Father Manzo has packed a lot of ministry in his 50 years as a Holy Cross father, but only four of them were strictly parish ministry.
Ordained on December 18, 1965, the retired priest’s ministry has taken him from the blue-grass hills of his Kentucky birthplace to the fields of academia to stints of ministering to members of the armed forces on government bases. And since 2007, he has been a Florida resident, first serving at St. John the Evangelist in Viera and now living at the Holy Cross Community House in Cocoa Beach.
“I’ve been all over the world,” said the well-spoken, educated priest who escaped the cold weather of Buffalo, N.Y., before seeking the warm weather of the Sunshine State. “And now I am in a nice community with a wonderful group of people.”
His journey with the Holy Cross community took him to Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass., for studies. He later prepared for his priestly ordination at a seminary in Montreal. Teaching was a big part of his ministry. Father Manzo taught for a year in Connecticut, and then lived in Rome for seven years where he earned a doctorate in moral theology and taught at an international, all-boys school run by the Holy Cross Brothers.
After time in Italy, Father Manzo returned to Stonehill where he stayed for 25 years, first teaching and later serving as academic vice president. He then spent five and a half years as Catholic chaplain on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., where he strived for a “ministry of presence,” going to places where students gather, such as the dining hall and student center. According to an article in the Wesleyan Arbus, the university’s paper, Father Manzo’s presence was greatly missed after his retirement in 2006.
But it was his role as an Air Force Reserve chaplain that allowed Father Manzo to globetrot. While teaching and working at college, Father Manzo had long breaks at summer and Christmas, and during that time he would go on active duty at different bases to serve. Catholic chaplains were always welcome, whether he would serve on a base in the states, in Europe and Greenland, or the Middle East, all destinations where Father Manzo served. It offered him a nice rhythm and balance of ministry of both academia and the military.
“Serving as an Air Force chaplain was the best thing I ever did,” Father Manzo said. “It was just a great experience. The Air Force is a wonderful community with talented people who are dedicated to a mission and are committed to constant education.”
Father Manzo took a sabbatical after leaving his chaplaincy at Wesleyan to prepare for retirement. At 75, he now enjoys photography while still fostering his intellect with one of his first spiritual loves — theology.
“I spent almost my whole life as a teacher of theology,” said Father Manzo, who believes even in theology “old formulas” should be examined in conversation. “I think it would be good for everyone to have a little moral theology.”