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When Anthony Simone was in his mid 20s and began kicking around the idea of entering the priesthood, he had no idea that he would someday make history at the very parish he attended.
But that's exactly what happened May 19 at St. John Cathedral in downtown Cleveland when Simone was ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church.
"This is the fifth year in a row that we've had a parishioner ordained," according to Ginny Barnish, a volunteer at St. Mary Parish in Hudson. "It's so amazing. We are so blessed see these young men answer the call and stay with the program and make the sacrifice they are making to be ordained."
And there is more.
According to Robert Tayek, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Cleveland, Simome's class was the largest in 14 years to be ordained priests in the Catholic church.
Simone, 33, celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving May 21 at St. Mary and will be assigned to Akron's St. Sebastian Parish.
Simone atteded East Woods Elementary School, Hudson Middle School, Hudson High School and the University of Akron.
"I really discerned the priesthood around age 26 or 27, but decided to enter St Mary Seminary Fall, 2011," Simone said. "I have an aunt who is a Ursuline Sister in Brooklyn, New York. She is a principal of a grade school."
Simone grew up knowing he loved people and enjoyed helping others.
"I thrived whenever I was making someone else happy," Simone said. "I knew I was called to be disciple of Christ and that I was meant for a life greater than only my own. God truly did everything to bring me to the seminary to discern priesthood and in my case, He used many people to get the message across."
According to the friar "this is the greatest thing I can do with my life, in using my gifts and finding fulfillment in life."
"I realized God's will is not always black or white choices," he added. " My love for marriage has never changed from the start, but I know now while I could have gotten married and been happy, this is the greatest path in life for me and in many powerful ways, I am married to the people of God."
As a longtime member of St. Mary Parish, Simone received local support from the members.
"I am ever thankful for the support of vocations in my parish and their love for priests," Simone said. "I am humbled to join the ranks of men from St Mary's as an ordained priest. I pray I might also inspire some man or woman toward religious life by my simple witness and story of faith."
Simone still has family in the area and is glad to be close to them, he said.
And while Simone decided to take up the cloth in his mid 20s, he feels a friend was guiding the path all along.
"The Holy Spirit is incredibly smart and creative," Simome said. "He tends to get his way and He knows best how to accomplish God's will through us."
Simone believes that while he will be working a new job, he has been in preparation for the vocation his entire life.
"I believe I found God through my love for people, my family upbringing, growing up among wonderful people, experiencing the world and learning fruitful lessons from my many mistakes," according to Simone. "Most importantly, I learned over the course of my life how much God loves us personally, how much I constantly need Him and the closer I get to Him, the more I learn I need Him. He's done it all."
When not spending time with God or taking care of parish activities, Simone enjoys nature and those things that have helped bring him to where he is today.
"I love being outdoors in nature and I still act and play like a child, when appropriate of course," Simone said. "I love a good cup of coffee. I love movies. I love food. I love family and I truly am driven and motivated to love all people...not only those like me, but especially those not like me."
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland was founded on April 23, 1847. Under the leadership of the Most Reverend Daniel E. Thomas, Apostolic Administrator, it is the 23rd largest diocese in the United States. The diocese encompasses the counties of Cuyahoga, Summit, Lorain, Lake, Geauga, Medina, Wayne and Ashland.