It was a nice summer day. Seventy people filled the field of St. Barnabas Catholic School for a lesson in Brazilian martial arts.
The parishioners have their new parish priest to thank for the exciting session on self-defence. The instructor leading the session was his martial arts teacher.
Father Paul Magyar is St. Barnabas Catholic Church’s newest priest. Since his arrival in early July he has become the parish community’s resident fitness expert. He works out every week and still practices martial arts with his former school downtown.
“Fitness has always been an important part of my life,” he said. “I’ve been training in martial arts since I was 12 years old.”
St. Barnabas is Magyar’s first parish as a priest. In 2004 he graduated from studying western and eastern philosophy at University of Toronto Mississauga. This year he completed his masters of divinity and sacred theology bachelor.
While Magyar has considered other professions such as family physician, chiropractor and personal trainer, he has aspired to the priesthood since he was six.
“I think I’m the youngest priest in the archdiocese,” he said.
Before joining the seminary and after graduating high school in 2000, Magyar worked for a security service team providing security assistance to celebrity travel body guards.
“I did it to pay my tuition at UTM,” Magyar said. “It was fun, it was lively. There was never a dull moment.”
His most memorable experience of working with the team was meeting Sylvester Stallone during his first month on the job.
Magyar was doing security for cart races during what was then called Molson Indy. Stallone was filming the movie Driven at the same venue. Magyar introduced himself to Stallone and shook his hand.
“When I met him I didn’t see him, I would see Rocky,” he said. “It’s kind of like meeting Rocky. That’s the thing, when you look at an actor or actress you don’t actually see them, you see the character that you like that they played.”
The company he worked for also had a contract with WWE wrestling.
“Being ringside for Wrestlemania 18 and seeing Hulk Hogan and the Rock right there is pretty spectacular,” Magyar said.
During his four years at the job, he provided security assistance to celebs like the Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson and Britney Spears.