Monday, July 04, 2016 - Updated: 1:20 PM
Father Anthony Sciarappa said that he had an “overwhelming” feeling of gratitude as he was ordained to the priesthood June 25 at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. Surrounded by family and friends who have supported him, he felt his first experience of the joy of the priesthood.
“I was feeling so blessed,” he said.” I had done nothing to deserve this call, nothing to deserve this vocation. And yet here it is.”
He first thought of a vocation the summer before his senior year at North Allegheny High School when he heard a vocation talk at a retreat. When someone asked the priest what his ministry was like he responded by telling them “it’s a lot like being myself.” That got Father Sciarappa’s attention.
“It felt like a tug at my gut,” he said.
He began to talk with Father Joseph McCaffrey, pastor of his home parish of Sts. John and Paul in Franklin Park/Marshall Township, and with other priests who would visit. He then met with Father James Wehner, former rector of St. Paul Seminary in Crafton. He remembers the great sense of peace he felt when he visited the seminary.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “I just knew that I had to give it a shot.”
Father Sciarappa described the discernment process as being a “gradual” one. He was moved by the priesthood’s call to celibacy. He studied St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” and the call began to make more sense. A “big” moment for him in his discernment came when he ended his relationship with his high school girlfriend. He realized that he was called to a lifetime of celibacy.
“It’s a shocking thing when you’re hanging out with your girlfriend and you are 18 years old,” he said.
Another confirmation of his call, he noted, was when he told his high school youth group about his plans. He said that while he had never been afraid to talk in front of crowds, it was difficult to get the words out. They responded by surrounding him in a group hug and offering their prayers for him.
He pointed out, however, that as the emotion of the retreat passed and things “settled down” a little he tried to talk himself out of the decision.
“But that lingering tug was still there,” he said. He entered St. Paul Seminary in 2010. He went on to complete his theological studies at Theological College and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
He was assigned to pastoral experience in the summer of 2014 at the New Castle parishes of St. Vitus, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Joseph the Worker and Mary, Mother of Hope. Following his diaconate ordination in 2015, he was assigned to Good Samaritan in Ambridge and St. John the Baptist in Baden.
The most enjoyable part of his seminary years, Father Sciarappa noted, were the friendships that he made. He shared the struggles with guys who he never would have befriended if not for the seminary. And they all shared the goal of pursuing Christ.
As a transitional deacon, he baptized a former classmate’s daughter, and was the godfather to another child. He spoke of Father Robert Fleckenstein, who became “like an older brother” to him. He had the opportunity to befriend seminarians from all over the country while he was in Washington.
“Lasting friendships,” he said.
Father Sciarappa is looking forward to being a spiritual father as a priest. He is excited about administering the sacraments and presiding at liturgies, but he just wants to get to know the people he will serve.
His said that every single male should at least consider the possibility of a priestly vocation. His advice to those who may feel a call is to pray on it.
“It’s OK to be a little afraid,” he said. “It’s OK to not understand. It’s OK to take your time.” He pointed to daily Mass and regular participation in the sacrament of reconciliation for helping him to hear God’s voice more clearly.
The end result, he added, has been experiencing the great joy of the priesthood in his heart.