Father Peter Heasley first began thinking about the possibility of becoming a priest during his college years as a student of architecture at Syracuse University. It wasn’t until he served with the Peace Corps in the West African nation of Mali from 2003 to 2005, however, that the idea of such a vocation really started to take shape.
“While I was there, I read the ‘Confessions’ of St. Augustine and learned about the life of St. Therese of Lisieux via EWTN on shortwave radio,” he said by email from Rome where he is a seminarian at Pontifical North American College.
“After this, I felt convinced God was calling me to priesthood,” he added.
He returned to New York and worked as an architect in Manhattan for a few years. At that time, he joined Our Saviour parish on Park Avenue and East 39th Street, because of its proximity to his workplace and the reputation of its pastor, Father George Rutler, whom he cited for the “example of joyful, daily service in the parish.”
“He became an inspiration and a great source of support for me,” Father Heasley said.
Within a few years, he entered the St. John Neumann Residence, then the archdiocese’s pre-theology program. At about the same time, he worked with the chaplain at Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry in ministering to at-risk children living there. Just before that, he worked alongside the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in their mission at Casa Juan Diego soup kitchen in Yonkers.
During his time at Neumann, he spent a summer learning Spanish at Seminario Hispano in Mexico City.
Along with Father Rutler, Father Heasley praised Father Luke Sweeney, then the archdiocese’s vocations director, for his “energetic presence that drew me into the diocesan priesthood.”
The second youngest of four children of Thomas E. and Janice A. Heasley, Father Heasley was born in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and was raised in the Detroit area. The family, which includes an older sister and two brothers, practiced their Catholic faith, but was not particularly active in parish life.
When Father Heasley made the decision to study for the priesthood, he said his father was supportive from the beginning, with his mother less so. As time went on, she “has come to be a great source of support for me, especially moving toward ordination.”
As a seminarian at Pontifical North American College in Rome, he has studied at Pontifical Gregorian University, earning a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology, summa cum laude, and is studying for a licentiate in Biblical Theology.
He has received priestly formation alongside seminarians from many U.S. dioceses, and from Australia and Canada.
“These are real men of prayer, virtue and experience,” he said. “They have been a shining example to me of what it means to be a man of faith, and give me great consolation as I go forward into ministry with them.”
In his future priestly ministry, Father Heasley said he hopes the Lord makes him “an instrument of his grace, especially as a teacher and healer” within a parish community.
“In particular, I hope that I am able to deepen the love and knowledge that Catholics have of Scripture, as it is God’s word alive to us, helping us to understanding the Tradition that he has given us in Jesus Christ,” he said.
Father Heasley will celebrate his first Mass at Our Saviour Church in Manhattan on Saturday, May 25 at 5 p.m. Father George Rutler, pastor, will deliver the homily.