Zachariah F. Presutti, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Founded Thrive for Life Prison Project to accompany our incarcerated sisters and brothers in spiritual life and walked with them back into the community through the establishment of Ignacio House of Studies.
- Built community through collaboration with Jesuit parishes, schools and other apostolates as we responded to the needs of brothers and sisters behind the prison walls.
- Served as deacon at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Oakland, California.
Missioned to a pastoral year, offering sacramental ministry at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City and behind the prison walls throughout the New York metropolitan area.
Zachariah F. Presutti, SJ, was born and raised in Belmont, a small town in western New York outside Buffalo by two generous parents alongside his younger brother, Jacob. He met the Jesuits while studying for diocesan priesthood at Canisius College in Buffalo. After four years of serving as the pastoral associate at St. Paul’s Church in Kenmore, New York, he joined the Jesuits’ St. Andrew’s Hall Novitiate in Syracuse, New York, where he did apostolic work in the local jail and supported victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse in an emergency shelter. Other apostolic work in the novitiate included Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago and language studies at El Instituto de Idiomas in Cochabamba, Bolivia. During first studies he obtained a master’s degree in clinical social work at Saint Louis University while interning at the local state correctional facility offering individual and group therapeutic interventions to men detained in administrative segregation (solitary confinement). After graduating, Zach founded Thrive for Life Prison Project in New York City. In collaboration and partnership with Jesuit parish communities and alumni of Jesuit high schools and universities, Thrive for Life forms spiritual mentors to offer reflective and meditative resources for an examined life, rooted in the Ignatian spiritual tradition through monthly retreats in more than six correctional facilities in the New York metropolitan area. Two years later, Zach opened Ignacio House of Studies in the Bronx, a transitional supportive living community for formerly incarcerated students as they continue their academic formation post-incarceration. Zach next earned a Master of Divinity degree at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. Prior to the pandemic he was offering weekly individual and group pastoral counseling at San Quentin State Prison and monthly retreats in other California state correctional facilities. He served as a deacon at St. Theresa’s Church in Oakland, California. His first Mass will be at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City. After ordination, Zach will be missioned to a pastoral year, offering sacramental ministry at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City and behind the prison walls throughout the New York metropolitan area.
Bachelor’s degree, political science, Canisius College; Master of Social Work, Saint Louis University; Master of Divinity, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
Through diaconal ministry at St. Theresa’s in Oakland, I’ve grown to understand and appreciate the simplicity of the Little Flower’s love for God and the world, despite her experience of confinement behind the walls of a cloistered convent.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
I enjoy cycling. I find it freeing, thrilling and exhilarating to ride all different terrains to enjoy the beauty of creation.
What’s one interesting fact about yourself not everyone would know?
I’ve collected presidential candidacy pins since I was a child. I have quite the collection, dating back to the presidential election of 1900 between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan.
What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
I love the diversity within the Society. We are a group of characters: saints, sinners, scholars and activists alike, all committed to sharing Christ’s love for the world.
What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you?
Contact with the poor. It changed everything. The way I think, understand the church, who I am as a minister in the church, why I desire ordination and why I remain in the Society of Jesus and the church. Also, the lives of our brothers and sisters behind the prison walls have given my religious life, life. I’m very grateful.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
This life is filled with surprises. God surprises us with grace.
Imagine you could travel back in time and meet yourself the first day you entered the Society of Jesus. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to yourself?
Stay awake and be surprised by God.
What brings you joy?
When others thrive! To accompany people as they prepare to do what they were born to do is exhilarating. Yes, the vicissitudes of the human condition can be challenging, but when people are in the flow of life doing and being who they were created to be, it is a joy to experience and grace to savor! Salvific really.
Who is one important mentor who has accompanied you on your journey? What made them a good mentor?
Michael Kennedy, SJ, taught me the simple depth of what it means to love the disdained, excluded, confined and damned. His joy and love is contagious.
How might you explain the Jesuit motto “ad maiorem Dei gloriam” to someone who’s never heard it before?
To live life uniquely as the loving and generous person you were created to be. That’s what it means to be for the greater glory of God.