GLENVILLE — Mike Melanson preferred Sundays on the water, in the waves of the Sacandaga.
His wife, Peggy Montone Melanson, changed that.
“In our early years, I didn’t want to come to church, I was a back-of-the-church Catholic, get in, get out,” Melanson said. “But she said, ‘No, no, no. We’re going to get involved in things … we’re going to start teaching religious education.'”
Peggy and Mike became more active at Immaculate Conception in Glenville. They stayed involved.
Melanson may be thinking about Peggy, who died of breast cancer in 2017, this morning. At age 74, he will celebrate his first Mass as a Catholic priest — an 11 a.m. service at Immaculate Conception.
“I am overwhelmed with joy,” said Melanson, who was ordained on Saturday by Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger during a ceremony inside the city’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. “I want to put that in capital letters. The overwhelming joy has turned my tears from grief from the loss of my dearly beloved wife to overwhelming, great happiness. It’s an incredible feeling … I cannot wait to get started.”
Fellow deacons Samuel Bellafiore and Kyle Eads also were ordained.
Melanson has experience on the altar. He has been a deacon at Glenville’s Immaculate Conception for the past 26 years.
The journey to deacon began with moments of prayer and reflection inside church. Melanson remembers asking God … were there spiritual plans for his future?
“I heard the Holy Spirit ask me, ‘Tell my people how much I love them,'” Melanson said. “It was a distinctive, absolute understanding that was the message coming in. There was no lightning or thunder, no earthquake, nothing like Hollywood. But it was an absolute, comprehensive understanding.”
Melanson took the message seriously. In 1988, he began his studies for the diaconate.
“The more I started to learn about God, the more I began to fall in love with God and with Jesus,” Melanson said of the four-year preparation period. “It just looked like this was the path I was being called to.”
Melanson had walked other paths earlier in life. Born and raised in Schenectady’s Bellevue section, he graduated from the city’s Mont Pleasant High School in 1963.
“The best class ever to graduate,” Melanson said. “We still meet with our high school buddies at least three or four times a year. We’re still very close, about 25, 30 of us from high school.”
Melanson put in time with the Air Force. For 10 years, he played lead guitar for the local rock band Hands of Time. He eventually settled for a long career in computer programming, working at both the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Niskayuna and General Electric in Schenectady.
Melanson was ordained a deacon in 1992 at age 47.
Peggy passed away on Nov. 16, 2017, a few weeks after the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. While Melanson’s sons and their families live nearby, he was living alone for the first time in his life. He grew depressed.
Melanson found relief in his church, and in his faith. He prayed, and the answer he received was, “Show my people how much I love them.”
Melanson talked to other deacons, he consulted with Scharfenberger. He believed he was being called to the priesthood, and took the next steps.
As a longtime deacon, and already in possession of a master’s degree in pastoral studies and theology, Melanson completed other studies necessary for the priesthood. As a deacon, he was able to perform weddings and baptism ceremonies and officiate at funerals. As a priest, he will be able to celebrate Mass and anoint the sick.
The age factor is not a major factor, not when priests — in good health — have been asked to remain at their churches into their 70s.
Melanson expects to have some fun with his new title. People have been calling him “Father Mike” for a while at Immaculate Conception. Today, it will be official.
“I’ve talked to my three sons and daughters-in-law,” Melanson said, “and told them they might have to call me ‘Father Dad.’ Almost in unison, they said, ‘That’s not happening.'”
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]