IN THE PEWS: A conversation with Mike Zasa

Mike Zasa, left, and his good friend John Reale.

Mike Zasa is one of many parishioners who consider Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament their second home. In addition to teaching at Notre Dame Junior-Senior High School, Mike shares his talents in the parish by volunteering to teach courses and conduct programs – trying to give back to the parish that has given him so much. He even cooks a mean pizza fritta.

You’re one of many people that grew up at Mount Carmel. What does this parish mean to you?

The parish is like my second family. I’ve spent as much time helping out in church as at my house.

You attended Mount Carmel School. What do you remember from those years?

I remember the Franciscan Sisters who were very gentle reminders of God’s love and gave me a great education (academic as well as religious).

Did you have a favorite nun at the school?

My favorite teacher was Sister Jacqueline. She had a good sense of humor, was very down to earth and gave me a great love for religion with a healthy image of God.

Who is your all-time favorite priest of the parish?

Father Henry Benin because he was a progressive thinker yet very gentle.

You do a lot of volunteer work in the parish, teaching classes, conducting programs and offering your time and talent. What motivates you to do it?

I want to give back to the people of the parish that first nurtured and educated me in the faith.

Is there one person while you were growing up that was the person who helped instill the faith in you?

Mrs. Flora Elacqua. She was my kindergarten teacher as well as one of my Confirmation teachers. She was a gentle, faith-filled woman who modeled faith in action.

I believe you wanted to be a priest. Apparently, the calling wasn’t for you. What happened?

I originally wanted to be a Scalabrini missionary. My confirmation was a key moment in my life. The longer I studied and grew in my faith experiences, I realized that I did not need to go the farthest ends of the Earth to spread the Good News. I did a year of student teaching at realized that was my true calling and have been at Notre Dame for 18 years.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

Take time to minister to yourself or you won’t be able to help anyone else.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone?

Be the best you can be. Give back to others. Be gentle on yourself and others.

Final question: If you were pope, what changes would you make?

I would follow the leadership style of Pope Francis. He tries to find a middle ground. He tries to be pastoral without giving up the call to challenge ourselves to follow gospel mandates.

MIKE ZASA
Age: 44.
Occupation: Teacher at Notre Dame Junior-Senior High School (Grade 10 Morality/Peace and Justice; Grade 12 World Religions and Spirituality; Spanish 2.
Education: Mount Carmel, Proctor and Utica Senior Academy, St. John’s University and Catholic Theological Union.
Family: Three brothers, father deceased, mother, three nephews, one niece.
Favorite book: “The Shack.”
Favorite movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Favorite TV show: “Monk.”
Favorite entertainer: Robin Williams.
Things you like to do in your spare time: Short term, games on IPad (freeway solitaire); long term, travel.