Sociology major from UB turns to the priesthood

Thu, May 26th 2016 08:25 am
Staff Reporter
Deacon Samuel Giangreco first thought of the priesthood when he was 7 years old. (Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer)
Deacon Samuel Giangreco first thought of the priesthood when he was 7 years old. (Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer)

Deacon Samuel Giangreco will be ordained at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo on May 28. Deacon Giangreco, a native of Western New York, spoke about the significance of his ordination, the paths in his life that led to choosing the priesthood and what he hopes to do once he is able to fulfill his dream of becoming ordained in the Diocese of Buffalo.

Deacon Giangreco, who is 29 years old, attended St. Gregory the Great School in Williamsville before graduating from Clarence High School in 2005. He attended the State University of New York at Buffalo and received a bachelor's degree in sociology. Although the thought of priesthood crossed his mind on a number of occasions, he decided to take these thoughts seriously near the end of his college career.

"I first thought about priesthood when I was about 7 years old, and then after eighth grade, I was kind of embarrassed of the idea, and so I chose to forget about it," Deacon Giangreco said. "My freshman year in college was when it really came back, but I only thought about it for a couple of weeks and then I forgot about it again, because I was really afraid of the idea."

Initially, Deacon Giangreco began his college career by majoring in accounting, but he decided it was not for him and changed majors. He began to pursue sociology because he wanted to help people and learn more about them, but he was not sure how he wanted to do this. He wanted to help people on a very basic level and was interested in the subject matter, and decided to incorporate his prayer life.

"I remember my freshman year in college, I had an experience in prayer. I was on my knees before I went to sleep, and I said a very brief, silent prayer. I remember a feeling of just being surrounded by this great feeling of love, and my heart was just burning with - I felt this enormous love, basically, and I remember thinking to myself after feeling that, after that prayer, that I wanted to give my whole life to God, and that's when I remembered that calling that I felt I had when I was much younger."

In his senior year of college, the idea of priesthood came back to him strongly at a crossroad in his life: Deacon Giangreco was about to graduate and enter the "real world," but was not all that sure of what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He found himself coming back to the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of reconciliation.

"I did a lot of Eucharistic adoration and tried to go to daily Mass as well," he said. "It was through doing that that I gained more clarity in what I thought God was asking me to do."

Deacon Giangreco said the knowledge he gained in college has helped him to better understand where people are coming from and why people are in the situations they are in now, in terms of sociological history. It helped him to better understand the roots of racism, family systems, social injustice and other aspects of modern-day society.

Deacon Giangreco began attending classes at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora in fall of 2009, immediately after graduating from UB. His first three years at the seminary consisted of philosophy classes, daily prayer, monthly formation meetings with his director, spiritual direction and "daily challenges of trying to be the best person I can be, spiritually and socially," he said. When he entered theology, he began to learn about the Church's teachings and Scripture, which were challenging but ultimately rewarding.

"It was very challenging for me, personally. It was challenging academically and personally. It was very difficult for me, for a lot of the time," he said. "I think that they challenged me to grow in maturity, and also in confidence with myself and in confidence in terms of being a Church leader."

Deacon Giangreco served at St. John Neumann in Strykersville, Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Niagara Falls, St. Martin of Tours and St. Thomas Aquinas in South Buffalo, and Immaculate Conception in East Aurora. He served his diaconal assignment at St. John Vianney in Orchard Park. His field education consisted of promoting unity and working together with other religions to promote peace and justice in the local community through the Network of Religious Communities.

"It basically was putting into practice everything that I've learned, and everything that I was challenged by, in terms of being a Christ-like person," he said of his diaconal assignment. "I was able to put into practice everything I learned at the seminary and everything that I learned from my past assignments, and so it's been an incredibly enjoyable, celebratory, and just absolutely positive and very affirming in terms of understanding and just becoming even more certain about where God is calling me to be."

Deacon Giangreco is hoping he has qualities that will make him a good priest. He said he has a personality that is easy to get along with, is a good listener and "unapologetically supports everything that the Church teaches." 

"I think I am a man of the Church, and one of my charisms, I think, is someone who wants to promote understanding God as mercy as well," he said.

Deacon Giangreco is looking forward to celebrating the sacraments and leading people in worship at Eucharist, while assuring them of God's love for them.

"It's been a very positive experience," he said. "People being called to the priesthood are all very different. It's not just one kind of guy who's being called. There is no one type of personality that will make a good priest. If people are considering the priesthood, everybody is very different, and if you don't fit the mold of what you perceive the mold to be for priests, don't let that hold you back from being a priest."

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