2 enter priesthood in Manchester
Jeffrey Paveglio and Michael Zgonc both answered God's call to service Saturday; it just took one a little longer to pick up.
The men were ordained as Roman Catholic priests by Bishop Peter Libasci at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester. By coincidence, the both had attended but otherwise, their paths to the priesthood were quite different.
Here are their stories:
For Michael Zgonc, the second time was the charm.
Zgonc, 31, felt called to the priesthood back in 2005, but balked at his first attempt to heed the message.
"I left seminary after orientation," he said last week in an interview in Portsmouth. "It was too much, too soon."
A native of Ohio, Zgonc earned a bachelor's degree in business and human resources from the University of Toledo and a master's in business administration at Bentley College. He then moved to the Granite State in 2005 to work for BAE Systems.
"I never thought about priesthood when I was kid. I mean, I went to Mass on Sundays, but that was it. Then I got out here to New Hampshire and I found St. Kathryn's Parish in Hudson, and one day at Mass, it just hit me like a ton of bricks," he said. "It was really a weird experience.''
Zgonc said he spent nearly a year after that discerning God's will for him. In that time, he introduced himself to the Rev. Gary Belliveau at St. Kathryn's.
"We started having conversations once a week or once every other week, and I finally got the courage to go to seminary," said Zgonc.
Although he dodged God's first attempt, he said, it was at a wedding that the calling took hold.
"I went to my brother's wedding back in Ohio, and at that time, nobody in my family was really married yet, and I expected to go there and think, 'That's me going to be me up there someday.' But the biggest feeling I got was really how nice it was seeing them doing what God was calling them to do," said Zgonc. "I started thinking, 'Why am I not doing what God's calling me to do? Why am I dragging me feet?' It was then that I decided to stop living in limbo."
He followed through on the second try in 2008, graduating Saint Mary's Seminary and following Belliveau to Corpus Christi Parish in Portsmouth.
Belliveau said Zgonc's approach of being among the people and not above them is reflective of the direction Pope Francis is guiding the Roman Catholic Church.
"I think the most obvious thing Michael brings to the priesthood is his personal warmth and ability to relate to people of all ages," said Belliveau. "Michael's never been as focused on the ritual and formality of the church as he has been focused on relationships and community. ... He's not above or beyond, but a presence of Jesus among them."
Said Zgonc: "I'm excited to serve the people of God. It's an exciting time in the church. Pope Francis is an amazing leader and an amazing role model in the church, and I'm just excited to share Jesus' mercy and love and allow God to use me as a vehicle to share his love with people in a very real and very tangible way
"I've seen the energy and vibrancy of being part of a parish community and living joyfully for God. I just feel humbled and privileged to serve in this capacity and bring that joy into other people's lives.
"Amazing things can happen when you trust in God."
Zgonc was vested at ordination by Belliveau and will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at Immaculate Conception Church in Portsmouth at 2 p.m. today.
Father PaveglioJeffrey Paveglio was a freshman at the University of New Hampshire when he felt God's hand.
"I was baptized (as a baby), but not raised in the (Catholic) faith," he said. "I started going to Mass while I was in college and was confirmed as a sophomore. Shortly after that, I felt called to the priesthood."
Paveglio, who turns 29 on June 16, couldn't say exactly when he got the message.
"There really wasn't any one big event or anything that led me to the priesthood," he said. "Ultimately, I was just going to Mass and just felt drawn by the Eucharist. I started going to the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration chapel in (at Immaculate Heart of Mary) in Concord ... and it was in front of the Blessed Sacrament that I felt called to the priesthood, so I can bring the Eucharist to people and bring people to the Eucharist."
An Eagle Scout, Paveglio grew up in Bow before enlisting in the Army ROTC when he enrolled at UNH.
Paveglio was commissioned in the Army National Guard after he graduated from UNH with a bachelor's degree in political science and has been serving in the New Hampshire Army National Guard since. His current rank is 1st lieutenant, and he's a chaplain candidate within the Guard.
"I originally started out as a music major, and even though I enjoyed it, I didn't want to make it a career, so I switched to political science mainly because I wanted to be an active-duty officer, maybe even a helicopter pilot or something like that. But the Lord intervened and said, 'I want you to go to seminary and be a priest,'" he said. "This has given me the opportunity to serve my God and serve my country all at the same time, so that's obviously pretty cool."
After attending Saint Mary's Seminary, he returned to New Hampshire and became a parishioner at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Rochester, following his mentor, the Rev. Paul Gousse, whom he first met at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Concord.
"(Our Lady of the Holy Rosary) has really become my adoptive parish. Everyone there has been very good to me," said Paveglio. "(Gousse) is the one who first inspired me to become a priest. He's been instrumental in my growth."
"What Jeff brings to the priesthood is really his love of the priesthood," said Gousse. "Jeff is like a pied piper with kids and young people. They just flock to him, and because he loves the priesthood, he is able to talk to people about what he loves, and therefore he's going to lead a lot of people to Christ."
Paveglio, who was vested at ordination by Gousse, will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Rochester, at 2 p.m. today.