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Six New Priests Hit the Brooklyn Streets

By Janet Upadhye | June 22, 2012 3:11pm
Father Joseph Zwosta is one of six new priests to be ordained in Brooklyn this year.
Father Joseph Zwosta is one of six new priests to be ordained in Brooklyn this year.
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Janet Upadhye/DNAinfo

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Joseph Zwosta was just a regular guy. Growing up in Brooklyn he attended public schools, went to parties in college and majored in political science. But on Saturday he will be doing something that will set him apart.

He will make a lifelong commitment to the Catholic church when he is ordained a priest.

"I have been preparing for this moment for eight years," he said. "I am ready for the commitment."

Zwosta was called to the priesthood during college and hasn't turned back since.

"It's a mysterious thing," he said. "There is no huge ah-ha moment, just a slow steady realization of your calling."

Born and raised in Gerritsen Beach, Zwosta is one of six men to be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Brooklyn this year. 

"These men truly are representative of the diversity of the people of the Diocese of Brooklyn," Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in a statement. "Their ordination will be a deeply moving experience, and is among the most important days in the life of the diocese."

Six new priests may seem like a lot during a year when only one priest was ordained to the New York Archdiocese, but historically speaking, the number is very small. Fifty years ago it was normal for 30 to 40 priests to be ordained to the Brooklyn Diocese annually, Zwosta said.

"There are fewer priests overall than there used to be," Zwosta said. "This means we have more work to do and our commitments are much greater."

He is part of a larger trend of younger men who are deciding to join the priesthood.

Two-thirds of men entering the priesthood in the United States this year are between 25 and 34, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. That's slightly younger than last year and follows the trend over the past six years.

It was during his time at Georgetown University that Zwosta began to consider becoming a priest. He attended Mass every week and joined a Catholic campus group called the Knights of Columbus.

"There are a lot of temptations in college," he said. "So I had to make the choice to put my faith at the center of my life."

After college and one year of pre-theology studies in Queens, Zwosta moved to Rome to attend seminary for four years at North American College.

He was ordained a Deacon in St. Peter's Basilica. His family saved money for two years to be able to fly to Rome to witness the ceremony.

And now they will witness a new ordainment at St. James Cathedral Basilica in Downtown Brooklyn. DiMarzio will run the ancient ceremony.

"These men have demonstrated their courage by being so counter-cultural, and are a sign of hope for the future," DiMarzio said. "Their lives exude the zeal to be truly apostolic priests for the New Evangelization."

Zwosta knows that there will be days when not having a wife and kids will be hard. He calls that his cross to bear, but also thinks life in the priesthood will be very fulfilling.

"As a parish priest I'll be there to baptize babies, give them their first communions, marry them, and conduct funerals," he said. "I get to be there for all the big moments in people's lives."