The year was 2005, with John Wilson a sophomore in college, when the pivotal event that spurred his decision to become a priest occurred. It was the death of Pope John Paul II at the end of a 27-year pontificate that would see him canonized in 2014.
“I was observant, but not especially ‘on fire’ for my faith growing up, so his death was my first opportunity to get to know his life,” said Father Wilson, 31.
“What jumped out at me was the joy he had in his priesthood—and his sense of adventure.”
Others played key roles in his priestly vocation, perhaps none more so than Father George Rutler, pastor of St. Michael’s parish in Manhattan, who was his spiritual director before he entered the seminary. “I was struck by how, even as a man of great intellectual erudition, he found so much fulfillment in the day-to-day work of a parish priest.”
Father Wilson holds a master’s degree from Claremont McKenna College in California. He did his pre-theology training at St. John Neumann Residence and Hall in Douglaston, Queens, before Cardinal Dolan asked him to undertake major seminary studies at Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he is pursuing a licentiate in sacred theology at Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. His thesis is on St. Thomas and the Sensus Fidei.
He’s also the liturgical master of ceremonies at the seminary, and yet he finds time to enjoy playing on the Ultimate Frisbee team there.
His experience with classmates from across the United States “means that news from the Church in other parts of the country isn’t just news—it’s something that’s happening to one of my brothers.”
“I’ve also had the opportunity to learn from many holy priests, even ones I’ve never met, who have been inspirations to my classmates,” he said.
Father Wilson may follow current events more closely than most. He covered state and city politics as a journalist for the New York Post.
Showing his sense of humor, he says tight copy requirements in his newspaper life may help him “keep my homilies short!” More seriously, he added that his work in the daily press “taught me a lot about the human condition, especially the reality of sin.”
“It’s also where I came to know and love my adopted city,” notes Father Wilson, who added that he “can’t wait” to serve in New York as a priest.
In the archdiocese, he’s had assignments at St. Paul and St. Ann’s parish, Congers, for the past two summers, and for one at St. Clare’s on Staten Island.
A native of Hebron, Conn., he is the oldest of three children (one sister and one brother) of Michael and Lorraine Wilson. Tagging along with his mother to parish meetings and activities at Holy Family parish in Hebron helped him form “a very early and powerful sense of the Church as a second home.”
His father, though not Catholic, would join the family at Mass each Sunday. And this year, he was received into the Church at the Easter Vigil.
Father wilson will celebrate his First Mass at St. Michael’s Church in Manhattan on Sunday, May 29, at 12:15 p.m. Father George Rutler, pastor of St. Michael’s, will be the homilist.
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