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Firefighter Leaves Department To Become Roman Catholic Priest

Tom Hunyor Jr. (left) is pictured with his father, Tom Hunyor Sr., at the Maumee Fire Division, where both men have served. Earlier this month, Tom Jr. resigned from the department to enter Mt. St. Mary Seminary in Cincinnati, where he will begin graduate work in theology before becoming an ordained Roman Catholic priest.

BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — For 32-year-old Tom Hunyor Jr., firefighting has been a calling since childhood, but a stronger calling to follow his faith has led him down a different path – that of a Roman Catholic priest. “It’s a very natural jump to this from the fire and EMS – it’s public service,” he said. “We are meant to be very ‘others-centered,’ so everything we do – whether it’s training or PR events or calls that we go on – we’re always doing it to put others before us. The priesthood is a very similar thing, it’s just in a different kind of a way.” Tom grew up watching his father, Tom Hunyor Sr., head off to work at the station. “From a very young age, I was running around the station and interacting with the guys, so that kind of started the flame and I just always loved the job,” said Tom. The oldest of six siblings, Tom Jr. was homeschooled for three years. His parents devoutly practice the Roman Catholic faith, and Tom grew up attending St. Joseph Catholic Church in downtown Toledo as well as St. Joseph Catholic Church in Maumee. After graduating from Maumee High School in 2003, Tom attended Owens Community College, where he also played baseball. After one year, he joined the Maumee department and later the Defiance Fire Department. His younger brother, Joe, is also a member of the Maumee department. While his faith was an important part of his formative years, Tom admits that he strayed from it for a while. “Like a lot of kids, at a certain age I kind of distanced myself from the church and did my own thing for a while,” Tom said. During a call to a large house fire, however, Tom realized things could have gone very badly, and it made him fully embrace his faith again. “Things could have turned south pretty easily and we were lucky to make it out when we did, and it really got me thinking. On the fire department you see a lot of death. It’s just kind of a common occurrence and you learn to accept it and deal with it. But it got me thinking about my own life – really put those big thoughts in my head.” That event prompted Tom, who at the time was 23, to take his first step toward priesthood. He entered Pontifical College Josephinum, a seminary in Columbus, where he earned a degree in philosophy. “Initially, it was a big change and I think everyone was a little surprised,” he said. “They had seen changes in me, but they didn’t expect me to do this – you don’t typically see a whole bunch of people running to the priesthood.” The Catholic faith has provided all of the answers to the big questions that he contemplated as an adult. “I knew I was living a very selfish life and needed to make some changes. The more I made those changes in life the more the thought of the priesthood came into my heart and came into my mind and it was a thought that I couldn’t really deny,” he said. His family supports his decision. “I always knew that he would stay involved in the church one way or another,” Tom Sr. said. “I think it’s great. I give him my full support. You always want the best for your kids.” After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Tom returned to Maumee and continued working on the fire department while the Diocese of Toledo considered his application to enter the seminary to complete his graduate work. In February, Bishop Daniel Thomas approved his application to Mt. St. Mary Seminary in Cincinnati, where he will study theology. His ordination to become a Roman Catholic priest will take place in the summer of 2022 – five years after leaving the fire department. “I love the job, I love the challenge and I love the brotherhood. But at the same time I know in my heart that I am drawn to the priesthood,” he said. “What really made the difference for me was realizing that in order for me to be who God created me to be – to be 100-percent myself – the priesthood is what I have to do. There’s a certain level of peace and happiness that goes with that and as much as I love fire and EMS, I can’t find it anywhere else.”

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