y Lou Jacquet
When Matthew Albright walks out of St. Columba Cathedral June 2, 2007 as the newest and youngest diocesan priest, he will bring to his new ministry a sense of humor, a variety of interests from music to architecture, and a deep commitment to the importance of priesthood in the modern world. Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., will confer priesthood on Deacon Albright during a 10:30 a.m. liturgy.
Albright, 25, is the son of George and Margaret Albright, now of Canton St. John Parish. His father is a retired factory worker, his mother a librarian in Alliance. He grew up in Minerva, Ohio, in the Steubenville Diocese, moved to Alliance, and graduated from Marlington High School in 1999. He attended Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus from 1999-2003, where he received a bachelor’s in philosophy, then moved to St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., for his four years of theology. His diaconate internship was served at East Liverpool St. Aloysius and Wellsville Immaculate Conception parishes.
His path to priesthood was aided by a variety of priests and others he admired. One was Msgr. Michael Campbell, his pastor in Minerva, and another was Father William Bantz, then his pastor at Maximo St. Joseph Parish. “Msgr. Campbell was the first priest who inspired me to think of priesthood and also to have a love for the liturgy,” Deacon Albright recalled. “He instilled that in many of us boys he taught to serve. I have great memories of Holy Week as a child, being on the altar with about 20 other servers. That was my first inspiration toward priesthood.”
His parents were always supportive, he said, although “priesthood itself didn’t come from my parents. They laid the foundation of a strong life in the Church and daily prayer. We never missed church; we prayed at meals and before bedtime. They made sure that my sister, Ann, and I knew the Church was important, and that it needed to be a regular, consistent part of our lives.” He recalls asking his parents and his pastors “lots of questions about priesthood” along the way. “Fortunately, they always took the time to answer my questions. Priesthood was always there in my mind right through high school, even though I considered other things, such as being an architect.” He took computer drafting and design as a background for the latter career possibility in high school.
“I was fortunate to come from a family that did not place a high value on material things,” he added. “My parents were not caught up in having to have. I never owned a video game as a child. Family was always the most important thing in our house.”
Two of the men who helped him reach his goal will vest him at the cathedral: Father Ronald Klingler, pastor of Canton St. John, his parents’ parish; and Father Bernard Gaeta, pastor of East Liverpool St. Aloysius and Wellsville Immaculate Conception, where Deacon Albright served his deaconate internship over more than 20 weekends. Father Charles Byrd, now of Atlanta but formerly a professor at St. Vincent Seminary, will preach at Deacon Albright’s first Mass.
Deacon Albright credits Msgr. John Zuraw, who is now executive director of the diocesan department of Clergy and Religious Services but was the diocesan director of vocations when the seminarian was in college, for helping him to pursue his call. “He took an interest in signing me up, and made sure that I kept in contact throughout my seminary days. He had a lot to do with it.”
Albright found his eight years of seminary experience to be varied and interesting. “The two seminaries were certainly different,” he told the Exponent. “The Josephinum is unique; everything is self-sufficient. You live there and study there; its only function is as a seminary. It is also a pontifical seminary, so it draws men from all over the United States rather than from one diocese or religious order. It has a very international flavor; there are men from all over the world studying there.”
St. Vincent, in contrast, is a seminary as well as a co-ed college, a parish and a monastery. “So it’s a much bigger community,” Albright explained. “It also has a Benedictine atmosphere, very much centered on prayer. It’s a very peaceful, prayerful place to go to school. Many people had commented on that to me before I got there, and I noticed that when I arrived. The Benedictine priests encourage a solid prayer life. That is an important part of the experience there.” Albright said his four years there were “a special time for me, but in fact the whole [seminary] journey has been an exciting time.”
According to Albright, there are many facets of priesthood that he will enjoy, among them writing homilies and preaching. “I also enjoy working with the liturgy and celebrating liturgy,” he said. “Teaching people about liturgy has been a passion of mine.”
In a broader context, Albright said, he sees this as “an exciting time in the Church to be entering into the priesthood, because the pontificate of Benedict XVI is a unique and special time for the Church.”
“[Benedict] is writing a great deal and offering us much to work with,” Albright noted. “We are also seeing a realization of Pope John Paul II’s new evangelization; we are witnessing many new and exciting movements and organizations and trends within the Church, which John Paul II began in his pontificate. We are seeing the fruits of that. So it is certainly an exciting time to be entering the priesthood. There is never a dull moment.”
Albright, who will receive his first pastoral assignment soon after ordination, calls Father Gaeta and Msgr. Michael Cariglio “my closest priest friends” in the diocese and cites both as “role models for me to follow.”
“I learned a lot from Father Bernie,” he said. “I was impressed with his example; he gives the people [in his parishes] very patient and caring service. He has an ability to genuinely love people, to put their interests first and really take care of them. He works very well with the kids who serve at Mass. He is just a very caring man; that is something all of us can strive to be as priests.” Albright noted that Father Gaeta “took good care of me” on weekends, making sure the refrigerator was stocked for the young seminarian driving in from Pennsylvania on weekends from August through April after a full week of academics.
Albright lists music as among his major interests. “I don’t play instruments and I don’t have much talent in it,” he acknowledged. “But I have a passion for music. I enjoy listening to music all the time. One of my favorite things to do is to go to symphony concerts. For me, it’s prayerful and reflective and spiritual. I also enjoy Broadway, which,” he laughed, “is less prayerful. But I like it all.”
Reading novels is another pastime of Albright’s, although the pressures of seminary coursework did not allow much time for that, he said. He also looks forward to more opportunity to ride his bicycle, another activity he enjoys.
Most of all, Albright reflected, he knows that becoming a priest in 2007 requires finding a balance when dealing with parishioners. “You have to be truthful and you have to be authentic,” he said. “We are at the service of a tradition that has been handed down for more than 2,000 years. So we have to pass on the truth, but we have to do so in a loving way. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:15, ‘let us proclaim the truth in love.’”
Article from The Catholic Exponent