Five minutes with Father Donald S. Nesti, C.S.Sp
March 29, 2011
HOUSTON — The idea of life as a priest came to Father Donald S. Nesti, C.S.Sp. at a very young age growing up in Pennsylvania steel country in the city of Clairton. In 1993, after years in academia at various universities (including serving as the president of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, Pa.) and at the request of his provincial superior, Father Nesti moved to Houston. In 1994, in collaboration with Dr. Joseph McFadden, now President Emeritus of the University of St. Thomas, and then Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, Father Nesti founded — and is director of — the Center for Faith and Culture at UST and a professor of theology at St. Mary’s Seminary.
The center, which implemented a new Masters Program in Faith and Culture in 2010, was founded in response to Pope John Paul II’s 1983 creation of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The program “seeks to understand and affect the relationship between the worldview of Catholic faith and culture.”
“The center … is in full swing,” said Father Nesti. “Presently we are developing a curriculum of modules on the subject of faithful citizenship, how to live both as Americans and Catholics, that will be used in parishes throughout the Archdiocese and possibly in other dioceses. We are collaborating with the Continuing Christian Education office of the Archdiocese on this project.”
Father Nesti recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions from the Texas Catholic Herald about his vocation as a priest and educator.
Texas Catholic Herald: When and why did you decide to become a priest?
Father Donald S. Nesti: My first thought of becoming a priest occurred when I was about seven years old. It never left me and grew even stronger until I entered the seminary after my college years.
TCH: Who or what most influenced your call to priestly life?
Father Nesti: My maternal grandmother, a woman of profound wisdom, who only completed the second grade; several priests, especially the associate pastor when I was eight or nine years old. I always had a desire to seek the deeper meaning of life and how all aspects of life were related to the mystery of God.
TCH: What might be the most memorable moment of your life as a priest?
Father Nesti: Probably my ordination day. I was filled with joy on that day and in spite of life’s ups and downs that same joy continues to sustain me.
TCH: What has challenged you as a priest?
Father Nesti: Learning what ‘Blessed are those who mourn’ means. It implies a kind of perennial sadness over the sinful brokenness of the world, the Church and myself. Learning how to see that God’s love is greater than that brokenness and has already triumphed in the resurrected Christ.
TCH: How would you define vocation?
Father Nesti: It is the awareness that one’s identity has to be lived out in the loving worship of God and the loving embrace of all people.
TCH: What do you do for fun?
Father Nesti: Spend time with people whom I love and who love me.
TCH: What would others find surprising about you?
Father Nesti: That I play golf, POORLY, and that I am an avid Pittsburgh Steeler fan.
TCH: What advice do you have for those considering a vocation to religious or priestly life?
Father Nesti: John Paul II captured it best in his pastoral letter entitled “At the beginning of the new millennium” (“Novo Millennio Ineunte”) when he recalled what Jesus said to the disciples who had fished all night and had caught nothing: ‘Lower your nets into the deep.’ Go deep into the Mystery of God dwelling in you and find the pearl of great price that God wants you to share with the world. †