Deacon William C. Buckley ordained a priest

(left to right) Father Brian Capuano, Vicar for Vocations; Bishop Barry C. Knestout; and Deacon William C. Buckley on April 25, 2023, at the Pastoral Center in Richmond. (Photo/Stephen Previtera)

Deacon William C. Buckley was ordained a priest on Saturday, June 3, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond. Click here to see what he says about his path to becoming a priest.

Check back at and also our next issue for the full story on his ordination.

You can also watch the ordination via Livestream.


Growing up in Rockville Centre, New York, Deacon William C. Buckley spent most Sunday mornings looking down on the altar where the priest presided at Mass. “As long as I can remember, I was singing in the church choirs,” the 30-year-old deacon said.

Deacon William C. Buckley

“So that really became more and more my place in the church, in the religious life. My view of the church was from the choir loft,” said Deacon Buckley. In a few weeks, he will be the one the choir and congregation watch during his first Masses as a priest for the Diocese of Richmond.

‘Chorus of moments’

In a phone conversation a few days after receiving his Call to Orders from Bishop Barry C. Knestout, Deacon Buckley said his vocation developed through a chorus of moments “all important in their own ways, God speaking to me through the Scriptures, through the sacraments, through different people, gradually helping me to open my ears, to open my eyes to what he was saying to me.”

A gift for music helped set him on his way to the priesthood, along with a devout family. His father worked at Gold- man Sachs and is now retired; his mother was a teacher who became a full-time homemaker when he was born. Deacon Buckley, the eldest child, has three sisters.

He attended public schools and received religious education through his parish. As he was finishing high school, he said he decided to pursue a music degree and auditioned as a pianist at several colleges. The University of Richmond offered a decent scholarship, so he headed south.

He got involved in the small but close Catholic community there and in music ministry. “To be honest, I wouldn’t say I was explicitly thinking about the priesthood during my studies there,” he said.

“But the seeds were being planted, because of the childhood that I had, the combination of growing up in the Church and having that strong example set for me and also feeling very much drawn to the music,” he added.

Even as he felt his faith challenged at times in his last couple of years in college, he said music was that kindly light still leading him on.

“I was definitely struggling with my faith and struggling with a number of different things in my life,” he recalled. “And I’m thankful that through that time, the music was the thing that was keeping me there.”

“I’m thankful for God working through that because that really did make a difference for me going forward,” explained Deacon Buckley, “that I was able to stay connected to the Church and know that I could turn to the Church.”

(Left to right) Father Brian Capuano, Vicar for Vocations; Bishop Barry C. Knestout; and Deacon William C. Buckley celebrate Mass April 25 at the Pastoral Center, Richmond. (Photo/Stephen Previtera)

‘Dramatic growth’ in faith

After graduation, he moved back to Long Island, reconnected with his old parish, found part-time jobs in music ministry and became a better organist. In the summer of 2015, he returned to Virginia, landing a full- time job in music ministry at Saint Bridget, Richmond.

“From when I started that job I started experiencing a dramatic growth in my own faith and my own discipleship of Christ,” Deacon Buckley said. “And not too long after that I also started hearing the call to the priesthood more explicitly.”

He had found the parish a “beautiful place to be” and felt he was growing closer to the Lord and that the Lord wanted more from him. But he said he also wasn’t sure that this call was real and that he was ready to give up the idea of marriage and a family of his own.

He shared his feelings with a friend, and she advised him to talk to his pastor, Msgr. William H. Carr. “That initial conversation and talking with him about it really made a huge impact on me,” said the deacon.

“Hearing his story, the encouragement that he was able to give me, seeing the similarities in what he had gone through and what I was going through was really encouraging,” he recalled.

Msgr. Carr suggested he talk to the director of vocations for the diocese. As it turned out, a retreat for men thinking of the priesthood was scheduled for that weekend, and Deacon Buckley decided to go.

Realizing the calling is ‘real’

The theme was Duc in Altum from Luke 5:4, where Jesus tells the fishermen who will become his first disciples to “put out into the deep.”

For Deacon Buckley, it was a powerful experience. He met seminarians, other young men at various levels of discernment, and concluded that his calling “was real, it was very possible.” By January 2017, he had started the application process.

He said he continued to struggle with some of the expectations of his vocation but brought that into his prayers “where the peace came from bringing all those struggles to the Lord and experiencing a great amount of peace when I considered that call to the priesthood and hearing the reality that he would be with me.”

He entered the seminary that fall. The six years of preparation for ordination have been challenging and rewarding, he said. He has appreciated the opportunities to pick up the baton a bit in his parish assignments, starting his first summer after entering the seminary.

“Those experiences really helped, helped me understand the vocation more, reinforced that call, challenged me to grow in a lot of ways,” he said, “to grow into gradually becoming a more public person, trying to conform more and more to a priestly presence, to Christ the priest.”

He spent most of 2020-2021 at Our Lady of Nazareth, Roanoke, where he will celebrate one of his first Masses June 11. Many pandemic restrictions were still in place, and he said he learned a lot from that experience, “finding new ways to proclaim the Gospel and bring people to an encounter with Christ.”

The young man who will be ordained a priest June 3 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond, has also found inspiration in the lives of the saints. He said he appreciates the zeal and humility of Saint James the Apostle, his confirmation saint.

He has also grown close to Saint Therese of Lisieux, “a great intercessor for me in my vocation.”

And he said he has always been close to Saint Cecilia, admiring the patron saint of music for her humility and devotion to Christ – not just because he was born on Nov. 22, her feast day.

Though he does not know what his first parish assignment will be, he is excited “to give myself fully to the priesthood,” trusting that the Lord has “called me to be a priest for a reason.”

One of the most attractive things about the vocation, he believes, is “the ability of the priest to be present and to bring Christ’s presence to people in a way that others don’t have the ability to do … to be there for people in whatever they’re going through and being able to do that because of the foundation of my relationship with Christ.”

Celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, and being a shepherd to his parishioners will all soon be at the center of William Buckley’s life as he completes his journey from the choir loft to the altar.


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