John Gribowich always knew he would be a priest. Kind of. As a child growing up in the northeast suburbs of Philadelphia, Gribowich says he was drawn to the potential of the priesthood as early as first grade. “I think when you’re that young and you see what the priest does in church, it’s just kind of intriguing,” Gribowich, 39, says in the courtyard of St. Joseph the Worker Church, which rests between the University of California-Berkeley campus and the San Francisco Bay in Northern California.
Gribowich is indeed now a priest — and he’s also far from Philly, earning his executive MBA at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business as part of being “groomed” to take over DeSales Media Group, the technology and communications organization for the Diocese of Brooklyn in New York.
He certainly fits the role of hybrid executive MBA student-slash-priest. His horn-rimmed glasses and J-Crew-esque style scream Bay Area exec — but Gribowich is also known to throw on his robe and lead Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Church, where he is staying during his stint in Northern California. But his path to the priesthood and the executive program at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business were far from linear.
Growing up in Philadelphia suburbs, Gribowich says his parents were both devout Catholics, but “it wasn’t a weird type of thing, it was just something that we did.” Still, Gribowich was fascinated by the Church. “What was happening at church didn’t happen in any other context during the week,” Gribowich says. So when he graduated high school, Gribowich began his lengthy educational career at DeSales University outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he studied history and theology.
FROM SEMINARY DROPOUT TO MUSEUM MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
After graduating from DeSales in 2001, Gribowich began teaching at a Catholic school in Philadelphia while working toward his master’s in religious studies from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. But that only lasted a semester: Gribowich had an “unresolved” relationship with a woman that was distracting him from fully committing to the priesthood. All along, Gribowich says under deep-blue California skies, he wrestled with whether he was supposed to marry.
If he did marry, priesthood would no longer be an option. In the end, Gribowich went back to grad school and earned a graduate degree in theology. In 2008, he moved to New York to pursue one of his many passions. “I had a love for history, of course, but also for art,” Gribowich says. He spent a year as a membership manager at the Museum of the City of New York while teaching college courses on the side. The position led him to yet two more graduate degrees: an MA in history of art and an MS in library and information science from the Pratt Institute.
It was an experience while studying at Pratt that re-sparked Gribowich’s passion for the Church. One night, walking the streets of Venice, a particularly stunning Catholic church caught his eye. He stopped and stared at it, and “I just had the sense of, I’m not going to be happy with my life unless I’m a priest. And that was basically it,” he says.