Below are excerpts from the June 2016 issue of The Long Island Catholic Magazine.
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A Journey of Faith: Steve Maddaloni
By Paul McAvoy | Photography by Charlene Graham
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus first calls his disciples by telling the fishermen to “put out into the deep” after an unsuccessful night at work. The passage ends with a haul of fish that nearly sinks the boats — and Simon Peter, James, and John leaving their work behind to become committed followers of Jesus. Aptly, this story illustrates the call that men throughout the ages receive to the priesthood — men like Steve Maddaloni, who will be ordained to the priesthood on June 25, 2016. Like the early disciples, Steve was a man who was happily working in his chosen field when he, too, received a call that he couldn’t ignore.
“It was a really scary situation,” Steve said with a laugh, “I was 47, and I [was worried] I was too old for this, to make this kind of change!”
Steve was born in Queens, but moved to Nesconset when he was young. “We weren’t a super-Catholic family,” he said. “We went to church every week, but we didn’t say grace before meals. However, my mother taught me prayers, the Our Father and Hail Mary, and every Christmas we said prayers in front of the manger before we opened our gifts.” Growing up, being a priest was not on Steve’s radar, but he took his faith seriously and was always a practicing Catholic.
After high school, Steve went to college to study business, and landed a job at a larger company doing market research. He did that for a few years, enjoying the time he spent working with clients, and found out that he liked the human side of the work. In his 20s, a chance came up to live in Italy. And while there Steve happened to find a job teaching English to Italians. He was surprised at how much he enjoyed it. The classroom seemed a natural place for him, and though he still considered himself a businessman, the experience led him to rethink his career.
“I wanted work that was rewarding,” Steve said. “So I decided to become a teacher. I was 32 at the time.” Steve got a job at East Meadow High School teaching English as a Second Language and loved the work. He already knew from his background in business that he enjoyed working with people, and teaching was a way to help people and make a difference in their lives. While he was building a career as a high school teacher, God’s plan for Steve’s vocation began to emerge. A conversation here or there, or a thought about the priesthood, and soon Steve was considering if he might have a calling. “I was in my 30s,” Steve said, “[and] I was talking to a priest when he said to me, ‘Do you think God is calling you to a special role in the Church?’ And that was the question that got me thinking about it. It was a disruptive kind of question, because I was already teaching, already happy, so I started to think about [the priesthood] — but I found that I was thinking about it way too much, all the time. So I pushed it aside for a while, and said maybe I’ll come back to it later.”
During this time, Steve found he continued to be drawn to the Church in new ways. A chance to take a graduate course at Immaculate Conception Seminary soon turned into a few courses; the next thing he knew, a master’s degree was in hand. While there, he also met many good men who were studying to be priests. Throughout his 30s, though he thought he had set the question aside, priesthood still was in his thoughts. “I had a life that I really liked and a job that I loved, so it was scary to think about. … There was also this impression that seminary was for younger guys, and it meant closing the door forever on marriage.” Though the reasons to resist kept cropping up, so did the feeling to pursue it. It was almost a decade later when a student of Steve’s was interested in the priesthood and it got Steve thinking about it again. “So I gave it one last shot, and talked to a priest about it. It was in that conversation when I realized God really was calling me, and it wasn’t going to stop.” In that moment, Steve knew that he had to follow this calling further. He applied to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Rockville Centre and was accepted.
“When I made the decision, it was a strange experience to tell people,” Steve said. “I had to tell colleagues, friends, and family — and some people had no inkling that I was religious! But, ultimately, people have been very supportive.”
Steve enrolled at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary in Massachusetts, a seminary for men with later vocations in life. There, he met former professionals, doctors and members of the military. Overall, he was very impressed with the men who were taking their vocation seriously and studying towards the priesthood. “I’m with guys who have lived interesting lives and made the decision that [seminary] is where they want to be. They are people who are committed, and holy, and trying to get holier…it’s a great experience and I’m very happy here,” he explained.
After years of wondering if this was God’s plan for him, Steve has gained a sense of peace in pursing his vocation. “Looking back now, I’m extremely happy that I did it,” Steve said. “Although I loved the life I had, I don’t feel like it’s been wasted. God calls people at different ages, and I think he calls older guys for a reason. The experience we’ve had in our lives is helpful to the priesthood.”
Today, as Steve prepares for his ordination, he is looking forward to becoming immersed in parish life. He has helped at parishes in Massachusetts throughout his studies and also on Long Island during the summers. “I love preaching and breaking open the word of God. … I love being with people and helping them see God more clearly, and I find that helps me to see God more clearly,” Steve said.
To older men who may be considering if they have a calling, Steve understands what they might be dealing with. “It’s scary, especially if you’re entrenched in a life that’s going well, but, in the end, it’s doable.”
“I had to sell my house, I had a mortgage and a career and I was dating — I couldn’t imagine leaving all these things,” Steve said. “But, in the end, you can. You’ll never be completely happy unless you do the thing for which you’re made. And I’m incredibly happy I’m doing this thing.”
Believe and profess by Bishop William Murphy
June: The month of new priests, new pastors and new graduates!
On Saturday, June 25, at St. Agnes Cathedral, I will have the privilege of ordaining three men to the priesthood to serve the faithful of our diocese. Fathers Jiha Lim and Daniel Rivera are completing their formation at St. Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie. Father Steven Maddaloni has been preparing at St. John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass., for this day. While it is my custom to have them come to dinner at my apartment, when I give them a diocesan chasuble as a gift and inform each of them about his first assignment as an associate pastor in one of our parishes, I suspect that they will have figured out where each is going before I tell them. I know that the presence of a new priest in a parish is a source of joy for all the people of God. Please pray for them especially on June 25 and pray with me that the Lord will bless them with a lifetime of faithful service to this local Church.
Rally for Religious Freedom
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore is chair of the USCCB Committee on Religious Freedom. He has for some years now cited our diocese as a leader in the observance of the Fortnight for Freedom, which takes place during the two weeks prior to the Fourth of July. This year the annual Rally for Religious Freedom will have him here with us as the main speaker. Plan to be with us at that rally, which takes place on June 27 at 7:30 p.m. at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip. The ever dynamic Barbara Samuells and her team have put together a great program. If you cannot join us, do not forget to be united with us in prayer during those two weeks when we raise our hearts and our voices to protect this most precious of God’s gifts, the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion in private and in public.
For five days this month, you will not find the auxiliary bishops or me at home. Every third year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a five-day retreat. I must confess that the venue is Southern California and I suspect the surroundings will be quite beautiful. Even so, we will all be keeping you in our prayers; and we will be blessed to have Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, as our retreat master. He alone is worth the trip west. Pray for us as we pray for you.
New Pastor Assignments
Be careful driving on the roads of Long Island Wednesday, June 29. That is when the pastors and associate pastors who have received new assignments move from their current rectory to their new parish. I want you to know how grateful I am for my brother priests who serve in your parishes with great zeal and priestly commitment and take that same spirit with them as they move to a new assignment. The words of the Lord keep coming back to me: “As the Father has sent me, I send you. Go forth and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” Assure any priest who may be leaving your parish of your prayerful gratitude for his service to you and your families. Welcome new pastors or new associate pastors with the same spirit that you have shown to me and my brother bishops as we come to confirm the youth of your families and your friends.
Speaking of young people, I want to congratulate all the seniors in our Catholic high schools who will be graduating this June. I will participate in the graduation exercises of our three diocesan high schools, Holy Trinity, St, John the Baptist and McGann Mercy. My prayers and best wishes go as well to the graduating class at our two parish high schools, St. Mary Manhasset and St. Dominic, Oyster Bay, as well as the high schools under the auspices of religious men and women: St. Anthony, Our Lady of Mercy, Sacred Heart, Kellenberg and Chaminade. My column in this issue of The Long Island Catholic is meant for all of them.
World Youth Day
Finally, there is cause for eager anticipation on the part of many young men and women of our diocese. More than 160 of them have signed up for the diocesan pilgrimage for World Youth Day with our Holy Father, Pope Francis. This takes place from July 25 to Aug. 1 in Krakow, Poland. There are about 200 more who have signed up to go with their respective Catholic high schools. We bishops are on the list, too. It always is a great experience to join the young people of every nation and continent who come together around the pope to celebrate their faith and renew their commitments to be witnesses of that faith in their lives and to their neighbors.