest every month on the Vocation Website. He wanted to show that priests were regular people just like you and me, called by God to serve in His church as representatives of His Son, Jesus. Father Walt envisioned the stories of the priests inspiring future priests who would read them and think, “I have the same hobbies as him” or “He went to the same grade school, high school or college as me.” Every priest was asked basically the same questions and possibly most inspiring was some of the answers to the question: “If you were speaking to someone interested in the priesthood, what advice would you give him?”

The Serra Club of Buffalo, now called, Mary, Mother of Vocations Ministry (MMVM) has always worked closely with the Vocation Director for the Diocese of Buffalo in promoting and supporting those who have been called by God to serve as priests, deacons, and in religious orders. Over the past ten years a few of our members have interviewed priests and some priests submitted their own stories. It has been my pleasure to have interviewed over 100 of the priests featured on the Vocation Website and to have been able to present their stories to you. There are so many good and faithful priests who were not included in these past ten years for no other reason than that there are only twelve months in a year. In choosing priests to interview, I began with those I knew personally, lived close to or met at weddings, funerals, etc. Sometimes priests were recommended and then contacted but it was impossible to include everyone.

Every story of a priests’ journey is unique. Although there were some similarities, they all had their own twists and turns that brought them to ordination. Once ordained, they all had unique paths and ministries they followed. The gifts and talents God granted them were used as He intended to minister to the needs of His people. Although some tried to put it on the back burner when they first heard it, all of them eventually selflessly answered God’s call. They came from families, big and small, devout and mediocre religious upbringings, the U.S. as well as many other countries. Some worked for a while before entering seminary while others entered right out of grade school, some started, stopped and started again while others continued all the way through. Their stories, though unique, are tied together by their willingness to serve God’s people in persona Christi (in the person of Christ).

Our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ and the apostles and has existed for over 2,000 years. It contains the fullness of Truth and is guided by the Holy Spirit. It is a perfect faith run by imperfect people and it has been so since the beginning. Look at who Jesus picked as the first leaders of His Church. Peter denied him, Judas betrayed him and the rest ran away to save themselves upon His arrest. It has been said that the Catholic Church is not a museum of saints but rather a hospital for sinners. As humans, we are all tempted by sin. Our diocese has been through a very tough time recently. Unfortunately, the same type of abuse which has marred the Catholic Church has also occurred in schools, other religious organizations, camps, doctor’s offices and more. In general, whatever humans are in charge of is capable of being corrupted. It seems all the worse when it comes from people like priests, rabbis, ministers, teachers and doctors who we trust to have our best interests at heart. Giving up on or leaving the practice of our Catholic Faith is not the answer. We have all heard about the abuse of some doctors towards their young patients but we have not given up on believing in the healing power of medicine itself. The same goes for our Catholic Faith. There are many more good and decent priests in our diocese than there are corrupt priests. Since 2002, there have been no new cases of abuse of minors and very few were reported from 1980 – 2002. All of the recent claims of child abuse took place decades ago but the media would have you believe otherwise. We can’t let a few bad priests spoil the beautiful Church Jesus gave us. Instead we need to continue working towards cleaning up and revitalizing that which has become tarnished. To fall is to be human but to rise again is to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is at work just as He promised He would always be. No matter what we face as a Church, we know that in the end, we win. As Jesus told his Apostle, Peter, “You are rock and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

Thank you to all the priests who in the past ten years graciously accepted the invitation to be interviewed for this website. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to share your stories. Thank you for giving us insight into the paths that led you to the priesthood and thank you for the inspiration to serve which is woven so beautifully into each and every story.

With Great Sincerity, Appreciation and Admiration,

Susan Santandreu


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