Father Anthony Baetzold, who grew up in Greece’s St. Lawrence Parish as well as Hilton’s St. Leo Parish, was ordained a Franciscan priest on Saturday, May 14. The ordination was performed by Cardinal Edward Egan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
Father Baetzold, who will turn 35 on Aug. 12, was formerly known as David Baetzold. He took the name Anthony upon entering the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in 1996.
He is a 1988 graduate of Hilton High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in pre-med from Penn State University and later worked for two pharmaceutical companies in New Jersey. It was while in New Jersey that he also spent considerable time in prayer as a call to the priesthood became louder.
“I wasn’t practicing my faith in college for all intents and purposes — not in high school, either. I had a bit of a conversion experience in 1991. In the most mysterious way, I heard God calling me back to him,” Father Baetzold said. “As he kept leading me, calling me deeper and deeper, I began to understand the plan he had for me. I really began searching the diocesan and religious communities.”
From there, he entered the Franciscans. He began studying at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York City in 1999; professed his final vows in 2001; and was ordained a transitional deacon in 2004.
Following his recent ordination, Father Baetzold returned to the Rochester area to celebrate Masses on May 28 at St. Lawrence Church and on May 29 at another Greece church, St. Mark’s.
His first priestly assignment is at Our Lady of the Angels Friary in the South Bronx. His chief ministerial responsibilities will be to evangelize and assist with the poor and homeless, with a special focus on youth.
“I’ve been doing this work since I entered (the Franciscans), working with youth in the inner city. What will change now is the enthusiasm to enter that work as a priest,” Father Baetzold said. “Now I bring a sacramental dimension, which is real exciting to me. I couldn’t bring that before — to hear confession, and just say Mass.”
Due to the challenging neighborhood that he serves, anointing of the sick will also be prevalent.
“I see a lot of people die in the hospitals,” Father Baetzold remarked, noting that in many cases the victims are young people affected by violence and substance abuse. He said that his prayer life helps him cope with these painful realities.
“God gives the consolation and the energy to keep going and stay positive,” Father Baetzold said. “You have to stay positive, especially as a brother or a priest, because so many people look to you as a light in the neighborhood. I have a responsibility to be a spiritual father to them.”