By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published June 7, 2023
NORCROSS—Father Matthew Howard studied at the University of West Georgia when he spent time with the local pastor visiting people in the hospital. That experience confirmed his desire to become a priest.
With a business degree from Georgia Tech, Father Nicholas Le had a career in corporate IT ahead of him. However, during prayer before the Eucharist, he had a sense of a different path. His studies at the seminary took him to Chicago and Rome before he was ordained.
“I’m excited to be more united with Jesus and to bring people to God and God to people,” he said.
Four men followed diverse paths to ministry, but now they are united in a common mission. They became the newest priests to serve the nearly 1 million people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta during a ceremony rich in sacred tradition.
The pews were packed at the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Norcoss on May 27 as friends and family witnessed the laying on of hands by Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., along with song and prayer to ordain the Atlanta area natives. Scores of Atlanta priests also attended, along with Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III, Bishop John N. Tran and representatives from seminaries.
The full nave broke into loud applause as the four were announced at the election of the candidates.
The men are Father Pete Coppola, 31; Father Evan Glowzinski, 31, Father Howard, 32, and Father Le, 32.
“The Lord has chosen you to make a difference,” said the archbishop in his homily.
Christ’s words for discipleship and priesthood
“Your whole lives have been a preparation for this glorious day. Your journeys have brought you joys and sorrows, blessings and challenges. You have persevered because you have not only heard the words of the Lord, but you have put them into practice. Jesus wants you to be his priests,” the archbishop said.
He outlined for the new priests and the congregation “four fundamental words for discipleship and four indispensable words for the priesthood,” which are Christ’s love, Christ’s joy, Christ’s friendship and Christ’s choice.
Citing the late Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, Archbishop Hartmayer said God’s desire for self-sacrifice is now their mission.
“The only way a priest can live the commandment to love without reservation, to love without counting the cost, is by personally knowing Christ’s love for himself,” he said. “Love and cherish the people entrusted to you by the Lord. Love them unselfishly, without counting the cost. Love them faithfully, not considering the wounds. Love them generously, not seeking reward.”
‘Let your priesthood resound with joy’
When they live and act with joy, the new priests reflect God, he said.
“Joy is the echo of God’s life in us. Let your priesthood echo with joy,” Archbishop Hartmayer said. “Joy is a beautiful consequence of love. When we abide in Christ’s love, his joy makes a home in us.”
Friendship with Christ will deepen and become rooted in their priesthood as the men “love as he loves,” he said. Ordination “shapes your being into the image of Christ the priest” and the friendship expands as the men celebrate daily Mass, proclaim God’s word and compassionately care for the sick and dying, he said. “As friends of Christ, you are at the service of this church and its people.”
Their discernment and calling may feel like the men stepped out in faith first, but it is in response to God’s desire first, he said.
“Just as an artist is called to create beauty, Christ has chosen you. In the words of St. Teresa of Kolkata, ‘do something beautiful for God in order to be something beautiful for God.’”
The journey of priesthood
Father Howard grew up worshipping at St. James the Apostle Church in McDonough, where his mom is a preschool teacher and faith formation assistant. His father works as an airline mechanic.
While studying philosophy at college, he spent time with Father Rafael Carballo as the university chaplain visited the sick. The experience affirmed his desire to enter seminary in 2016.
“It has been quite an adventure,” he said.
He has found inspiration in Blessed Bartolo Longo, who as a student dabbled in satanic worship but later became devoted to the Rosary and the Blessed Mother. In addition to caring for prisoners and orphans, efforts by the 19th-century Italian lawyer led to the construction of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Pompei. He was named a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a papal order of knighthood.
“His life shows that no one is too far gone for the Lord to reach them,” said Father Howard.
Father Evan Glowzinski grew up praying at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Woodstock. He believes that his first call to the priesthood came in high school when he attended a Steubenville Conference in Atlanta. The call intensified during his freshman year at Kennesaw State University.
Before entering Mundelein Seminary, he worked for a time in cybersecurity and served six years in the Georgia Army National Guard.
Padre Pio is a beloved figure now, but church leaders in the 1920s would not allow him to celebrate Mass publicly. For Father Glowzinski, the life of the Franciscan Capuchin friar serves as an example of living out the promises made during ordination of priestly obedience and humility. Padre Pio, who was named a saint in 1999, was also known for his ministry in the confessional, administering the sacrament of reconciliation.
“I admire his total love of confession. (It) changed my life and I want people to have that same experience of God’s love and mercy,” he said.
The Le family lived in Jonesboro and Fayetteville when the new priest was a child. They attended St. Philip Benizi Church, where he served as an altar server for his then-pastor, Father Hartmayer. He was ordained a deacon at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome where he studied at Pontifical North American College and Pontifical Gregorian University. He has come to admire St John Paul II, who died when he was in high school. The Polish pope had a way with his writings and his witness to draw in young people, said Father Le.
Father Coppola’s home parish is St. Thomas the Apostle in Smyrna. He attended Saint Joseph Seminary College in Saint Benedict, Louisiana, from 2014 to 2018 for his Bachelor of Arts degree. Later he was enrolled at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy from 2018 to 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he transferred to Saint Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida. He said he was inspired to the ministry by watching the priests at his home parish serve faithfully and generously. With that in mind, the priesthood became “a matter of doing what I can to become more completely the person God created me to be,” he said.
Friends and family of new priests gathered with them afterward in the nearby parish hall. Lines were long to get blessings from the new priests.
Teresa Glowzinkski, 61 and a longtime hair stylist, said the ordination was overwhelming.
“What can you say, you are giving your child to God and that’s the most wonderful gift you can give,” she said.
For a time, she thought her son Father Glowzinkski would pursue a career in the military, but he felt there was something more that he could offer. Her son is engaging with young adults, so she said he could serve to inspire others to consider the priesthood.
New Orleans priest Father Cory Ford, 28, said his bond with Father Coppola began early in their Louisiana seminary days. He was new on campus and Father Coppola became fast friends with him. Father Coppola was a help to him in the face of a cancer diagnosis, said Father Ford.
“He had an upbeat attitude that kept me going,” he said.
Father Coppola has the skill to reach out to people from different backgrounds and interests to find a connection, Father Ford said.
“He really has the pastoral heart to be with people,” he said.
Alex Brown, 35, is a computer science teacher at St. Mary’s Academy, in addition to being a writer. He has known Father Le for about five years and said his friend has “a zeal (for the faith) but not in an overwhelming way.”
The two went on a winter hike up the 4,458-foot Blood Mountain in North Georgia. The hikers consecrated each hour to the Blessed Mother, when they stopped briefly for prayer.
Brown said during the new priest’s studies in Rome, he’d email friends and ask for special intentions that he could pray for at sacred sites around the Eternal City. For Brown, his friend has a knack to be present to the person in front of him, never being distracted by other demands. He constantly asked people to pray for him to ensure he fulfilled God’s plan, said Brown.