Fr. Azzarto currently teaches religion at St. Peter's Prep where he also serves as the alumni chaplain and as a student guidance counselor.
"Yes is a world and in that world (lies skillfully curled) all worlds."
"Jesus was not a blend of Yes and No but was and is Yes."
These lines from E. E. Cummings and St. Paul have colored my life as a Jesuit for 59 years. During seven of those years I worked in Nigeria and God blessed me with caring people and gave me an appreciation of another culture. I came home "ruined for life" as they say in JVC (the Jesuit Volunteer Corps).
Today, I teach a saints course to seniors at St. Peter's Prep and I try to introduce them to the poetry of Gerard Manly Hopkins, the vision of Teilhard de Chardin, and the conversion experiences of Pope Francis, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. During the course, the seniors are asked to keep a journal and I am amazed at how they share their heart in a personal diary; once again giving me the privilege of seeing the goodness in people.
The sacramental component of my life also gives me great joy. As a priest I enjoy celebrating Mass and preaching in local parishes, baptizing and officiating marriages for alumni, and guiding many through the ups and downs of the spiritual life. I also find deep happiness in walking with the bereaved and celebrating the funerals of their loved ones, in an effort to help them understand the gift of Resurrection.
The academic and communal aspects of my life have long served as a source of inspiration for me. Articles written by fellow Jesuits Peter Schineller S.J. and Joe Godfrey S.J., memories of deceased friends Hap Ridley S.J. and Charlie Beirne S.J., as well as the personal care given me by John Mullin S.J. and Jim Keenan S.J. have all uplifted and challenged me to the "Magis."
Thomas Merton once said, "Don't people realize they are saints, walking with the presence of God?" I experience Merton's sentiment in my ministry whether it is during a high school football game or during a soccer dinner talking with St. Peter's Prep parents (oftentimes these parents are working two jobs, raising multiple children, and taking care of elderly parents), or during counseling sessions with students who may have been recently cut from a team or who are struggling with the divorce of their parents. All of these are experiences of sharing the lives of saints-dedicated men and women of faith.
Lastly I am inspired by the writing of Pope Francis; he helps me cherish my Jesuit vocation and makes me happy to be a Catholic today. All of this is gift. I was educated by Jesuits at Brooklyn Prep, nourished by Jesuits at Woodstock College and welcomed for ministry at St. Peter's Prep for 35 years... And I am also really happy when the Dodgers win!