This is a beautiful story from the National Catholic Register of the formation and life of a married priest and his wife, both in communion with Rome.
FRONT ROYAL, Va. — Linda Carnazzo knew that when she was dating her future husband that he might have another vocation as well: to serve as a priest in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
Which meant she had to discern seriously another vocation: whether she could take up the maternal vocation of the priest’s wife.
“He brought up the idea and asked me to take it into account,” Carnazzo said of her husband, Sabatino, who was a member of one of the Eastern Churches in communion with the Bishop of Rome.
She told the Register that they met at Christendom College, a Catholic liberal arts school based in Front Royal, where they currently reside, and were dating when Sabatino’s pastor, Father Joseph Francavilla, asked him to consider a vocation to the priesthood after marriage. The priest informed Sabatino that the Eastern Churches, including the Melkite Catholic Church, have an ancient tradition of ordaining both married men and celibates and did not view the callings to priesthood and matrimony as “mutually exclusive.”
So Linda ultimately said, “Yes,” and, after 10 years of marriage, with five children between the ages of 1 and 9, she finally gave her “Yes” again: to the ordination of her husband, now-Father Sabatino Carnazzo and the director of the Virginia-based Institute of Catholic Culture. On May 1, Bishop Nicholas Samra of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton ordained him at Holy Transfiguration Church in McLean, Va., giving him the name “Hezekias,” where the Catholic congregation welcomed their new priest with shouts of “Axios!” (“He is worthy!”).
Linda, who homeschools the children, said the family has been preparing itself for this new chapter of their lives: The boys have learned how to serve the Divine Liturgy, and their daughter has been practicing the chanting.
But the new priest’s wife explained that just as with discerning the call to marriage, she also seriously discerned whether God was calling her to life as a clergy wife. Coming from a Latin Church background, she learned about the Melkite Church’s Eastern Catholic traditions while dating Sabatino and came to know Father Ephrem Handal and his wife, Judy, at Holy Transfiguration. Learning about their life and service to the parish was “eye-opening” for her.
“For me, I chose to say, ‘Yes’ to the whole package, which included this idea that my husband would be called to be a priest, and, therefore, I would be called to be the priest’s wife,” she said.
The vocation of the priest’s wife comes from the fact that the Catholic Church has both married and celibate clergy traditions among its 24 sister Churches that are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. In the Eastern Churches and in the Latin Church, only celibates can be ordained bishops, and priests can never marry after ordination.
Most of the Eastern Catholic Churches — with the exception of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches — follow an ancient tradition of ordaining both married men and celibate men to the priesthood. In this tradition, ordained celibates live together in the monastery, while ordained married men, with their wives and families, serve a parish.
The Latin Church follows its own ancient tradition of ordaining only celibate men as priests, who can then live together in community with other celibates, as either diocesan priests (as exemplified by St. Augustine of Hippo and his diocesan clergy) or as professed religious or monastics.