(Grand Rapids, April 25, 2016) – Congratulations to Aaron Meszaros, who was ordained to the priesthood on April 9! Our own Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis presided at the ordination ceremony, held at St. Alphonsus Parish in Grand Rapids. In addition to a large group of Aaron’s hometown family and friends, special guests included: Bishop David Walkowiak of Grand Rapids; Provincial Superior Stephen Rehrauer and his consultors, Fr. Mat Kessler and Fr. John Fahey-Guerra; nearly 50 other Redemptorist confreres from as far away as Dominica; Redemptorist students in formation; a total of 33 parishioners from St. Alphonsus Parish in Minneapolis; and even more friends and parishioners of Redemptorist parishes in Oregon, Texas and Kentucky.
Grand Rapids has a proud tradition of producing religious vocations – 22 from Page Street alone – but Aaron is the first in almost four decades. With a local, Fr. Pat Grile, at the helm, the parish community embraced the diverse group of visitors and hosted a three-day family affair: a dinner Friday evening; the actual ordination ceremony on Saturday; and Fr. Aaron’s first Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, when his close friend, Fr. Jacky Merilan from Dominica, preached the homily. They also paid special tribute to those last three Redemptorist vocations ordained in 1978 – Fathers Tom Santa, Bill Bueche and Gary Ziuraitis.
Ordination to the priesthood was the fulfillment of Aaron’s life-long dream. “I wanted to be a priest almost as soon as I could talk,” he chuckled. “My maternal grandparents aren’t even Catholic, but they attended many of my liturgies with Kool-Aid and oyster crackers.”
Fr. Aaron credits his loving family – parents Jim and Linda, sister Angela, and maternal grandparents in Grand Rapids, as well as Great Nana and fraternal grandparents in South Bend, IN,– for nurturing and supporting his vocation. Most of all, they modeled true service to others. “My family was very involved in my Catholic education. Watching my parents and grandparents so involved in the St. Alphonsus parish community really left a mark on me,” he said. “My maternal grandparents aren’t even Catholic, but they worked right alongside parishioners and helped out with everything from Bingo to Fish Frys! I couldn’t have had better role models.”
As he grew up, Aaron became more involved in the life of the parish, progressing from Children’s liturgy to CCD and then Vacation Bible School. “Serving the parish and being involved in the community was very important to me,” he said. “When I was younger, I was most influenced by Fr. Pat Grile and Fr. Tom O’Connor, who often visited the kids in the school cafeteria. We were just little children, but Fr. Tom took the time to be with us. That really made an impression on me, and I remember his words of wisdom to this very day.”
He looked up to the Redemptorists, and believes they also influenced his decision to join their ranks as a priest. “Through my volunteer work, I learned that they were far from perfect. Like all of us, they were wounded and vulnerable, but growing. Their humanity attracted me – and their service to people: walking with them, and helping to build the Kingdom of God.”
Along with developing a deeper love for God in formation, he grew in self-awareness and began to embrace himself as a wounded healer to the world. Fr. Aaron believes that each one of his confreres has influenced him in some way, and that each has something to teach him. Beginning with Fr. John Fahey’s gift of preaching, he lists Fr. Patrick Keyes’ gift of language and Fr. Tom Santa’s gifts of curiosity and communication – and the list goes on and on.
Fr. Aaron has been involved in a variety of ministries, from passing out juice and food to homeless and poor people in New York to teaching children of migrant workers outdoors on a ranch in California. “My best memories are working and ministering with my confreres,” he said. In his first assignment at St. Alphonsus Parish in Minneapolis, Fr. Aaron is growing as a preacher. “I am getting better, but still learning,” he explained. “Great preachers sit with the Word of God and really understand the needs of the people – that is why they can communicate so effectively.”
He has discovered his own gift for working with children, and creatively uses props in homilies during the Children’s Mass. I’ve made good strides with the school and working with the kids. They have so many questions, and there’s so much rushing in their lives. The most important thing is just to be with them,” he said. “You also have to have a sense of humor. I played a sneaky little April Fools prank on some of the kids. We told them that they could win an iPad in a contest, and then handed out eye pads to the winners. Later when I was passing out holy cards for my ordination and asking the kids to pray for me, one said he wasn’t sure if he would pray for me after the trick I played on them. I told him, ‘Deacon Aaron did that. I’m Father Aaron now.’”
by Kristine Stremel