Leap of Faith

August 1, 2018

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BUFFALO, NY - William Papaj ’88, MBA ’11 was an award-winning sales representative with Ingram Micro in Buffalo, who consistently raised the bar during his 17-year career with the international technology company as he climbed the corporate ladder. 

The youngest of four children in a Catholic family, Papaj always prided himself on applying Christian principles to his job. 

“As a manager, I believed every employee was important, from supervisors to the lowest paid associates,” he explains. “I had tremendous success with this approach throughout my career, something I remember learning in a business class at Canisius where the emphasis was on ethics and social teachings.”

Yet it came at somewhat of a cost.  As Papaj’s career flourished, his faith became less of a focus in his life. 

That all changed when Papaj read Crossing the Threshold of Hope, by Pope John Paul II who encouraged people to have a personal relationship with God.  The book resonated with Papaj. 

He began to attend daily Mass and “fell in love with the scripture readings.” Eventually, Papaj felt a call to consider the priesthood.  No one particular person influenced him, he says.  Instead, his decision at age 48 to become a priest arose from contemplative prayer.  And, in 2014 Papaj made his leap of faith official.

He contacted the vocations director of the Diocese of Buffalo with whom he spoke for three hours about discernment.  Shortly after, Papaj applied for acceptance into Christ the King Seminary.  Within weeks, he quit his job at Ingram Micro and was rooming at the East Aurora campus as a seminarian.  Becoming a student again, “has been helped by my degrees from and experiences at Canisius College.”

This fall, Papaj enters his pastoral year at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Niagara Falls, during which he’ll engage in full-time ministry to hone his pastoral skills.  Until then, Papaj is ministering at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo and living with the Jesuits at Canisius College. He expects to be ordained a priest a priest by 2021. 

Though Papaj’s late-age vocation may not be the norm, he says everyone has been supportive of his journey.

“The idea of the seminary would have seemed ridiculous a few years ago,” Papaj adds. “But the Holy Spirit works how the Holy Spirit works, and I am grateful for this new direction.”