First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Father Paschal Coby, C.F.R.
Niceness counts, inside and outside church

Father Paschal Coby, C.F.R., remembers a time when he was not so kind.

Ashamed of his behavior as a teenager at a public high school in a small town, he knew he had to change his ways. “I had been raised Catholic, went to Mass and was an altar server, but my faith formation wasn’t great,” he recently recalled. “I don’t know that I had a real strong sense of the faith or a real strong relationship with Christ.”

“I remember at one point recognizing that I wasn’t very kind, and that was really in conflict with the Gospel that I was hearing.”

In retrospect, “I wouldn’t have even thought that I was playing that close attention to the Gospel when I was in church. But somehow it was sinking in. I recognized, there’s a disconnect here.”

“It was the first time that I appropriated the faith, at least to a certain extent, for myself,” he said.

His attentiveness during the liturgy later alerted him to a call to the priesthood. That happened while attending Mass as a college freshman. He was first impressed by a verse of a song based on a passage from Isaiah: “Why should we live this life, except for the Lord?”

“That’s a fair question,” he said to himself.

Then, Father Coby was particularly moved by the passage of the Gospel of Matthew pertaining to the rich young man who asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus’ reply: “‘Sell what you have, give to the poor and come follow me.’”

“I knew, somehow, that was the Lord saying to me” the same thing, continued Father Coby, now 33. “I never had an experience of the Scriptures like that, really understanding that it was being addressed to me. Because of that, it struck me, something’s happening here. As I recall, in that moment, I said, ‘I guess I’ll be a priest then.’”

Father Coby, the younger of two boys of J. Patrick and Karen Coby, was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio. The Cobys later moved to Hatfield, Mass., to Our Lady of Grace parish, where Father Coby was raised.

Before entering the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the Bronx in 2003, he worked for a year as a special education aide at a middle school.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Trinity University.

Apostolic assignments while studying to be a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal included ministry at Padre Pio Homeless Shelter; Casa Juan Diego Soup Kitchen for Migrant Workers; and San Serafin Friary in Comayagua, Honduras.

For his first assignment after ordination, Father Coby will return to San Serafin Friary to serve the people of Honduras. Among other apostolates, he will minister to patients at a medical clinic.

Hobbies include hiking, studying Colonial American history and reading Dostoyevsky.

Father Coby said one of his major attractions to the priesthood is administering the sacrament of reconciliation. While acknowledging it may be “awkward and uncomfortable to have to reveal these things that we’re embarrassed about,” Father Coby said what’s so powerful about the sacrament is that “it’s in confession where we can see most clearly God’s love, God’s mercy and the fact that it overcomes everything. There’s nothing so big that God’s mercy can’t forgive it.”

Father Coby will celebrate his first Mass at Our Lady of Grace Church in Hatfield, Mass., Saturday, June 8 at 4 p.m. The homilist will be Father Isaac Spinharney, C.F.R.

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