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Father O’Leary eager to take up his ‘cross’
archived from: 2007-07-09
by: Chuck Moody

Barry O’Leary found it harder and harder to dismiss what he believed to be the persistent “urge” from the Holy Spirit to become a priest.

“I resisted and tried to dismiss the call as a restlessness on my part, a desire to leave education after 20 years and do something else,” said Father O’Leary, one of three men ordained to the priesthood June 30 by Bishop Paul Bradley at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. “I truly believed that I was too old — I was in my early 50s — to begin seminary studies.”

At the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year, Father O’Leary said he met Father David Bonnar, then-rector of St. Paul Seminary, “quite by accident” at a diocesan schools’ principals meeting.

“I asked Father Bonnar if he would ever consider accepting a man in his 50s to begin seminary formation,” he said. “One thing led to another, and after several months of discernment, I began the application process. By the end of that school year I was accepted into the diocesan seminary formation program, and I entered St. Paul Seminary in August 2002.”

Father O’Leary, 58, grew up in St. James Parish in Wilkinsburg, and his current home parish is St. Paul Cathedral. His parents, Thomas and Helen, are deceased. He has four sisters, two brothers and another brother is deceased.

He attended St. James Elementary School and St. Anselm High School in Swissvale. Father O’Leary graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, and he obtained master’s degrees in education from Duquesne University and Carlow College.

After college, Father O’Leary worked for six years in the Allegheny County treasurer’s office. For the next 24 years, he worked as an elementary school teacher and principal in Catholic elementary schools in the diocese.

“After I first talked to Father Bonnar about the possibility of entering the seminary to study for the priesthood, the first person that I told that I was very seriously considering entering the seminary was Father Robert Meyer, then-pastor of St. Basil Parish in (Pittsburgh’s) Carrick (neighborhood), where I worked as school principal,” he said. “He was very supportive and encouraged me to consider it and pray about it. Father Warren Metzler, pastor of St. James in Wilkinsburg, my home parish at the time, was also very encouraging and supportive of my decision.

Without their encouragement, it is unlikely that I would have entered the seminary at my age.

“Generally, my family members, friends and colleagues have been extremely supportive and helpful to me as I traveled — many times stumbling along — the road to the priesthood.”

Father O’Leary began his priestly studies at St. Paul Seminary and Duquesne, and he completed his theological studies at St. Vincent Seminary. He did his summer pastoral experience at SS. Peter and Paul in Beaver, and his transitional deacon experience took place at St. Pius X and Our Lady of Loreto, both in Pittsburgh’s Brookline neighborhood.

What does being ordained mean to Father O’Leary?

“Pope Benedict XVI expressed it very clearly when he spoke to a group of priests and seminarians shortly after assuming the papacy,” he said. “He said, ‘Ordination is not a career, but a cross, which those who are called by Christ must bear.’”

The aspect of the priesthood Father O’Leary is most looking forward to is “being able to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass.”




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