The Physics of Priesthood – Thomas F. Hamm, Jr.

2000 News

Thomas F. Hamm, Jr. is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Hamm, Sr. of Martins Ferry, Ohio. He earned a bachelor of science degree in biology and physics at Wheeling Jesuit College, Wheeling, West Virginia, and a master of science degree in physics at Texas A&M University. He received a master of divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 1999, with highest honors. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Gilbert I. Sheldon on May 27, 2000. He is parochial vicar to St. Sylvester Church, Woodsfield; St. Joseph Church, Burkhart; St. John the Baptist Church, Miltonsburg and St. John Bosco Mission, Sardis, all in the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio.

This article is from The Steubenville Register, April of 2000.

By Pat DeFrancis

STEUBENVILLE — A native of Martins Ferry who said he has “felt the call” to become a priest “for a very long time” is one of three men who will be ordained to the priesthood next month.

Thomas F. Hamm Jr. will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Steubenville during a 10 a.m. liturgy May 27 at Holy Name Cathedral.

Though Hamm said that even as a child he had thought about being a priest, it wasn’t until late 1994 or early 1995 that he firmly decided to become one. “I had been running away from (the vocation),” he said.

As a youth, Hamm was an altar boy at his home parish, St. Mary Church, Martins Ferry. He attended St. Mary Central School, Martins Ferry, and graduated from St. John Central High School, Bellaire. He received undergraduate degrees in biology and physics from Wheeling Jesuit University and a master’s degree in physics from Texas A&M, College Station, Texas. He worked on a doctorate in neuroscience at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. When assistantships in the sciences ended and after a job interview in New York City, Hamm said he began to reexamine his life. “I decided I had better see what God wants me to do,” he said.

After discussions with a few people, Hamm said he made application to, and was accepted at, Saint Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, Pa. The only son of Betty and Thomas F. Hamm Sr. said that his parents and others have been very supportive of his decision to become a priest. “I could give you a laundry list of people,” Hamm said as he cited Father Thomas A. Magary, pastor at St. Mary Church, Martins Ferry; the Benedictine community at Saint Vincent Seminary, especially Father Thomas P. Acklin, rector; and Father James O’Brien at Wheeling Jesuit University.

At the seminary, life has been “pretty much what I expected it to be,” the transitional deacon said. “In some ways the studies have been much easier, (than courses taken previously), but much more natural. In biology and physics classes, it always was uphill. Now, I was doing something I felt comfortable doing.”

The routine at the seminary began with 7:30 a.m. communal prayer, followed by breakfast and classes, which would determine the remainder of the morning and afternoon schedule. By 4:30 p.m., seminarians would gather for evening prayer, Mass and dinner. “It was a regulated environment, but less strict than in the ‘old days,’” Hamm said. “Deacons got free days on Thursdays.” He has graduated with a master of divinity degree.

His ministry while at Saint Vincent was at a nursing home that he visited weekly and as an aide at a local Catholic grade school. During the summer of 1999, he was a pastoral associate at St. Benedict Church, Cambridge.

Once ordained, Hamm said he is looking forward to getting out into the parish. “I think a parish priest has to be a man of prayer, a man of love, and someone who is very dedicated in the sense of being willing to be there for his people when needed,” Hamm said. “The parish priest still should visit the sick and have a ministry of presence and be able to allow himself to be an instrument of God.”