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August 09, 2018
EDISON — It is not often that a grandparent gets to have the experience that Louis Leva had.
During a Mass at St. Helena Church on July 20, Leva’s grandson, Gregory (Greg) Zannetti, a seminarian for the diocese, publicly affirmed to Bishop James F. Checchio his resolve to complete his preparation for the priesthood.
Tears of joy were in the eyes of Leva as he gave his grandson a big hug and a kiss after the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders administered by Bishop Checchio.
“My grandfather was very proud, although he didn’t say much. I was blessed and happy he was at the Mass. He is the person who had the greatest influence on my vocation,” Zannetti said.
“Growing up, my grandpa would take me to morning Mass when I was serving as an altar boy. My grandpa attended daily Mass and had a great collection of religious books in his house. I believe that seeing his devotion led my two brothers [Gene and Jeffrey] and me to take an interest in our Catholic faith and to want to learn more and to grow in it,” he added.
Zannetti said it was a real blessing to have the Mass at St. Helena, his home parish where he received all of his sacraments. His pastor, Father Anthony M. Sirianni, said he witnessed Zannetti deepen his commitment to St. Helena’s and his faith. “Greg became a lector, a Eucharistic minister, very involved with the parish youth group, and he was always willing to help the parish,” Father Sirianni said. “You could see his prayer life blooming. He is a well-rounded and humble young man, and Father [Salvatore Joseph] Rossetti saw something special in Greg, too.”
Sharing memories of the late priest who ministered at St. Helena, Zannetti said, “Father Rossetti definitely played an important role in my vocation. I remember serving morning Mass for him when I was young and seeing tears coming down from his eyes. You could see he had a strong sense of the mystery and he knew that he was holding Jesus in his hand.”
In middle school, Zannetti and his friends would see Father Rossetti sitting outside and talk with him. “He would talk to us about life and joke with us and tell the altar boys, ‘take my job when you get older,’ he said.
Following the Gospel reading, Bishop Checchio, who presided at the Mass, began his homily with a story about an old man and his old nearly-blind mule that helped another man whose car was stuck in a ditch. Singlehandedly, the mule got the car out of the ditch because his master encouragingly called out three names before the mule’s, which made him believe that he was part of a large team.
Addressing Zannetti, the bishop said, “Today, the Church in a sense is telling you to get to work. Find strength in your identity and in your relationship with the Lord.
“Remember that you are never alone. You have the support of our Lord, your family, friends, and your brother seminarians and priests. Know of the support of the people of God in the diocese and myself. There are lots of prayers of support behind you.”
It is interesting to note that while the seeds of a priesthood were being planted in Zannetti, he was becoming an accomplished wrestler. He started wrestling in second grade and continued through college.
After graduating from J.P. Stevens High School, Edison, Zannetti enrolled at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, and became a member of its wrestling team. He earned the distinction of being a two-time Academic All American, a two-time National Qualifier and he was ranked as high as sixth in the country. “I still try to work out each day and stay in good shape by weightlifting, wrestling and running,” he said.
Reading the book, “Diary of Saint Faustina,” in college, however, changed his life. “It was the first time I felt God calling me to the priesthood. When I read the diary, it hit me how much love and mercy God has for me and for all mankind. I felt called to deepen my faith and relationship with God and to spread the Divine Mercy message to all people.” he said.
Graduating from Rutgers with a degree in sociology and a minor in psychology, Zannetti was employed by ADP and United Health Group before entering Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University, South Orange in August 2015.
He said that his summer assignment at St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish, Kendall Park, was a rewarding experience. “Being able to assist at the parish in various ways and to work closely with the priests definitely helped to strengthen my call,” he said.
Reflecting on his life in seminary, Zannetti said that his spiritual director, the formation faculty, and the seminarians have been very helpful and it is a great blessing to be around people who are aspiring to the same vocation.”
On Aug. 15, Zannetti is scheduled to travel to Rome to begin the next stage of his journey to the priesthood. He is glad that seminarian Tim Eck is part of the orientation team that will help him adjust to seminary life in Rome.
“I’m blessed with a wonderful family and friends, and I love spending time with them whenever I can. Being homesick will be the hardest part of being in Rome for three years, but I will be coming home each summer,” he said with a smile.
By Sue Getz Correspondent at The Catholic Spirit