Great-aunt’s Wish for Priest in Family Comes True – Bill Berkey

2000 News

 William Berkey is the son of Mr. and Mrs. James Berkey of Bradenville RD 1.He earned a bachelor of science degree in food service management from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1989. In 2000, he earned a master of diviinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary.

This article is from The Catholic Accent .

By Melissa Williams Schofield

GREENSBURG — William G. Berkey’s new profession is much like his first. Both deal with service.

The former maitre d’ always felt he was called to the priesthood, but never answered the call. It was always in the back of his mind that some day he would go to the seminary. His great-aunt thought so, too. When she was near death, she told him she hoped one day he would be a priest. She was from the old country and there was always a priest in the family.

On June 1, 2002, there was.

Deacon Berkey became Father Berkey. A Bradenville native whose home parish is St. Rose in Latrobe, he graduated from Derry Area Senior High School in 1985. He received a bachelor of science degree in food service management from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1989. He worked for six years for Club Corporation of America at the Rivers Club, One Oxford Center, downtown Pittsburgh. Midway through his career there, he switched gears. He was in an affiliate program in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and entered the seminary there before transferring to his home diocese a year later.

“It’s been joyful ever since,” says Berkey, who did a 14-month pastoral internship at St. Sebastian Parish in Belle Vernon before being ordained a deacon in May 2001. His diaconate assignment from Saint Vincent Seminary was at St. Sebastian for another year, while completing his theological studies.

“My formation at Saint Vincent Seminary was a very good experience, as was my assignment at St. Sebastian. It was a wonderful experience with Father John (Cindric, pastor), the staff and parishioners.”

Entering into the priesthood today could be a challenge in a time when faith has been shaken in the world and the church.

“It certainly is a challenge today to enter into the priesthood at this time of history, but I believe God has truly called me to be an instrument of peace and an instrument of love in the world and his church today. I hope that with all the prayers out there for me and in my own prayers, I will be that instrument of peace and love in his church,” he said. He praised his parents, James and Margaret Berkey, his two brothers, sister and six nieces and nephews, for standing by him.

“I’m sure they’ve been waiting for the day when their little brother will be a priest,” said the baby of the family.

Looking back on his professions, they ironically go hand in hand.

“Certainly both have to do with service. I’ve always had a great joy working with people. In the priesthood, you must also work well with people and I’ve had some wonderful experiences working in parishes in the diocese and I want to continue that service to the people,” said Berkey, an avid mountain biker.

He served summer assignments at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Parish, Indiana; St. Pius X Parish, Mount Pleasant; and St. Regis Parish, Trafford.

He describes Father Cindric as a “tremendous teacher” who gave him a lot of freedom to use his experiences at the seminary and other parishes in ministry. He also credits Fathers E. George Saletrik (parochial vicar at St. Sebastian and The Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in Monessen) and Donald P. Trexler (former parochial vicar at St. Sebastian and currently administrator at St. Joseph Parish in New Kensington) for always being there to support him.

He has a piece of advice for men considering the priesthood.

“Keep the faith and don’t give up hope. Just because a few have cast a shadow on all of us, Christ is still calling men to serve in the priesthood. They need to be open to that, knowing the church will continue to grow. Do not be afraid.”

Because of his pastoral internship and diaconate assignment, he feels he’s much better prepared for life as a priest.

“I’ve learned many different areas of ministry, from the school to working with the staff, as well as working with the business manager, director of religious education, and pastoral care of the sick. They are great people and they really taught me the different ways to minister. I’m grateful for the two years I spent at St. Sebastian. The two years gave me the experience to say “yes” to what I want to do. The seminary trains you in one way for the priesthood, but can’t train you what it’s like for day-to-day life as a priest or living in a rectory.”

He clearly remembers the day he entered the seminary.

“My vocation director told me to ‘Hold on to your chair. It’s going to be a ride.’ It’s certainly been a joyful ride and I look forward to ministry in the Diocese of Greensburg.”