August 17, 2015 — Since childhood, Jesuit Father John W. Peck has imagined himself standing at the altar, raising the Eucharist during the consecration and offering it to those gathered. That became reality when he celebrated his first Mass at Fordham University Church in New York earlier this summer, the day after he was ordained to the priesthood.
A native of St. Joseph Parish in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, Fr. Peck attended Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, where he first discerned his call to the priesthood. "My vocation was born at the daily celebration of Mass, hearing the word of God every day and receiving the Eucharist every day," he said of his time there.
"The more I attended Mass, the more I felt attracted to the priesthood, to offering the Eucharist and to leading God’s people in the celebration of the Eucharist. I began to imagine myself as a priest, doing the priestly work. At the end of my time there, I was reasonably certain that was what God wanted me to do."
After graduating from Central Catholic in 1999, he entered the seminary through the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and dove into theological training, receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, in 2003. He then attended the Pontifical Gregorian University, a Jesuit school in Rome.
During his second year in Rome, he became inspired by his Jesuit professors and the way they lived out their priesthood. “They were … obviously men of prayer, and many were great teachers who took great interest in their students. It became very clear that God was calling me first and foremost to the priesthood, but now to be a priest in the Jesuit order,” he said.
He spent his third year in Rome living with Jesuit scholastics at the International College of the Gesu, which solidified his decision to join the Society. After finishing his bachelor’s in sacred theology, Fr. Peck entered the Jesuit novitiate in Syracuse, New York.
When he celebrated his first Mass at Fordham University Church on June 14, it was the fulfillment of over a decade’s worth of preparation. Now, Fr. Peck has been missioned to Holy Trinity Parish in Washington, D.C., where he has discovered a new love: hearing confession.
"I’m inspired by the enormous faith and the enormous trust that people have in priests when they come to confession,” Fr. Peck said. “It is very, very humbling. I’m a sinner, too, so when other sinners come to me and ask me for God’s mercy, it’s a special joy to be able to provide that service to them, to be an instrument of God’s forgiveness to them.”
But he still loves the Eucharistic rituals and the daily celebration of Mass.
"What gets me up in the morning is the joy of celebrating the Eucharist,” he said. “I love doing it very reverently and very prayerfully. It is what I look forward to every day." [Source: Diocese of Greensburg]