Joshua was born in Elida, Ohio, where he lived his first 12 years on a hog farm, teaching Wagner the value of hard work. But at the age of 12, he relocated to Texas with his parents Jerome and Josephine. His father Jerome was an executive with IBM in Ohio, and his mother Josephine is a registered nurse. Fr. Wagner then moved back with his parents and three brothers in 1993 to Columbus when his father retired from IBM. As an adolescent in Columbus, Wagner was part of the marching band, playing tuba, and also involved with Boy Scouts. He earned the Scouts’ highest honor, Eagle Scout, and his culminating project was organizing and running a soup kitchen in Columbus.
A 1996 graduate of Westerville North High School, Fr. Wagner then entered seminary at the age of 18 at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington. But he says he felt the calling to serve God early on in his life.
“I knew at age 16, and I fought it all I could,” he says. “It was a good fit for me, to become a priest. I enjoyed seminary, enjoyed learning, and it was a lingering calling that truly does not ever go away.”
Wagner says he gave seminary one year, “I struck a deal with God, that I would go for one year, but he would not leave me alone.”
Education is a theme in this priest’s life. He earned his bachelor’s of arts degree in philosophy from the Pontifical College Josephinum, with minors in classical languages and literature. Wagner learned to speak Greek, Latin, Spanish and Italian which helped when in 2000, Bishop Griffin approached Wagner about heading to Rome to study. In Rome, Wagner earned a degree in theology from the 400-year-old Pontifical Gregorian University. Later, he achieved a master’s degree in spirituality from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas, also located in Rome. Until 2004, he lived south of Vatican City, had four audiences with Pope John Paul, and also led tours around Rome, a side interest to his religious.
After returning to the United States, Fr. Wagner took a position at St. Brigid of Kildare in Dublin, Ohio where he worked for three years as priest to the parish, elementary school and also Bishop Watterson High School until 2007.
It was then, upon his return from Rome, that Wagner began gathering his inspirational and motivational thoughts, appropriately channeled through a website called FatherWagner.com, and also began gathering his thoughts on his blog, which then turned into published books.
When it comes to speaking, preaching, and counseling others Joshua says he truly enjoys his chosen profession.
“I love being there for people.”
Written by Nicole Scott