They all took different paths to the priesthood. One came from Nigeria. Another was a middle-aged computer engineer.
But all of their paths reached the same destination, as Bishop Richard J. Malone ordained four new priests in front of a full congregation at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo June 2.
The four new priests, Father Peter N. Bassey, Father Paul S. Cygan, Father Peter J. Santandreu and Father Gerard Skrzynski, also received their new assignments following the Mass. Father Bassey will serve as parochial vicar at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Orchard Park. Father Cygan was assigned as parochial vicar at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville. Father Santandreu will serve as parochial vicar at St. Amelia Parish in Tonawanda. Father Gerard Skrzynski will be a parochial vicar at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Niagara Falls.
The Ordination Mass is not only a festive day for the new priests, but for the clergy of the Diocese of Buffalo, as many came out to welcome and celebrate their new presbyterate brothers.
"The Diocese of Buffalo is a very warm diocese with the priests, who are always welcoming and outgoing," said Father Santandreu, who originally dreamed of being a college professor before a deep prayer experience left him with a calling to a priestly vocation.
"All the priests here have been welcoming into their priestly fraternity," said Father Bassey, a native of Nigeria who came to the United States to continue his education in Theological Studies. "I'm so happy to be a part of it and I look forward to working with any of them."
Father Cygan was raised in a deeply religious family, but he found his own discernment while studying at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. Meanwhile, Father Skrzynski worked as a computer engineer for 25 years before he was laid off, finally giving himself and his mind time to discern his own calling.
"It's been a long journey," said Father Santandreu. "It feels good. I'm feeling very blessed and happy to be here. I'm looking forward to taking this next step and moving ahead to the life of a priest."
In his homily, Bishop Malone talked about meeting the four men for lunch this week as they discussed the challenges and joys of the life of a priest. They found connections to their ministry through scripture, of which selected readings were spoken during the Ordination Mass.
"There is the heart of priestly ministry. Anointed to herald the joy of the Gospel in season and out of season, to be a messenger of divine mercy in the name and person of Jesus, and all of it, always, after the example of the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep and will give his all for them."
"You dear brothers, are the fulfillment in our time of the Lord's promise to send shepherds. The great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ, entrusted to the Apostles and their successors the ministry of shepherding God's flock. Today, the Lord entrusts this ministry to you. What a cause for awe and wonder, for humility and gratitude and for resolve on your part to be the very best shepherds - the very best priests - you can be."
Surrounded by their family and friends, some of whom made long journeys themselves to be at St. Joseph Cathedral, the four newly ordained men were all smiles as they were greeted by their fellow clergy and began their first celebration of the Eucharist as priests.
"I feel so blessed, I feel so happy, and I feel that it's God who brought this to completion when we get ordained by the bishop," Father Bassey said. "I look forward to working with the people of God because I am so filled with enthusiasm for the work. I'm excited."