y Chuck Moody
Supplement to the Pittsburgh Catholic
Reprinted with permission
Michael Zavage first felt the call to the priesthood at 12 when he became an altar server at St. Hugh Parish in Carmichaels, Greene County.
“I was so excited to assist the priest at Mass, and I remember Father Ralph Stack telling me that altar serving was “like having front row seats to the Mass,” said Father Zavage, one of four men ordained June 27 at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland neighborhood.
“As I watched Father Stack celebrate Mass, I could not help but think of myself in that position. The thought of the priesthood kept coming back to me to the point that I unconsciously wrote down the priesthood as my future career during my sixth-grade graduation.”
Father Zavage was taking science classes for a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine during his freshman year at Waynesburg University when he felt the call again. “Ironically, my elective class in scripture was my favorite class, and I was beginning to have doubts about being a doctor,” he said. “During one of my late-night study sessions, a classmate asked me if I really wanted to be a family physician since it was such a big commitment, both physically and financially”.
That night Father Zavage said he had a dream in which he was a doctor in an emergency room, and he saved a woman who had a drug overdose. He said the woman returned in the same dream, but this time the overdose was fatal.
“Then at that moment, a priest silently entered the room and anointed her,” he said. “The fear in her eyes disappeared and she died in peace. He left the room and I asked myself, ‘What is more important: to save the body or the soul?’ I awoke from the dream and began to seriously discern the seminary. I entered after my freshman year.”
Growing up, Father Zavage worked on a friend’s farm and as a bag boy and assistant manager at Shop ‘n’ Save in Waynesburg. In addition to Father Stack, the next two pastors at St. Hugh also were influential in Father Zavage’s decision to enter the seminary: Fathers Francis Nazimek and John Bauer. Father Zavage’s grandfather, Andy Zavage, his mother, Joan, and his father, Mike Sr., also provided excellent role models.
After seven years of Seminary formation, priesthood is much more than “just the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “It is the fufillment of the plan that God began at the beginning of time,” Father Zavage said. “As I approach the priesthood, I feel at peace knowing that this where God wants me to be and that I am answering his call.”
Father Zavage cannot wait to celebrate Mass and hear confessions. “These two sacraments have been the foundation of my life, and I cannot wait to share them with others,” he said. “It is hard to fathom the reality that through my hands will come Christ’s body and blood, and also his divine mercy.
“Who am I to be the custodian of such an awesome reality? I am humbled by the immensity of God’s love that he extends through the priesthood, and I am excited to share that love with others.”