By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Deacon Peter Bucalo’s call to the priesthood was not one accompanied by bolts of lightning and a booming voice from the sky.
It was a much more subtle and slow process that would lead him to seminary and, ultimately, on May 30, to his presbyteral ordination.
Deacon Bucalo will be ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville on the last Saturday of May, along with Deacons Shayne Duvall and Jason Harris. The ordination will be at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth Street.
Some readers may remember Deacon Bucalo as the popular morning radio DJ from “The Peter B. and Kelly K. Show” on WDJX.
For more than two decades, he co-hosted the local radio program until he could no longer ignore the tugging at his heart, he said, and decided to enter the seminary.
Deacon Bucalo’s hearty laugh and warm smile belie his 54 years. He credits his family, in particular his mother, the late Mary V. Bucalo, with providing a solid foundation for his faith.
His mother, herself brought up on the Baltimore Catechism, gave him his first religious instruction in his childhood home. He has vivid memories of memorizing definitions of liturgical terms in his father’s den.
“I remember my mom sitting at the desk and me in the big, comfy chair. I would receive a roll of NECCO wafers when I’d recite the rosary, the creed or Our Father,” Deacon Bucalo said he recalled. “To this day, when I recite the creed at Mass,
I sometimes think of NECCO wafers.”
He was born in New York City, but when he was 4 his family moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., where he and his three siblings were raised.
Deacon Bucalo not only received religious instruction from his mother, but also learned from her a quiet determination, he said. When his mother was in her 40s, she entered the University of Michigan as a freshman. She would go on to earn first her bachelor’s and then her master’s in English literature — all while caring for four children and a husband, who was a pathologist.
“My sister was an upperclassman to my mother on the same campus,” Deacon Bucalo noted. His mom “would go to bed at 9 p.m. and get up at 3 a.m. because that was the only time it was quiet enough to study.
It was a remarkable thing to see. She was an amazing woman.”
When it was his turn for college, Deacon Bucalo earned a business degree from Michigan State University where he studied radio and television broadcasting.
While in college, though, he fell away from his faith.
“I didn’t deliberately leave the church. All of the sudden I was at a university with 45,000 people. There was so much stuff to turn your head. And, I let my head get turned by so many things,” he said.
Upon college graduation, he moved to Chicago for his “dream job,” he said, working at a radio station. In 1987, a job opportunity brought him to Louisville. He began attending Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption and met Father William Fichteman, who was pastor of the cathedral at the time.
But then something happened to nudge him further down the path back to his faith. In his late 30s, Deacon Bucalo became gravely ill; he had a ruptured colon and nearly died, he said.
“That was the turning point. I began to make the journey home,” he said, adding that the journey was long.
He began to meet with Father William Bowling, who was the Archdiocese of Louisville’s vocation director at the time, and a small group of other men like himself who were contemplating a call to the priesthood, a group known as Men in Black.
“It was thanks to Father Bill (Fichteman) and people like him welcoming me — welcoming the prodigal son home,” he said.
Also during this time, both Deacon Bucalo’s father, the late Dr. Harry D. Bucalo Jr., and his mother, died within 34 days of one another.
“I took some time to step away (from discernment) to grieve and to process. But, the feeling never went away,” he noted.
Soon, he went from attending Sunday Mass to attending daily Mass on his lunch hour. He then became more involved — first joining his church choir, then becoming a cantor and lector.
“I loved serving in the church. It all kind of grew from there,” he said.
Once he’s ordained a priest, Deacon Bucalo said he’s most looking forward to celebrating the sacraments.
“The sacraments are the most concrete way that Christ is present to us and that grace is given to us,” he said.
He is most drawn to the sacrament of reconciliation, he noted. In particular, he would like to lead people back to this sacrament, especially if they haven’t received it in a long time.
“It changed my life. I wouldn’t be here becoming a priest if I hadn’t discovered the fountain of grace that is the sacrament of reconciliation,” he said.
Deacon Bucalo graduated with a master’s degree in divinity from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology on May 9. After his ordination, he will serve as associate pastor of Holy Spirit Church.
He will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving May 31 at St. Louis Bertrand Church, 1104 S. Sixth Street, at 10:30 a.m.