The priest at West Jefferson Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church will be marking a milestone this weekend.
On Sunday, May 27, Father William A. Metzger will be celebrating 40 years since first being ordained as a priest.
“It really doesn’t seem like 40 years,” Metzger said, reflecting on his time with the church. “I’ve talked with many friends of mine and thought about how we’ve gotten here and it really doesn’t seem that long.”
Metzger is from Dennison, Ohio in Tuscarawas County, a small village community not unlike West Jefferson. The neighboring town of Uhrichsville was the closest city to his hometown but the church in Dennison was church to both areas and he was involved in parish life from a very young age.
“When I was growing up, the parish had a Catholic grade school and a Catholic high school,” Metzger said. “I went to grade school there and high school seminary in Cincinnati.” The school was St. Francis Seminary High School where he studied under Franciscan priests.
Although the priesthood was something in the back of his mind, Metzger didn’t follow that path immediately after high school.
“With four years of high school, two years of college and a little bit of the novitiate, in 1969, I left and came home,” he said. Once back in Tuscarawas County, Metzger decided he wanted to finish his education so he enrolled in the local branch of Kent State University in 1970.
There he was exposed to a variety of social circles, including being involved in the theater department and doing plays. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree and went back home, staying involved with the church and working when he finally heard the call.
Becoming a priest
“I was back home when I still felt the lord was calling me but in a different direction, not to go back to the Franciscans but to come to the diocese,” Metzger said. “I had been helping out at my local parish and was talking with a priest and he sort of asked me what I was waiting for.”
He then enrolled in the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
“For Catholic priests, it’s not something you do in six months. It’s a long formation period,” he said. “You have a chance to look at yourself and see what those in charge think of where you are so I decided to submit myself to that process.”
He said the experience was eye-opening for many reasons but mainly that he got to meet people from all over the country. Metzger has Italian heritage and grew up in communities with other Italians.
“I was able to meet so many different people and from different areas and it really helped me learn about them,” Metzger said. “Much of that I took with me into the world of becoming a priest.”
Metzger was ordained on May 27, 1978 and was assigned to Columbus Christ the King where he served as an associate pastor for two years.
Since his ordination, he has served in a number of locations from Zanesville St. Nicholas to Columbus St. Agnes where he was a priest for more than a decade. In 1998, Metzger was appointed to St. John the Baptist, an Italian parish in Columbus.
“It was a very interesting experience,” Metzger said. “It was a parish in transition when I was there. There were a lot of things going on when I was the priest there. I learned so much being in that environment and I was there for 15 years.”
Metzger was then sent to Sts. Simon and Jude in 2013 where he will celebrate his 40 years.
“Being here, in some ways reminds me of being home,” he said. “There are differences but the bonds you form with the community and the people you talk to are so strong.”
For mass, Metzger oversees 375 households which ends up being nearly 1,100 parishioners each week.
“It’s wonderful getting to know people and having gotten to know so many families here,” Metzger said. “It really makes you feel part of a whole community.”
Metzger plans to celebrate the anniversary at services on Saturday and Sunday and with receptions that follow.
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU