There is nothing ordinary about Peter Mottola’s path to the priesthood nor those of his fellow seminarians who will be ordained as transitional deacons next month.
Raised a Methodist in Neptune City, N.J., Mottola was active in his youth-ministry group, Mottola explained via e-mail. Although he was jokingly called "Pastor" during a retreat, he set thoughts of ministry aside as he went off to study at Rochester Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in information technology.
But as he became good friends with fellow students who were Catholic, Mottola decided to convert to Catholicism. That decision now leads him to the transitional diaconate and, eventually, ordination as a priest.
"I had no ‘epiphany’ moment, I simply had come to enjoy assisting at Mass and going to Bible studies," he explained. "(But) I hope that as a deacon and then … as a priest, I can help people see that a personal encounter with Jesus Christ can lead them to true happiness and the fulfillment of all their desires."
Mottola is one of three transitional deacons who will be ordained by Bishop Matthew H. Clark during a 10:30 a.m. liturgy June 2 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 296 Flower City Park, Rochester. The others are Michael Costik of Livonia and Sergio Chávez, a seminarian from Colombia.
Costik said he is looking forward to this important step to the priesthood.
"All of the promises (of the priesthood) are made at the diaconate ordination," he said. "We tend to focus on the priestly ordination. … But all those good things begin at the diaconate ordination. It is amazing."
Costik took a circuitous path to priesthood even though he initially considered it in high school, he explained. But following 1996 graduation from Catholic University of America with a bachelor’s degree in music, he began a music career and taught drama at a private school in Pawling, N.Y. He decided to return to the church several years ago, Costik said, and almost immediately he again felt the call to a priestly vocation, he noted.
"It was something I couldn’t ignore," added Costik, who will be 38 this month
So, he returned to the Rochester area in 2006 and spoke with Father John Hayes, pastor of St. Matthew Church in Livonia, who referred him to the diocese’s vocations office. A year later, he entered Becket Hall to begin his discernment process. He finished his degree in theology at Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, last July after the closure of American College, the seminary in Leuven.
Following Mottola’s graduation from RIT, he worked part-time as a webmaster at the diocesan Pastoral Center. He moved in to Beckett Hall, took philosophy classes at St. John Fisher College and was assigned to Blessed Sacrament Church. Subsequently, he relocated to Washington, D.C., and continued with seminary training at the Theological College, while also taking theology classes at the affiliate Catholic University of America.
Chávez is finishing up his third year of studies at the Theological College in Washington, D.C. Born in Bogota, Colombia, and raised in the town of Uvita Boyaca, Chávez initially traveled to Rochester to learn English as part of a collaboration between the dioceses of Rochester and Medellín.
As he nears ordination, he said he is full of gratitude to Bishop Clark and the diocese for allowing him the opportunity to become a priest and serve the people of the Rochester region.
"It is a joy for my heart to realize that the grace and the gift of ordination is not the end but just the beginning of a life consecrated for the Lord and the sake of his community," he wrote in an e-mail
Chávez said he has received a warm welcome at every turn in the formation process. One of his biggest challenges is language, however, and he added that he will continue to work on improving his English.
"The Diocese of Rochester and its communities … (have offered) me a warm and comfortable atmosphere to work (on) my pastoral practice, as well as to grow as a human and spiritual person," he said.