Holy Name Roman Catholic Church


Listening to God's Whisper . . .
 

 

Father Nathan Malavolti, TOR

 

 

 I was born on June 19, 1959 in Decatur, Illinois, about 200 miles south of Chicago, in an area of the United States that is flat, beautiful farmland filled with many corn and soybean fields.  I grew up in a small village called Boody that has a population of about 300 people, about the same size of Loretto, where I now live and serve as a Third Order Regular Franciscan in central Pennsylvania.  I am the fourth out of five children to Nello and Virginia Malavolti, as I have an older sister Veronica and two older brothers Mark and Timothy, and a younger sister Mary.  My first memory of seriously considering the priesthood was when I was in high school, as I attended along with my dad a silent three-day retreat with the Jesuits in St. Louis, Missouri.  One of the talks that I will not forget was delivered by a Jesuit who had been a successful certified public accountant and who, at the age of 45, had decided to enter the Jesuits and had no regrets of leaving his secular work behind.  His description of how success and material prosperity had not brought him peace, but rather seeking to do God’s will and embracing his vocation, was striking to me, and I never realized that my own life story would eventually be somewhat similar.

During my college years and most of the years afterward during my graduate education (in chemistry), my practice of the Faith was erratic.  I kept it conveniently compartmentalized, and did not let our Catholic values influence all of my decisions.  However, in 1984 my brother Mark died tragically, and the Lord started to get my attention.  I started to ask God “Why?”, and to pray again, especially the rosary, as Our Lady’s maternal presence was truly consoling, and devotion to Her has been so important in my perseverance throughout my vocational journey to religious life and the priesthood.  During my first professional job in Memphis, Tennessee, I found a wonderful, vibrant parish family called the Church of the Nativity.  A wonderful gentleman sponsored me for a Cursillo retreat, and the weekend was truly life-changing.  I came away knowing that I had to surrender every aspect of my life if I was to live for Jesus, and that was where I found true joy and peace that was enduring.  I came to know other good Catholics through Cursillo, as well as in the charismatic prayer groups in the area.  In early 1988 one of my Cursillo friends invited me to join him and his wife on a pilgrimage to Medugorje, Yugoslavia, where supposedly Our Lady has been appearing to visionaries since 1981.  The trip was amazing, as the sense of God’s peace and Mother Mary’s love was profound in this place, and I felt God calling me to the priesthood. 

Unsure whether I wanted to be a religious priest or a diocesan priest, and needing undergraduate philosophy classes (a prerequisite for graduate theology studies), I resigned from my job and entered the Pre-Theologate Program at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio.  Throughout this year I came into contact with the TOR Franciscans, who seemed joyful and serene in living and serving God and His people together, and this vocation appealed to me.  I entered as a postulant in Loretto with the TORs in August 1989, and then the novitiate in Newry in June 1990.  After that canonical year of enclosure, I started my graduate theology studies at Washington Theological Union (WTU) in northeast DC.  During these same months my parents were experiencing serious marital difficulties and had separated, which prompted me after several months of difficult discernment to leave the TORs so to be of assistance to my parents.  My background as a Ph.D. chemist then took me literally coast to coast with various professional assignments.  I was a visiting professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts for a year.  I then worked for three years testing new drugs at a major pharmaceutical company in central New Jersey, and for another year in Kansas City, Missouri.  I took another job for 18 months with a medium-sized pharmaceutical company in Costa Mesa, California, and then transferred back to Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, for another research position in January of 1999. 

Throughout these years I served as CCD teacher, sang in church choirs, and it seemed that I could not shake off sensing that God was still calling me to the consecrated life.  In May of 1999 my mother died from a massive stroke, and during the ensuing months of healing from that grief, my spiritual director/therapist challenged me to reapply to the Franciscans.  He told me to put the issue to rest whether that was my true calling or not.  I applied, and the TORs graciously received me back in August 2000, allowing me to restart my M.Div. studies at WTU for the priesthood.  Although the transition back to community life as a student after an independent life as a professional was challenging at first, I truly felt like I had returned home and sensed God’s peace in embracing this vocation.  I professed my solemn vows as a TOR Franciscan in July of 2004, completed my studies for priesthood in DC in May of 2005, whereupon I was ordained a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and assigned to Holy Name Parish in Ebensburg, PA.  I am presently teaching chemistry at Saint Francis University, and joyfully looking forward to my priestly ordination on November 5, 2005.  As my vocations director told me, “God does draw straight with crooked lines!”  The joy truly belongs in walking with Christ one day at a time!

 

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