On May 28, Fr. Zach Samples celebrated his first anniversary as a priest. As he looks back on the last year, he reflects on the various experiences that have accompanied his journey since ordination.
“This first year as a priest has been absolutely incredible,” Fr. Zach says.
The day after his ordination, Fr. Zach celebrated his First Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Patrick’s Church in Decatur.
“It was such a blessing and gift to be surrounded by so many of my beloved family and friends and to be able to bring Christ to them in the Blessed Sacrament for the first time,” he says.
On July 1, he began his assignment as Parochial Vicar here at St. Peter.
“Everyone from Fr. Leo to the parish and school staff, to our awesome parishioners have welcomed me with open arms,” Fr. Zach says. “It has been a privilege to walk with people during both joys and sorrows. One of my favorite things to do is visit with folks over a meal in their homes. From pretty much day one here in Quincy, I have been able to get to know many of our families by breaking bread with them.”
Working with the teachers and students at the Catholic grade school has been a great joy for Fr. Zach.
“The children bring an energy and a life to our parish, and it is an absolute blessing to get to know so many of them,” he says. “In a very real sense, the people of St. Peter’s have been Christ to me and I am grateful beyond words to be here.”
While there have been many highlights and joys along the way, Fr. Zach recognizes this past year has also been marked by many tragedies for some parishioners.
“These tragedies have certainly brought with them sorrow, pain, frustration, and woe,” he says. “At the same time, they have also brought grace. In every instance, God’s presence and grace were brought into the midst of tragedy through the tremendous people that make up this parish. In this way, the biggest ‘lows’ of the year have also been the biggest ‘highs.’ I have been able to see the Lord work through each and every member of this parish and that has been a tremendous gift.”
One of Fr. Zach’s favorite memories of this past year was when the parish hosted Totus Tuus last summer.
“It was a great way to get to know many of our students, parents, volunteers, and staff members right out of the gate,” he says. “Even if they did turn me into a human ice cream sundae on the last day, as child after child dumped a different ice cream topping upon my head!”
Experiencing stewardship in the parish has been another highlight, as Fr. Zach had the opportunity to see our parishioners giving of their time, talent, and treasure in so many different ways.
“From Soup and a Smile to the Soup Kitchen Ministry to our extremely talented musicians, to the great work of our Finance Council, I am so impressed by the way stewardship is lived out in our parish,” he says. “I have learned many things here that I hope to share with future parishes I am called to serve.”
Fr. Zach also appreciates how St. Peter Parish has helped him as he marks the first year of his vocation.
“St. Peter has helped me in my vocation through the many parishioners — young and old — who have opened their hearts, their arms, and their homes to welcome me here and to support, challenge, and encourage me,” he says. “The good folks of St. Peter have shown the face of Christ to me time and time again, and that is such a tremendous gift as a newly ordained priest.”
As he embarks on his second year of priestly ministry, Fr. Zach looks forward to deepening his relationships with parishioners and seeing what the Lord has prepared for him.
“I am grateful beyond words to Fr. Leo for welcoming me into our parish and for helping to show me the ropes of the priesthood,” he says. “Further, I am immeasurably thankful for our entire parish and school staff, especially the remarkable women and men I get to work alongside every day. Finally, I am thankful for each member of our parish for welcoming me here. The Spirit is alive and well here at St. Peter, and I cannot wait to see what all He has in store in the months and years to come.”