Deacon Paul S. Cygan, a fourth-year theology major at Christ the King Seminary, says he first began thinking about becoming a priest when he was 7 years old. "It was a simple realization," he recalled. "I thought, 'Priests are not born priests. That means I can be a priest someday. Yes, I think that sounds like a good idea.'"
That someday takes place June 2 when he and three other seminarians in the Diocese of Buffalo are ordained by Bishop Richard J. Malone.
Deacon Cygan's education and path to priesthood began with being home schooled, which he calls "a gift from God," and includes four years at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, where he earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and Theology, and became part of the Priestly Formation Program there, prior to entering the seminary.
"My parents created our family to be a school of virtue and prayer," Deacon Cygan explained. "We went to Mass daily and prayed the rosary daily. Homeschooling was the seedbed of my vocation, providing fertile soil to receive the Word of God in my life. Such an environment formed me to love God, Mary and the Church."
At Steubenville, Deacon Cygan says he claimed the faith as his own. "It was a time of spiritual consolation as I grew in the four pillars of formation - human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral."
Describing his experience at Christ the King as providing opportunities for his intellectual, spiritual and pastoral experiences to be widened, Deacon Cygan says he has noticed a growing love for ministry and our diocese.
"The seminary instilled in me how to live my vocational life in the form of a cross. The vertical beam of the cross represents my spiritual life and relationship with God. This vertical beam gives life to the horizontal beam of ministry and love for others. In addition, I have come to truly appreciate the rich history here in our diocese and how the Catholic faith shaped this area."
At the seminary Deacon Cygan served in pastoral work at NativityMiguel Middle School and Villa Maria College, both in Buffalo, with summer assignments at Sacred Heart in Bowmansville, St. Joseph Cathedral, and a pastoral year at St. Gregory the Great in Williamsville.
In 2016, Deacon Cygan had a "life-transforming opportunity" to walk the Camino de Santiago and volunteer for World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland. "Walking Camino gave me the opportunity to listen to God in the silence of my heart, discerning, praying and glorifying God for the gift of vocation."
When asked what kind of priest he hopes to be, Deacon Cygan said, "I want to be a holy priest; focused on Marian devotion and love for the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. I want to be a priest that opens the Second Vatican Council's focus on all people being a priestly people flowing from their baptism. Every one of us can offer our lives to God in whatever vocation we have, single life, married, priestly and religious life."
The Olean native says he has great confidence and hope in the future of our Church.
"I truly believe the diocese is ready for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There are many hearts burning with an ardent desire to spread the Gospel of Christ here and now."