A native of Nigeria and a father of two are among the four men who will be ordained transitional deacons on Saturday, Sept. 19, at St. Joseph Cathedral, 50 Franklin St., Buffalo. Through the imposition of hands and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Richard J. Malone will ordain Venatius Ifeyichukwu Agbasiere, Michael K. Brown, Samuel T. Giangreco Jr. and Michael LaMarca at a special 10 a.m. Mass as the seminarians move one step closer to becoming priests.
Agbasiere, one of seven children, came to the Buffalo from Nigeria where he began his studies for the priesthood, said he feels God brought him to the diocese.
"I also believe," he said, "that God has a mission for me in Buffalo, the mission to spread love, to show compassion, to share the joy of Christ, to be there for the hurting, those in pain, the suffering, the sick, the poor, those who live on the margins, the oppressed and the downtrodden, to be a listening, supporting, comforting and encouraging presence to people, to inspire faith, to promote the new evangelization, to welcome all into one fold of the church with Christ as its shepherd and to initiate a deeper appreciation of our faith within the community under the pastoral leadership and governance of my bishop and the fraternal collaboration and partnership of brother priests, in unity with the permanent diaconate community together with the religious men and women of the diocese."
Brown, the father of two adults sons, entered the seminary following more than 24 years in United States intelligence in national security positions as an agent, investigator and in quality assurance and management.
Born and raised in Buffalo, he graduated from South Park High School and Canisius College. Brown also taught middle school math and religious education at various parishes. But, he explained, the most difficult part of his life's journey has been being away from his children, Justin and Robert.
In reflecting on his journey toward the priesthood, Brown said, "If you are open to the Lord, you never know where your life journey will take you. I have to believe the Lord is with my every step through life and being open to his spirit, his plan will continue to unfold."
Giangreco, a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, earned a bachelor's degree in sociology before entering the seminary. He is a native of Williamsville and member of St. Gregory the Great Parish who said he felt his "calling" to the priesthood at an early age, but ignored it.
"I felt that I was called to this life since I was seven years old," he said. "By eighth grade, I discovered that telling my friends that I wanted to be a priest wasn't the coolest thing, so I chose to stop talking about it, and soon forgot it."
He led the life of a typical teenager in high school and early college until one day during his freshman year in college.
"I remember briefly praying on my knees in my dorm room at my bed before sleeping, when I felt overcome by an intense feeling of love. It's hard to describe," he explained, "but I remember feeling 'on fire' with love and that all I wanted to do was devote my life to God. It was at that moment that I remembered the 'call' of priesthood from when I was much younger."
LaMarca, the fourth seminarian to be ordained, grew up in West Seneca and attended Medaille College where he graduated with a degree in sport management. He describes his journey to the seminary and priesthood as nothing extraordinary, "which perhaps, in itself, makes it special. Entering right out of college certainly provides its own challenges, but I have no regrets," he explained. "I can see the Holy Spirit working through the people put in my life, reassuring me of my vocational call each and every day."
LaMarca, who is one of three children, worked at Wegman's during his high school and college years as well as at St. Gabriel, Elma, and Our Lady of Pompeii, Lancaster, parishes. He also worked with the Buffalo Bisons for two seasons, one season as an intern and the other as a game day promotions employee. His customer service experience coupled with his hometown knowledge should serve him well in the priesthood. "I believe myself to be very much a Buffalo person and look forward to serving the people of Western New York for years to come," he said.
Agbasiere, Brown, Giangreco and LaMarca will graduate from the seminary in May and expect to be ordained to the priesthood shortly after.