PITTSFIELD — A city native who eyed the priesthood as an adolescent is the new pastor at St. Charles Church.
The Rev. Michael Wood will succeed Rev. Peter Gregory, who announced his retirement from pastoral duties in March after guiding the Roman Catholic parish for nearly 30 years.
Gregory will remain pastor until Wood officially takes on June 4, the sixth anniversary of his becoming a priest.
"It's a daunting task anytime you succeed someone like Father Gregory, but it's made easier as he's done such great pastoral care," Wood said.
Wood, 32, who grew up as a communicant of St. Mark's Church, currently serves as the ecclesiastical secretary to the Most. Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.
Rozanski recently named Wood to lead St. Charles after being at Rozanski's side since shortly after he arrived in August 2014 as the new leader for Western Massachusetts Catholics.
"During this period of time as I came to better know my new spiritual family, his constant presence was an invaluable resource and I came to recognize in him great pastoral ability," the bishop said in an email to The Eagle.
Wood is grateful for Rozanski entrusting him with the spiritual care of the 1,300 families that make up one of the four remaining Catholic churches in Pittsfield. His three years working with the bishop will serve him well in his first pastoral position.
"His personality and style has rubbed off on me," he said of Rozanski. "He is someone to emulate."
Wood's desire to become a man of the cloth is rooted in his preteen years. As a 12-year-old playing in the city's Little League championship game in 1996, Wood severely injured his right ankle.
The youngster was laid up for several months, at times angry about his situation. Following a confessional session at St. Mark's, Wood began to realize the priesthood was in his future, a calling he took seriously in college.
"At times I explored other career options," he said, "but I kept coming back to being a priest."
A 2003 graduate of Pittsfield High School, Wood enrolled at Providence College in Rhode Island, where he earned a philosophy degree in 2007. From there, he attended St. John's Seminary in Brighton, being ordained a priest in 2011.
He was assigned as an associate pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield before Rozanski tapped him to work on behalf of the entire diocese.
Wood views returning to Pittsfield as a double-blessing — for him and St. Charles.
"I'm excited having grown up in Pittsfield ... but I have been away long enough to bring a new perspective [to my hometown]," he said.
Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.