The weatherman says his friends and family are “through-the-roof excited” — but “not surprised one bit” — at his decision.
With so many parishes, prayer groups, and individuals praying for vocations these days, it’s encouraging to hear how one young man has responded to the call to become a priest.
Craig Ziobert, 31, has been an active presence in his home parish of the Basilica of Mount Carmel in Youngstown, Ohio, since he was a child.
He went all through Catholic schools and made his First Communion at Mount Carmel. After serving on the altar for years, he took organ lessons at the parish as a high school senior. His love of music and a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and music from Youngstown State University made him a perfect fit as organist and choir director there for the past five years. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Mississippi State University, and has become a familiar face as the weatherman for a local television station, WKBN.
Two weekends ago, Craig received a big round of applause from parishioners when he shared his plans after Mass. He will enter Saint Mary’s Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio, at the end of August.
I spoke with Craig recently about his plans.
Craig, besides your family, has there been anyone else in particular who inspired you to become a priest?
Bishop George Murry, our diocesan bishop from 2007 until 2020. From the start of his ministry to our diocese, Bishop Murry and I built a working and personal relationship. He was installed as our bishop when I was finishing my junior year of high school. I was, at the time, already considering a vocation to the priesthood, and mentioned that to him as he came to our diocese. He instilled in me pastoral leadership skills and his warm personality attracted me more and more to the call, but I still had some reservations as well as other interests in life I was thinking about at the time.
Being involved in parish and diocesan events, I gained an appreciation for the liturgy and took up organ lessons in my senior year of high school (Ursuline High School) at the cathedral and ended up studying organ and religious studies in college.
Bishop Murry was never upset with me for not entering the seminary, but rather continued to enrich my vocation and my ministry in the cathedral choir by his support. We would go to lunch and discuss my future and present goals. He visited our parish multiple times where I would be an altar server or musician and his personality was just so perfect. He was truly loved. He would always make sure I got to say hello after a big event at the cathedral or at my parish.
His sickness hit us all, but [it hit] me personally quite hard when he wasn’t able to attend as many diocesan events with his leukemia treatments. His death was a major pivotal moment in my life because I felt a sense of loss and emptiness. His death made me realize I may still yet have a higher calling, even though I was fulfilling many of my other life dreams, which Bishop Murry was also excited for. (He loved watching me on TV in my early TV days.)
With that, I began talking to the diocese vocations office and know that this exactly where I need to be at this point in my life. I don’t want to regret not entering seminary in the future the way I felt a sense of loss with [his] passing.
Have any other priests had an influence on you?
My pastor, Msgr. Michael Cariglio, has been my closest mentor. His example has shown forth so vividly in my life. He has been pastor at Mount Carmel since I was born. He baptized me, administered my First Communion, and has been my supervisor as his music director since 2016. My family sat in the front pew when I was young and I was always able to see Monsignor celebrate Mass up close from a young age.
I have worked with close to half of our diocesan priests in some way or another from my days in Catholic grade school and high school. Personally, no one I know is a priest who hasn’t been in a liturgical role in my life. I have come to know all the seminarians and priests from my involvement in diocesan celebrations.
How have your family and friends reacted to your decision?
My family and friends are all 100% supportive. I have many friends of so many faith backgrounds and while some may not understand the Catholic religion as well as others, they all support me and can see me in the role of a priest in the future.
My TV work family was through-the-roof excited for me! I was so grateful for that. While I know many people and many whom I have worked with in multiple jobs who have said they will miss me — and I will surely miss everyone too!
But they are not surprised one bit that this is the path I am choosing. I even have an atheist friend who has told me that while he doesn’t necessarily understand why I am doing what I am doing, he is proud of me for pursuing a role that can help many people.
My best friend Matthew in Washington, DC, is a Lutheran, and thinks this is a perfect calling for me. His support means just as much to me as my family’s support does.
I am entering Saint Mary’s Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio next month. I have been admitted to the pre-theology program there with one other man from our diocese, Daniel Lapolla. We have another seminarian from the diocese who has been admitted, Augustine Drexler, as a college seminarian.
My role as an organist and music minister means so much to me. If I am able to offer my talents at the seminary to enrich seminary liturgy or events, I will surely do so. If I am asked to take on new roles, I will be open to those as well. When I come home for breaks and other events that I am able to come home for, I will surely continue to play organ when I can, if I am not asked to take part in another liturgical role.
Join Our Telegram Group : Salvation & Prosperity