Although Father Matthew Newcomb began eyeing the priesthood way back in elementary school, he said it was a daunting step to begin formaIizing that path as a young adult.
“I think the hardest decision is to join the seminary,” he said during a telephone interview in April. Once in seminary, he said, “usually God will let you know” whether the process is meant to result in a priestly ordination.
Apparently, God told Father Newcomb to proceed.
Father Newcomb, a native of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Elmira, was scheduled to be ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of New York on Saturday, May 14. His ordination was to be performed by Cardinal Edward Egan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
Father Newcomb, 26, is a 1997 graduate of Horseheads High School. He received his associate’s degree in liberal arts from Corning Community College in 1998, then moved to New York to begin priestly studies. He earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. John’s University in 2000 and his master’s degree in divinity from St. Joseph’s Seminary in 2004. Also last year, he was ordained a deacon in the seminary’s chapel.
Following his priestly ordination, Father Newcomb was to celebrate his first Mass on May 15 at St. Brendan’s Church in the Bronx, where his summer assignments have taken place. The following weekend he was due to return to Elmira, to celebrate a 10:30 a.m. Mass of Thanksgiving on May 22 at Our Lady of Lourdes.
Father Newcomb expected to learn about his first priestly assignment in the New York Archdiocese at the time of ordination. The new priest envisions himself in a parish setting — “definitely I feel the call to be a pastor, a leader and shepherd of souls,” he said — with teaching a strong possibility as well.
“My parents (Patricia and James) are retired teachers, and I’d like to be involved somehow in education,” he said.
Father Newcomb’s teaching experience has covered both elementary and high school. Earlier this year he conducted a lecture series on the Eucharist, based on the late Pope John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. The series took place at Our Lady of Victory Parish, right on Wall Street. Father Newcomb also has logged experience in hospital ministry.
Father Newcomb acknowledged that the Big Apple environment is certainly a switch from Elmira’s small-city setting, yet he has adjusted well.
“Luckily I’ve met very good friends. For some people, New York can be very lonely — full of people, but distant. Parish life has been good,” he said.
Father Newcomb looks forward to serving as a priest in that setting, as he springs forth from many years of formation.
“Even if I was only able to say one Mass my whole life, it would be worth it,” he remarked. “It’s very hard — while you’re studying, you’re not allowed to do anything you feel you’re called to. I understand why, but waiting the eight years can be difficult.”
Father Newcomb credits two deceased priests of the Diocese of Rochester for influencing his vocational journey: Father Joseph Egan, who served for many years in Elmira, and Father Elmer McNamara, a distant relative of Father Newcomb’s. “They were happy and joy-filled priests,” he said.
It’s now time for Father Newcomb to join the priestly ranks of these role models, and he couldn’t be happier.
“Being able to bring the Eucharist to people and also to forgive sins — I couldn’t see a greater vocation,” he stated.