Nearly two decades after he left the football field to discern whether he had a calling to the priesthood, Father Joe Freedy is now being asked to serve God’s people in a new way—as the diocese’s first assistant director of evangelization.
The announcement was made by Bishop David Zubik, who also assigned Father Freedy as chaplain to the students of Oakland Catholic and Central Catholic high schools.
Father Freedy will work alongside Bishop William Waltersheid, vicar for evangelization in the diocese.
“I am excited to be collaborating with Father Freedy,” Bishop Waltersheid told The Pittsburgh Catholic. “He has a tremendous heart for preaching the Catholic faith and bringing people into a profound relationship with the Lord Jesus. His many gifts are sorely needed.”
“We have read the statistics—80 percent of Catholics who leave the Church do so by age 21, and four out of five don’t attend Mass on Sunday,” Father Freedy said. “But there are also many incredible evangelization initiatives going on in the diocese. We can promote them a bit more and draw more people in.”
Father Freedy was a standout quarterback at Bethel Park High School and played on the University of Buffalo football team from 1999 to 2001, competing against future NFL stars like Ben Roethlisberger. But he felt a void in his life, and began taking his Catholic faith more seriously, starting with prayer.
He entered Saint Paul Seminary, receiving a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 2008 and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology the following year from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
Among his many assignments in the diocese has been director of the vocations office from 2010-17.
“As vocations director I did a lot of traveling for different events at parishes and schools,” Father Freedy said. “I hope to return to lead parish missions, retreats and pilgrimages, to help parishioners who want to go deeper into their faith.”
Bishop Waltersheid said Catholics have two vocations—to become a saint, and to proclaim the Gospel.
“We do this by going to Mass, receiving the Lord, meeting Him in confession, deepening a life in prayer and learning more about the faith,” he said.
“We want to focus on schools and parish religious education programs,” Bishop Waltersheid added. “And not just Catholics. Evangelization extends beyond the Church. There are so many people with no religious affiliation at all. We want to reach out to them and say, ‘I am filled with hope and joy.’”
“Before we evangelize anyone else, we have to be committed to serious prayer lives,” Father Freedy said. “We come to Mass to receive Him, and then we are sent out. Knowing the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ makes our faith incredibly beautiful. It takes on a deeper meaning and value.”
Father Freedy can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.