Live fully with the joy Jesus offers

May 3, 2023

Please join Bishop John Noonan for Ordination to the Priesthood, Saturday, May 27, 10 a.m., at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, 8300 Vineland Ave., Orlando. All are welcome either in person or via livestream on the Diocese of Orlando Facebook page and YouTube channel. Below is a brief profile of the ordinand — Transitional Deacon Zachary Parker.

Deacon Zachary Parker
Epiphany Parish, Port Orange

Deacon Zachary Parker was born into a military family. His parents were both musicians in the Army band. His siblings, uncles, and grandfather were all in the U.S. Army. Parker always assumed he would follow family tradition and join the Army as well. He was attending the music school at Stetson University, envisioning a future of traveling the world like his parents, when he began to imagine a different life for himself for the first time.

“When I went to Stetson University, that’s when I really encountered the Lord in a new way and met Christ for the first time,” Parker said. “I had always gone to church at Epiphany, but at that time I really didn’t understand why I was going. I didn’t understand what the faith was about really until I started meeting people who were really living the faith in a powerful way at Stetson.”

Parker started meeting other young adults who had a different quality about them. They were happier than he was, they had an amazing love for Jesus; they were active in campus ministry and the parish. He got to know Father John Bosco Maison and Msgr. Valentine J. Sheedy and see the life of a priest. The more he got to know them, the more he thought, “That’s the life for me.”

“I wanted so much more than just this music world and art kind of world,” Parker recalled. “I wanted something so much more substantial. In them I saw something that was so provoking, so different than I had seen in anybody else that it made me want to go towards that.”

Parker decided to leave Stetson and enter the seminary. There he found a group of men striving for holiness and growing in faith. He knew this was the place where he would be prepared to follow where Jesus was calling him. His Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate was further confirmation he was on the right path.

“After my Ordination to the Diaconate I said, ‘Wow I feel more myself than I ever felt.’ It felt so natural,” Parker recalled. “That’s what I’m looking forward to with this Ordination to the Priesthood, to be in the place where Jesus wants me to be, which is the most myself I can be.”

Some of the moments that Parker has felt the closest to Jesus were in the midst of suffering. His father became severely disabled later in life and during an illness, Parker found him having fallen to the ground and close to death. He remained with him while waiting for the ambulance and describes it as a beautiful moment where he experienced God’s peace and comfort.

“I recognized, here in my hands is my father, but no matter what happens it’s going to be okay because, even if he dies here, Jesus will be there and it never ends with Christianity, nothing ever ends. I don’t have to be afraid of this. I can know that Jesus is right here and not be afraid,” he recalled. “That was one of the most powerful moments when I met Jesus, when I encountered Him in the midst, when our hearts burn(ed) in the presence of His love.”

Years later, when Parker’s brother died after a long struggle with drugs, Parker would experience that same feeling of hope that comes with belief in God and His salvation.

“In the midst of all these sufferings to be able to say our God doesn’t just stand off and watch, He gets in the middle of it and comes down. That’s the beauty of the Incarnation, that He’s here with us and not just watching off to the side.”

For the last nine years, Parker has been studying and preparing for the priesthood, but when he’s not in class, he can be found kayaking and exploring. He says his love of adventure is the same thing that draws him to the priesthood.

“I want to live fully the joy that Jesus is offering us right now, not just when I get to heaven God-willing, but right now I want to live a full life. I want to live what Jesus is offering us here, 100-fold, right now.”

Deacon Zachary Parker

By Elizabeth Wilson, Special to the Florida Catholic, May 04, 2023