Pegged Early in Life to Become a Priest – Wayne Morris

2001 News

 Rev. Wayne Morris of Lowell, Ohio, is the son of Riley B. Morris and Betty Ann Bauerbach Morris. He received an associate of arts degree in liberal arts from Washington State Community College and a bachelor of arts degree in history from Pontifical College Josephinum. He earned a master of divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 2000.

This article is from The Steubenville Register, May 5, 2001. Reprinted with permission.

By Pat DeFrancis

STEUBENVILLE — A man who was pegged by adults early in his life as a candidate for the priesthood became a priest May 25.

Wayne E. Morris said that from the time he was an altar server at Our Lady of Mercy Church, Lowell, he had people say to him, “You would make such a good priest.”

Initially, he added, his response was just a polite “yea.” It was not until he entered college that Morris said he seriously began thinking about the priesthood.

Reared on and around his grandfather’s small beef farm, near Lowell, Morris said he benefited from the advantages of a large extended family. His mother is one of seven children, his father one of two.

It was his mother, a Catholic, who was in charge of the religious training of Morris and his two brothers. “Dad always backed her up,” Morris said.

That training included religious education taught by lay ministers.

“I was taught by lay people all my life, except when I was in the seminary,” he said. After graduating in 1992 from Fort Frye High School, Beverly, he returned to his church to teach eighth grade religion classes. While teaching those classes, he was a student at Washington State Community College, Marietta.

As an electrical engineering student Morris got a job in the college library where he said he spent more time doing computer work than with books. “That was when I actually thought about going into the seminary,” he said. “It was sometime during Holy Week, when Father Vic (Victor P. Cinson, Jr., Pastor at Our lady of Mercy) was singing the eucharistic prayer, I decided I would like to be a priest.” Morris said he talked with the late Father Dominic Orsini who advised him to finish his college year and then transfer to the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus.

Another month passed and Morris said he discussed with his parents the prospect of becoming a priest. “My mother,” he said, “was overjoyed. My father said he would support me always.”

After a second year at Washington State, where he was awarded an associate degree, Morris enrolled at the Josephinum. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in history at the Josephinum and transferred to Saint Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, Pa., where he graduated in May with a master of divinity degree.

“One of the reasons I got out of electrical engineering is that I found it is so cold,” Morris said. Graduates with that degree are “known for their knowledge, not their interaction with people,” he added.

At Saint Vincent, “my class was the largest. When we first started there were 28 students. It has only gone to 22. To see the number of vocations from a multiple of dioceses is quite an experience.”

While at Saint Vincent, Morris said he has taken extra Scripture classes. “I did it because I wanted to learn,” he said.

Some of the most valuable learning experiences for Morris while a seminarian have come from his being able to be part of parish operations during summer assignments. He has been assigned to Holy Name Cathedral and St. Anthony Church, Steubenville. As an intern, he said he has shared in and observed the duties of a parish priest. He has made hospital visits and served Masses. “I followed the pastor around and under his guidance explored various ministries,” he said.

While on summer assignment, Morris said he has seen church renovation, such as that undertaken at St. Anthony’s during his first summer and then preparation for building a prayer garden at the cathedral during his third year. “It gives me insight into the multiple facets of a pastor,” Morris added.

As a deacon, which he became in April 2000, he has been able to deliver homilies, perform baptisms and help out at weddings. While Father Timothy J. Shannon, pastor at the cathedral and St. Anthony’s, had to be away for two weeks last year, Morris said he had to try to “run the parishes. It is not as easy as it looks. There are so many things you have to be able to do.

“You get the theoretical learning in the seminary,” but it is the interaction with the people that Morris has found he loves.

“It’s the ministry to the people,” he said. When that ministry has been good, whether it’s delivering a homily or visiting with a sick person, “you can tell it yourself and from the people,” he added.

Probably one of the biggest problems for a pastor, he said, is “finding the time. You want to be there for everybody and there is only so much you can do.”

Morris anticipates finding the balance because he said since starting the journey to the priesthood, “I’ve always envisioned myself as a parish priest.”

He celebrated his first Mass May 27 at Our Lady of Mercy Church. Father Cinson was the homilist.