This is the second in a series of  three profiles of the men to be ordained new priests for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 18.


Rev. Mr. Brendan Zehner

Born and raised in Glenside, and a parishioner at Saint Luke the Evangelist Church, Transitional Deacon Brendan Zehner says he never considered a vocation to the priesthood until his senior year of college.

 “I was pretty lapsed in the faith,” he says of his early years as a history major at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, VA.  “But fortunately, I had some really good friends and teachers who helped guide me back in the right direction.”

Now, Zehner will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia May 18 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

Zehner grew up with his father Mark, a government lawyer, his mother Peggy, a history teacher, and an older brother.  Zehner credits his mother for his love of history, and he hoped to one day teach history just like her.

Zehner and his brother attended Ancillae-Assumpta Academy in Wyncote for grade school, administered by the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and then Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia for high school.

Having a collective love of history, the family often spent their free time visiting museums.  “We visited every museum the city had to offer,” he said.

The American Revolution is his favorite period in history, which influenced him to attend college in historic Williamsburg.  He says he enjoyed walking to school and encountering various people dressed in colonial attire along his path.

During his senior year at college, as he became more serious about his faith again. Zehner realized he needed to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Going to confession isn’t always the easiest thing when you’ve been away [from the faith],” he said.  So, during a visit home, he called upon a priest he knew at his home parish to feel more comfortable.  Near the end of their meeting, the priest said to Zehner, “I thought you were going to ask me about the priesthood.”

When he heard those words, Zehner says he was surprised, but that he also “felt a lot of joy and peace” at the idea.

Afterwards, Zehner started discerning the priesthood.  He says he looked for work he could do while discerning, which led him to employment at Wawa in his hometown.

“You get a pretty good experience of human nature when you see people at 5:00 a.m. before their first cup of coffee,” he said, reflecting on that time.

He rotated working as a cashier, stocking the refrigerators, and making various drinks for customers.  He found that while he was stocking the refrigerators with products, he could pray the Rosary while he worked.

 Zehner spent two years working and discerning his call. In the Fall 2015, he called the Vocations Office at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.  He visited the seminary in the Spring 2016 and entered in the Fall 2017.

At the close of their final semester each member of the Ordination Class of 2024 was “clapped out” by the Seminary’s student body, faculty, and staff on Friday, May 3. (St. Charles Borromeo Seminary)


Last year, Zehner was ordained a Transitional Deacon by Archbishop Nelson Perez. Since that time, he has served at Our Lady of Calvary Church in Philadelphia.

“I was a total stranger, and they embraced me,” said Zehner of his experience with the parishioners.  “They make you feel at home,” he said.

Inspired by his mother, special saints to Zehner include Saint Ambrose and Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who were “great teachers” he says.

“Their students became more famous than they were,” he added.  Saint Augustine was a student of Saint Ambrose, for example.  Zehner admires how these saintly teachers took core topics of faith and made them more accessible to people.

Zehner’s first Mass as a priest will be held at his home parish, St. Luke the Evangelist Church, on May 19 at 3:00 p.m.

On his advice for any young man who may be thinking about the priesthood, he says, “Don’t be afraid to talk about it.  Bring it to a vocation office or to a priest.  It’s through those people God will guide you through the process.”

Zehner says he humbly asks  faithful of the archdiocese to pray for him and his work as he receives his first assignment as a priest.