ALLOUEZ — During his time as a seminarian studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Greg Parent has enjoyed serving as a tour guide at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
“Introducing pilgrims to what is in many ways the crown jewel of the Catholic Church has been an amazing opportunity,” he said.
St. Peter’s became even more special to Parent on Sept. 28 when he was ordained a deacon in the basilica by Bishop James F. Checchio of the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., rector of the Pontifical North American College from 2005 to 2016. Deacon Parent is scheduled, along with Deacons Kyle Sladek and Jose Lopez, to be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Green Bay in the summer of 2018. Putting his thoughts from the ordination Mass into words is difficult, he said.
“It was aesthetically beautiful, certainly, but it went much deeper than that as well,” said Deacon Parent, the son of Steve and Cindy Parent of New Franken. “Obviously, the moment of ordination was very powerful. My 30 classmates and I looked up at each other after the prayer of ordination was finished and realized that we had made it. Some of us had been working toward that point together for seven years, so it was a powerful moment to look back on all the graces that God gave us to bring us to the point of ordination.”
Forty-five guests, including family, friends, members of Deacon Parent’s home parish, SS. Peter and Paul in Green Bay, and 10 priests, made the trip to Italy to attend the ordination in support of Deacon Parent. Fr. Daniel Schuster vested him at the Mass.
“I just wanted to express my gratitude to him for all he has done for me as the vocation director for the Diocese of Green Bay,” said Deacon Parent. “He works hard to give us all of the help and support that we need.”
On Sept. 27, the day prior to the ordination, the deacon candidates gathered for an audience with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square. A prayer vigil for family and friends was held in the Church of the Gesù in Rome during the evening.
Deacon Parent’s first Mass as a deacon was celebrated the day following his ordination at Santa Maria della Scala (“St. Mary of the Stairs Church”) in the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome. The church was built in the late 16th or early 17th century.
“It is named after an image of the Blessed Mother that is on display in the church, which used to sit on top of a flight of stairs that people would climb to ask for her intercession,” he explained.
Deacon Parent’s faith journey traces back to the eighth grade when his family joined the Catholic Church and became members of SS. Peter and Paul Parish. Following graduation from Green Bay Preble High School in 2010, he attended college seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. He then moved to Rome in 2014 to finish his theological studies.
While in high school, Deacon Parent became involved in Catholic Youth Expeditions (CYE) in Door County. He served on the CYE staff for three summers while in college. Other ministry experience included assisting with AWESOME (Annual Winter Excursion of Seminarians On a Mission of Evangelization), an initiative where seminarians visit high schools to promote vocations. Deacon Parent lived with Fr. Schuster for a summer during formation.
“I shadowed him and saw a lot of different parts of the diocese, including Camp Tekakwitha and various parishes in the area,” he explained.
“I had two parish internships,” he added. “I spent a summer up in Niagara, Florence and Pembine with Fr. Matt Settle, and this past summer, I was at St. Jude (the Apostle) Parish in Oshkosh with Fr. Matt Simonar.”
Deacon Parent looks forward to returning to the Green Bay Diocese for the holiday break and hopes to serve as the deacon at a Christmas Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Church. In the meantime, he continues to prepare for the priesthood in Rome.
“The faculty at the North American College is made up of amazing priests from all over the country,” he said. “Their witness to priestly fidelity and a solid prayer life has inspired me to continue to grow, and the faculty here provides us with countless resources to do so. Building a prayer life is a major focus during our time here, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.”