Six years ago, John Loncle already had earned two master’s degrees and was on the brink of receiving his doctorate. Yet the call to a priestly vocation was growing louder, so he committed himself to even more schooling — this time in a seminary.
Now, Deacon Loncle is only a few days away from becoming a priest of the Diocese of Rochester. Bishop Matthew H. Clark will ordain him at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Saturday, June 4, during a Mass beginning at 10:30 a.m. Deacon Loncle is the only man to become a diocesan priest this year.
“There’s the definite satisfaction of finally being done with school and sort of figuring out what I’m going to do with myself,” said Deacon Loncle, who celebrated his 41st birthday on May 27. “But I’m avoiding the temptation of saying I’m finally in a career or job, because it’s much more than that. It’s a life you’re choosing.”
Deacon Loncle was born in Rochester and baptized at St. Monica’s Church. He grew up in Fairport’s St. John of Rochester Parish, graduating from Fairport High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Ohio’s Wittenberg University in 1986. For the next three years he worked for LeChase Construction Co. in Rochester as an administrative assistant and project manager. He then returned to college, earning a master’s degree in Russian and East European studies from George Washington University in 1993.
From there he moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where in 1995 he obtained a master’s degree in political science. He remained at that university to pursue doctoral studies in political science. But as he became more involved in his campus’ Catholic community, the possibility of pursuing the priesthood grew within him.
“To a certain extent, some of it was getting to know priests as people, and not seeing them just as leading liturgy or presiding at liturgy — meeting some priests that were really happy and holy men. That made priesthood something attractive,” Deacon Loncle said.
In 1999 he joined Becket Hall, the diocesan pre-theology program. He went on to complete pre-theology requirements at St. John Fisher College, Nazareth College and St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry. In 2000 he began seminary training at Theological College at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he recently finished up his master’s studies.
Deacon Loncle has logged local assignments at St. Mary’s Parish in Canandaigua, St. Helen’s Parish in Gates and Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital. In Washington, he performed pastoral ministry among seriously and terminally ill patients at a nursing home and in two parish assignments.
Bishop Clark ordained him a transitional deacon May 22, 2004, at St. Mary’s in Canandaigua. Now, he looks forward to becoming the first priest ordained in the recently renovated cathedral.
“It will be a really wonderful and joyous experience for me. Personally, I don’t like being the center of attention, so it’s sort of a mixed bag. If the bishop wants to do it in a small chapel with 50 people, that would be fine with me,” Deacon Loncle said with a laugh. “But I’m sure it will be a wonderful event.”
Deacon Loncle will offer Masses of Thanksgiving at 11:30 a.m. June 5 at St. Mary’s in Canandaigua and at noon June 12 at St. John of Rochester. Although his first assignment was not known at press time, Deacon Loncle said he’s eager to embrace his new priestly ministry.
“I enjoyed being a student to a certain extent. But it was a hard thing when I was discerning (the priesthood), thinking about another six years of schooling and training. So I definitely am ready to be done with school — because I was ready to be done with it before this process began,” he remarked.
At the same time, Deacon Loncle said his education and his desire to teach will be beneficial.
“I was thinking of becoming a college professor, and one of the roles of a pastor or priest is to ensure that the faithful are catechized, whether I’m doing it or leading a team of people,” he said.
Yet, he noted, “I don’t see myself as some sort of know-it-all that’s going to stand there and spout information to people. People these days are very knowledgeable themselves, and they have a lot to share. It’s a two-way street.”
Along with educational efforts, Deacon Loncle looks forward to the wide range of experiences priestly life can bring.
“Oftentimes you don’t know what you’re going to do on a given day,” he said. “Who knows who’s going to walk through the door, and what situation is going to arise? It could be plumbing problems, to an icy sidewalk, to more serious things — someone falling ill, someone dying, an accident or people coming in to want to get their kid baptized or want to get married.”
Priesthood, he added, “covers the whole range of life. It’s an opportunity to really realize you’re an instrument in God’s hands … allowing God to use you in a situation for service of others.”