This month, the Diocese of Buffalo will welcome three new priests to its ranks. Transitional Deacon Michael LaMarca is one of the men who will be ordained at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, May 28.
LaMarca is a native of West Seneca and a parishioner of St. Gabriel in Elma. He is a lifelong Catholic who was raised in the faith by his parents. He had originally planned to pursue a career in sports management before following his calling to become a priest.
LaMarca is the youngest of three children. He has an older brother and one sister. He graduated from West Seneca East High School in 2005 and attended St. Bonaventure University for a year, studying business administration. He then transferred to Medaille College where he graduated with a degree in sports management.
"The thought of priesthood was encouraged for me to think about when I was in high school, and it came and went on and off," LaMarca said. "A little bit, while I was in college I was thinking about it, but at one point during college, I was really focused on going into sports, going into business."
While attending Medaille College, Deacon LaMarca interned for the Buffalo Bisons, as Buster Bison himself, which had helped to shape his preparation for a career in the field of sports. However, Deacon LaMarca remembered how even when he was planning on pursuing such a career, "every once in a while, the priesthood would creep back into mind," since the Church had always been a large part of his family and young life.
When he was growing up, he was an altar server and lector, served as a Eucharistic minister and had participated in the Catholic youth organization at his parish. In all of these instances, his parents never forced their children to do anything they did not choose to do. As a result, Deacon LaMarca understood the drive to be involved with the Church as more than a just a fleeting interest.
After graduating from college in 2009, he entered Christ the King Seminary in the fall of that year. He graduates from Christ the King this year after completing a total of two years of pre-theology, four years of theology and a pastoral year. He was ordained a transitional deacon on Sept. 19, 2015.
While preparing to be a priest, Deacon LaMarca served his field ministry in the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities. He assisted Cheryl Calire, the diocesan director of pro-life activities, as part of his field education from fall of 2014 until spring of 2015. He also served at the Franciscan Center in South Buffalo from the fall of 2012 until the spring of 2013. He said these were valuable experiences.
"With Cheryl, I helped organize the diocesan participation in the March for Life. I worked mostly with her on other projects, helping to try and get them off the ground, as well as participating in the ceremony for Baby Jesse in Dunkirk," Deacon LaMarca said, referring to a burial service the diocese held last year for a male fetus found on the shore of Lake Erie State Park.
The Franciscan Center is a home for adolescent and young adult males ages 16-21 in need of guidance. While at the center, he served in a variety of ways.
"I would help prepare dinner for them, help provide preparation for applications for job interviews, help them with homework, their school and really just be a presence for them as someone in the residence to talk to on certain topics," Deacon LaMarca said. "I was at St. Christopher Parish in Tonawanda for my pastoral year. Right now, my diaconate assignment is at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo."
Throughout his ministry, LaMarca has been able to be involved with the people he serves, celebrating moments such as baptisms and weddings, and being with them for funerals of loved ones and offering his support. He said his experiences so far have helped him to prepare for when parishioners will actively seek his counsel. He is most looking forward to being able to celebrate sacraments with people he serves and "bring Christ to them in very real ways."
"I find I'm a very personable person, very open," Deacon LaMarca said. "I think that allows me to be very active in ministry, and just someone who is approachable and very pastoral."
LaMarca called his journey a "great experience." He said ordained life as a deacon has helped him prepare for what it will be like as a priest when people turn to him and look for guidance and connection between them and God.
"The seminary program really does prepare you for very active and involved ministry," Deacon LaMarca said. "The programs encourage you to be self-motivated. They encourage you to break down walls and barriers between religious dialogue, dialogue between the ordained and the laity. It really kind of helps you prepare to work with the laity in a parish setting."