Msgr. John Zenz

Heroic Priests

From earliest childhood, I always wanted to be a priest, entered the seminary at 14 and have never doubted that I am right where God wants me.  I find joy and meaning in being able to inspire people to know and love God through homilies; I want to add joy to their faith and encourage them through all the seasons of life.  All sacramental encounters are sacred opportunities and I feel humbled to be God’s instrument for others and always remind them that they are a spiritual life-line for me as well.

Growing up in the 1950’s attending Catholic elementary school at St. John’s, Monroe I always admired the priests who served us.  Each had different personalities yet they were all similar in their devotion and genuine concern for people.  The IHM Sisters who taught us were also great role models and encouraged me in my desire to be a priest.

I love to pray in absolute quiet, early in the morning while the rest of the world is still asleep; I dedicate the whole day to the Lord.  I also enjoy praying (and singing) at Mass with others each day.  Praying over and memorizing Sunday Gospels is very meaningful and helps me preach with greater conviction and enthusiasm.

As a priest for 39 years I have been privileged to be an associate pastor, pastor and a “week-end” priest; direct contact with people has been most fulfilling.  I’ve taught at the Seminary for 38 years and have been greatly blessed to know I’m shaping minds and hearts of future priests and pastoral ministers.

I was blessed to be a regular presenter on Catholic Television and Mass for Shut-ins, touching unknown thousands of people of all backgrounds, many of them home-bound and suffering.  I find great consolation in anointing the sick and being a compassionate minister of forgiveness and healing in the sacrament of Penance.  For many decades, I’ve been a spiritual director for seminarians, deacons, priests and laity; it is a very unique gift to be able to share intimately their joys and challenges as God touches them.

I served in Central Administration of the Archdiocese under our two recent Cardinals and work as part of Archbishop Vigneron’s “team.”  I was privileged to be a regional moderator for about six years during which time I confirmed hundreds of young people and helped to make that experience meaningful and joyful.

I’ve also been an author and editor of articles and materials for the Archdiocese and for clergy and religious.   I have also been honored to serve as a priest retreat mentor and presenter to clergy gatherings in many dioceses around the country.

Whether it’s one-to-one meetings or speaking or listening in group gatherings of all sizes, I hear and feel the presence of Jesus everywhere I go.   I would summarize my ministry by a quote from a French novel about priesthood, Diary of a Country Priest: “All is grace!”

Msgr. John Zenz is pastor of Holy Name in Birmingham.

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