‘By ourselves we can do nothing’

Boardman native leaves Holy Trip inspired, informed

BOARDMAN — Township native William Wainio is on his way to becoming a Catholic priest. His path to that end reached a very high point earlier this month as he met with Pope Francis.

Wainio has long wanted to follow the path into lifetime service to God.

“I can remember being 5 or 6 years old and feeling called to serve God as a priest,” Wainio said. “I grew up at St. Luke Catholic Church in Boardman. I went to elementary school at St. Luke before the school closed in June of 2011. I was very involved at St. Luke as a child and even as a young adult.

“In high school (at Ursuline) I was a member of the adult choir, liturgy committee, parish council and festival committee,” Wainio said.

Wainio also was involved with the Mahoning County Junior Fair and with Boy Scouts.

“As a youth, the Junior Fair Board and Boy Scouts of America taught me so much about working with people and the community at large,” Wainio said.

Wainio graduated from Ursuline in 2011, and serves as a board member for the Mahoning County Youth Agricultural Society and the George L. Grim Memorial Scholarship Fund that is run through that program. He continues to help in fundraising events for Ursuline High School as well.

“I do my very best to give back to these groups, and others, because they have given and taught me so much,” he said. “I want to make sure that these groups are around in the future to help young people as they helped me.”

Wainio went on to attend Youngstown State University from 2011 through 2017. In 2013, he began working as a dispatcher for the Beaver Township police and fire departments. In July 2014, he was hired as a dispatcher for Boardman Township and continued working both dispatcher jobs until the middle of 2017.


He never finished his degree at Youngstown State University, but went on to attend John Carroll University in Cleveland where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy. He is now attending St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Cleveland.

“I am currently working to finish my sixth year of a seven-year seminary program,” Wainio said. “God willing, I will be ordained a Transitional Deacon this June and ordained a Catholic priest next June, graduating in 2024 with a masters of divinity and a masters of arts in theology degrees.”

His devotion to entering the priesthood has Wainio treading the path of the seminarian.

“Seminary is a means to an end,” he said. “To be a doctor one must go to medical school, the same could be said for a priest. While it is not medical school, seminary school has a very deep focus on theology and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.”

As part of his seminarian journey, he had to serve a full-time, one-year pastoral internship at a parish. Wainio did his pastoral year with Blessed Sacrament and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishes in Warren.

He is working with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Human Rights and Development. He is working with the Catholic Campaign on Human Development, which is the national anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

However, he could not have foreseen the honor that was coming. St. Mary Seminary is celebrating the 175th anniversary of its founding this year. He said it was founded in 1848 by the first Bishop of Cleveland, Amadeus Rappe.


To celebrate the milestone, Wainio said a trip to Rome was planned for the seminarians.

“Our trip to Rome was a pilgrimage to celebrate this milestone anniversary and to learn more about the place where our Catholic faith was started,” Wainio said. “Because of this great anniversary the bishop here in Cleveland, the Most Reverend Edward Malesic, wrote a letter to Pope Francis explaining to him that we would be coming to Rome and the reason for our trip, and the Pope quickly responded — inviting us to a private audience with him in the Sala Clementina (The Clementine Hall) in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican.”

The Cleveland group made the trip at the beginning of this month and on March 6, they met with the Pope.

“I simply cannot describe in words the feeling I had as the door to Sala Clementina (The Clementine Hall in the Apostolic Palace) opened, and there stood the Holy Father,” Wainio said.

“We have all seen it time after time on television, yet the feeling of being present in the room was indescribable. Pope Francis entered the audience hall with a face filled with joy. Holding back a few tears, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this wonderful opportunity. Once at his seat, the Holy Father turned, with a smile from ear to ear, and motioned for us to end our applause and be seated.”

“Bishop Malesic opened our time together with the Pope with a greeting of thanks and an explanation about our pilgrimage; mentioning the trip was in celebration of the 175th anniversary of the founding of St. Mary Seminary. After greeting both Bishop Malesic and Bishop Michael Woost (auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Cleveland), Pope Francis began his address to our group,” Wainio said.


“Speaking in Italian, the Pope welcomed us to Rome and thanked us for answering God’s call to serve the Church. He went on to focus on one main point: ‘By ourselves we can do nothing.'”

“Pope Francis reminded us that to be a good priest — to be a good servant of Christ in any vocation — one must “smell like the sheep” they are shepherding. The Holy Father stressed three main points: Listening to God, walking together and giving witness. Through these practices, one becomes a “living sign of Jesus’ presence in the world.”

“Pope Francis made it clear that these three actions of listening, walking together and witness are key elements of the Church’s synodal journey, as well as our own formation journeys as seminarians. Finishing his address, Pope Francis thanked us for coming and asked us to pray for him as he promised to pray for us, our local church and our loved ones.”

Wainio and the Cleveland delegation returned to Ohio to continue its course of study. Wainio said it was a trip he will never forget and one that gave a boost to his lifelong goal of becoming a priest, the dream of a 5-year-old boy from Boardman.


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