By Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller
It is ordination season in the Catholic Church, with 440 men joining the priesthood in U.S. dioceses and religious communities this year. Many ordinations are taking place during or shortly after the Year for Priests, which concludes June 19.
Here are eight of the men of the Class of 2010, along with interesting facts and statistics from “The Class of 2010: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” which was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.
Ordination: May 15; Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, St. Patrick Cathedral, New York
It took a spiritual darkness to bring Father Charles-Benoit Reche into the light of understanding the love of God.
In the depth of that despair, he said, “I realized that I was loved much more than I was ready to admit by the one who gave me life, that my life, no matter what, is worth living.”
On May 15, Father Reche, 39, was ordained into the priesthood in the order of the Franciscan Friars of Renewal. It was a step that years ago, he said, he “did not feel worthy” to make.
“It took me a while to rediscover the mercy of God and that God doesn’t call those who are worthy, because none of us are worthy,” he said. “But he makes worthy those he calls.”
Those words are paraphrased from St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose writings influenced his life. But that didn’t happen early on.
“My twin sister tried to get me to read St. Thérèse’s biography when we were teenagers, but I never did,” Father Reche said.
She went on to become a Benedictine cloistered nun in their native France, and he went to college, where he discovered parties as well as studies that led to a career in production engineering and a stint in the French navy.
In France, Boy Scouting has religious affiliations. When he prepared to make an adult commitment to the organization, his spiritual director gave him the same book that his sister wanted him to read, St. Thérèse’s “Story of a Soul.” This time he read it.
“It brought into the forefront some of the questions I had, and gave me kind of the answers,” he said. “Nine months later, I knew that the Lord was calling me, and I entered pre-theology.”
He initially didn’t know if he wanted to be a diocesan priest or a religious. A strong desire for fraternity and communal life led him to investigate the Franciscan orders, and he ended up in New York City with the Franciscan Friars of Renewal.
Father Reche’s early experiences gave him the desire to take “that great news” to everyone.
“I want to bring them that love of God, that they may feel it,” he said. “The priesthood will enrich my life and allow me to get closer to him, and he will take me and mold me, he will make me his special instrument to work his graces into the world. I will basically be sitting in the first row in the show of his action in people’s lives. What a gift.”
On June 8, Father Reche will celebrate Mass in the cloistered community of his twin, Sister Thérèse-Isabelle.
Ordination: May 15; Archbishop Henry Mansell, Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, Conn.
Tom Hickey was “mildly anti-Catholic” most of his life, especially when he was a Baptist minister.
“You can pick up a prejudice that’s not reasonable and it’s almost entirely based on bad information, and it’s usually defensive,” he said.
On May 15 he was ordained into the priesthood of the faith he once misunderstood.
Father Hickey, 60, was affiliated with several denominations when he was a Protestant minister. In 1994, he returned from a six-year assignment with Grace Brethren and started asking some serious questions about things that he had been experiencing in his ministries. He was particularly concerned about the roots of Christianity.
“Everywhere I went, I was involved in some kind of church split, some kind of denominational resistance that always resulted in a weakening,” he said. “That was wearing me down in terms of what good I was doing. I saw that everything that I had invested my life in was going to splinters. It was the first time that I had an honest thought toward the Catholic Church. I realized that there were 2,000 years of unbroken history, and I had a sense of wonderment about how they could do that.”
His wife left him around that time, ending a 30-year marriage and plunging him into a period “that was devastating beyond anything I could imagine.” Then someone gave him a tape of Catholic theologian Scott Hahn’s testimony of conversion. At another time, he admitted, he would have thrown it away. “It really made sense to me,” he said.
It also cleared his doubts about the questions he had, the same ones that Hahn had asked. Father Hickey found additional support in the Coming Home Network and studied privately with the late Bishop W. Thomas Larkin, retired bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla. On May 14, 2002, he was received into the Church.
Reconciliation and the Eucharist gave him healing. “It was a new lifeblood for me,” he said. “But I really thought that my days of ministry were over.”
He became director of faith formation at St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church in Tarpon Springs, and his spiritual director, Father Joseph Pellegrino, encouraged him to consider the priesthood. Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., accepted his application.
There are many things he loves about the Church: diversity without division, the universal immensity, moral and doctrinal truths and the sacraments.
“I have three daughters and three grandchildren, and they have seen the peace I found in the sacraments,” he said. “They really stood by me.”
Father Hickey has spoken to groups that pray for young men to enter the vocations. “I can certainly join in that prayer,” he said, “but God calls at any age.”
One of Father Joseph Cretella’s seven grandchildren calls him Father Pop-pop. Most other people call him Father Jay.
On May 15, he was ordained into the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., at age 71, when, he said, “Everyone is getting ready to retire, and I am just starting up.”
The priesthood became a reality for him more than a half century after he first thought about it and nearly 50 years after studying with the Holy Cross Fathers.
“At that time, I had received the tonsure and the minor orders that we had then,” he said. “I had gone up to second theology.”
He even had training in topics that are no longer routinely taught, such as exorcism.
When he left the seminary in 1961, his spiritual adviser suggested that he join the newly created Peace Corps for both the experience of service and the experience of secular life that he had missed. He joined in 1962 and was interviewed by Sargent Shriver, the volunteer organization’s first director. He also met President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy before leaving for a two-year assignment in Colombia.
He later taught high school Latin and Spanish, then became director and administrator of an adult education program. In 1978, he was ordained as a permanent deacon and served several parishes.
Before his wife died of pancreatic cancer three years ago, he joked with her about becoming a priest.
“She thought I would be too busy with the grandchildren,” he said. “But a year after her death, it seemed like the right thing to do. My desire to serve God as a priest has always been there, since my earliest days. I still wanted to continue serving the Church.”
Because of his previous education in the seminary and in becoming a deacon, Father Cretella went on a fast track at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.
“I have two sons and a daughter, and at first they were a little bit stunned,” he said. “When most grandparents are settling into a very quiet life, their father is going off to do something more active. But they know that I still have some service to give, and now they are excited. They have become very comfortable with what I want to do.”
As a deacon, Father Cretella had experience in education, marriage and baptism preparation and other parish ministries and activities. Now as a priest, he said, “it allows me to interact with the people of God in a different way. I’m excited about that and it has already enriched my life. As long as I have my health, I will give whatever years I can.”
Ordination: May 16, Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka, Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Philadelphia
Paul Makar thought he had everything he wanted: his own home, a nice car, a girlfriend, a big-screen television, a good job as an engineer, and he had served as an officer with the U.S. Navy, including training on a nuclear attack submarine.
“But I wasn’t happy,” he told OSV. “I was going through some kind of depression, and when I looked at myself in the mirror, it was almost like I could hear a voice, like the Holy Spirit speaking to me: Here I am.”
In 2004, he sold everything and entered St. Josaphat Seminary and The Catholic University of America, both in Washington, D.C.. He also studied in Ukraine to learn more about his heritage.
On May 16, he was ordained a Ukrainian Catholic priest.
“I wrestled with that decision for a while,” Father Makar said. “I started going back to church regularly and reading about the spirituality of God, especially writings from the Desert Fathers. It started to make a lot of sense.”
Father Makar grew up in a faith rich in ethnic tradition. His grandfather was a cantor and so was his father, also named Paul, who became a deacon in 1987. He is a lifelong member of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Perth Amboy, N.J., where his mother, Anna, is parish secretary. Their pastor, Father Roman Dubitsky, encouraged his spiritual journey.
“One of the things I want to do as a priest is to go out and find people my age and younger and bring them back to the Church,” Father Makar said. “I know that many of our churches have a distinct lack of young people, and I want to reach out to them and tell them that we have a very rich and wonderful spiritual and liturgical tradition. I want to tell them to come home.”
Ukrainian Catholics are an Eastern rite in full communion with Rome. Celibacy is optional for their priests, and Father Makar chose celibacy.
“We don’t see married life superior to the celibate life, or the celibate life superior to married life,” he said. “Married life shows the deepness of God’s love in the depth of the love between a man and a woman. Does that mean the love can’t be shared by all? Of course not. It can be said that the celibate life is a broad spectrum for God’s love for all people. I felt a deep drive to be basically a model of God’s love for all people. My life will be enriched by having the honor and privilege to work with many different people and to see the work of the Spirit renew the Church.”
Father Makar celebrated his first Divine Liturgy on May 23 at his home parish. His father, Deacon Paul Makar, assisted him.
Ordination: May 31, Bishop Jaime Soto, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Sacramento, Calif.
Two seminarians who visited Mauricio Hurtado’s village in Michoacan, Mexico, asked his mother if her oldest son — they meant him — wanted to enter the seminary. She said she didn’t know. That was June 1996; he was 19.
“I overheard their conversation,” he said. “I hadn’t thought about it, but I thought that it would probably be for me.”
In September 1996, he entered minor seminary at Santa Maria de Guadalupe in Morelia. On May 31, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Jaime Soto in the Diocese of Sacramento, Calif.
He credits his vocation journey to rediscovering his faith on a three-day retreat in early 1996.
“I went to confession after many years, and it changed my perspective of God,” Father Hurtado told Our Sunday Visitor. “I found a loving God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I found mercy and love, and God was really filling my life with joy. It is that mercy and love and joy that I want to share with other people. I felt called to serve others, to help people to get closer to God.”
After completing seminary studies of spirituality, philosophy and theology in Mexico, Father Hurtado, now 33, applied to the Diocese of Sacramento. He came to the United States in 2004, spent a year at the University of California Davis studying English, then enrolled at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif., for the fall semester of 2005. He was ordained a deacon on Oct. 31, 2009.
His father and mother, Esteban and Antonia, were unable to attend his ordination, but other relatives who live in the United States were able to. Father Hurtado is one of five children.
“I am looking forward to being a priest and sharing my faith with other people,” he said. “That will help me to grow in my own faith. I would like to work, if possible, with the RCIA program because I really love the process. It is a satisfying experience to work with these people who come into the Church. I think it would also be challenging to work with youth. I would like to give that a try.”
His life, he said, will be enriched by sharing with people the joys of baptism, marriage, and being with them even for funerals, as part of the sacramental experiences.
“Once my spiritual director told me that when people come to you for confession, you will find out how good they are,” Father Hurtado said. “He told me they are good people who are trying to live Christian values. They are good people who are trying to get closer to God. That will enrich my life.”
Ordination: June 4; Bishop William Dendinger, Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Grand Island, Neb.
In six years as a firefighter Joshua S. Brown saw a lot of stressful moments and bad situations, and a lot of drama in the face of tragedy.
“My faith was very important to me and helped me to get through those years,” he said.
He felt called to save lives and even to just be there when people were having a bad day. So his own life was devastated, he said, when he lost his job and didn’t know where to go.
Every night, he prayed: “God, I thought firefighting was what you wanted me to do. I was saving people and helping people and doing everything I thought I should be doing. If not that, what is it?”
God answered: the priesthood.
Father Brown’s journey to vocation wasn’t quick and easy. The firefighting tradition was in his family, and he was a volunteer out of high school, then was hired by the Scottsbluff fire department. He also was an emergency medical technician. In 1999, he was told that because of his poor eyesight and insurance regulations he could not be a firefighter unless his vision was corrected. He was dismissed when he reported back that he was turned down for surgery.
He left and went directly to pray at his church, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Father Paul Colling encouraged him to attend daily Mass while he got back on his feet. Six months later, Father Brown said, “God was telling me in my prayers that I wanted to be a priest, but I wondered, ‘What’s the next option?’ That wasn’t something I wanted to do. I had planned my whole life to have a wife and kids.”
For two years, he worked in retail management and kept the call to vocation to himself. Then he went to dinner with the new pastor, Father Jim Golka.
“I had in mind that I wanted to talk about the priesthood, and he had in mind that he wanted to ask me if I had ever thought about becoming a priest,” he said. “It was my ‘aha!’ moment. It was the right time in my discernment. I was ready to surrender, and it felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Father Brown entered Conception Seminary College in Missouri, then attended St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota. His new assignment is at St. James Parish in Kearney, Neb.
“I want to help bring people closer to God through the sacraments and the Eucharist,” he told Our Sunday Visitor. “And I will be enriched by sharing my life and my witness with them.”
Father Golka and Father Colling were to attend the ordination and will preach at Father Brown’s Masses of thanksgiving.
Ordination: June 5; Bishop John R. Ricard, Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, Tallahassee, Fla.
When Christopher J.D. LeBlanc entered the seminary he wasn’t convinced that he had a call to the priesthood, but, he said, “I definitely knew that I had a call to discernment.”
Five years later, he went on a sabbatical to deal with “a lot of distractions.”
“I was really trying to decide if I had this vocation, is this really a call?” he said. “I needed to take time to reassess.”
Why did he go back?
“I really missed it,” he told Our Sunday Visitor. “I had no other sense of vocation, and I wasn’t discerning marriage. Nothing seemed to satisfy that longing in my heart, the hole in my heart that only the priesthood could really fill.”
Father LeBlanc, who is one-quarter Native American (Chippewa), was adopted at 11 months old and grew up in a small community in northern Michigan. He attended a Native American mission church named after Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk convert. Its pastor, Jesuit Father Joe Lawless, was a family friend.
“I got to know him, and he was a very kind and caring person,” Father LeBlanc said. “That’s when I first thought about becoming a priest.”
He turned down a college scholarship for music, instead going to the seminary and then leaving. At the time, he was living in Florida, where his mother had relocated in 1992. He went out west for a while, and worked as a legal assistant and paralegal, and was director of human resources at a department store. He deliberately stayed away from the church community.
“I made a conscious effort to make a separation and break,” he said. “It was almost like going to the desert, and in doing so, I found that I had a passion for ministry.”
Father LeBlanc finished his studies at St. Vincent DePaul Regional Seminary in Boyton Beach, Fla. He is now assigned as parochial vicar of the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More and its companion assignment, campus minister for Florida State University.
Father LeBlanc is legally blind from congenital glaucoma, which he doesn’t consider a limitation to his vocation.
“I hope that, through my ministry, people come to see God as a divine person who wants a relationship with them,” he said. “I want to help people to see beyond the formalities and obligations of religion, and see a deep sense of faith in Jesus Christ.”
His own life will be enriched, he said, by being with people who reflect holiness. “I will be enriched by the faith example of the people I minister with,” he said.
Ordination: July 3; Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Diocese, Mother Of God Chaldean Church, Southfield, Mich.
Ever since he remembers, Deacon Fawaz Kako’s native Iraq was ravaged by war.
“I was born in a war, and I was raised in a war, and there was another,” he said. “That really influenced me deeply to want to turn the violent side upside down, to look at this as a Christian to see where we can fit in the message of God, who is all peace and love.”
Deacon Kako, 29, an Eastern-rite Chaldean Catholic, entered the seminary at 14, then later joined the Redemptorists, an order founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori. On July 3, he will be ordained into the priesthood at Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church in Southfield, Mich.
He is currently assisting the administrator of Our Lady of Perpetual Help mission church in Warren, Mich., where the needs are great and many among the immigrants are from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. There are nearly 160,000 Chaldean Catholics in and near Detroit, and only 12 priests to serve them.
Deacon Kako knows what they fled in search of a better life, and that there and here, the Church has given them refuge in many ways. As a Redemptorist, he was assigned to work with the youth at a parish in Baghdad, and when Iraq was invaded, Christians and Muslims both sought shelter in the church.
“They thought that the pilot was Christian, and that he would not bomb a church,” Deacon Fawaz said. “And if they were going to die, they wanted to die in the house of God.”
The Redemptorists sent him to study theology in Germany, then he received his master’s degree in divinity at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
“I want to preach the Gospel to the poor and the abandoned,” he said. “That is one of the charisms of the Redemptorists, and when we look at our society today, the poorest and the most abandoned are the immigrants who are in need of spiritual help and social help. The most important thing is to get them settled, to get them to know the place and to provide them with furniture and the necessities to live respected lives. Many of them were so highly persecuted as Christians that when they made their way out of their countries, they left everything behind. Many of them don’t speak English so they need translations, and they need to know how to deal with their lives.”
Deacon Kako is one of 10 children, and most of his fam-ily moved to Australia to escape the persecution of Christians. Several siblings and his parents, Elia and Katrina Abona Kako, will attend his ordination.
“I see my priesthood today as bringing the good news to the people of God, that God cares, and that God loves and protects us,” he said.
An overwhelming majority of ordinands in the class of 2010 were born in the United States.
Six in 10 ordinands completed college or graduate school before entering the seminary. Here’s a look at the highest education completed before entering the seminary.
Elementary: 4 percent
High school: 21 percent
Trade school: 1 percent
Some college: 14 percent
Undergraduate degree: 40 percent
Graduate degree: 20 percent
Ordinands are more likely to be the oldest child than the youngest child — 38 percent were the oldest, 28 percent were the youngest, with the rest falling in the middle of the birth order. On average, they have three siblings.
No siblings: 4%
1 sibling: 20 %
2 siblings: 21 %
3 siblings: 17 %
4 siblings: 14 %
5 or more siblings: 24 %
19% have attended a World Youth Day
72% of ordinands were altar servers
When asked if they participated in certain prayer practices or groups before entering seminary, here is how members of the Class of 2010 responded:
Rosary: 67 percent
Eucharistic adoration: 65 percent
Retreats: 58 percent
Prayer group/Bible study: 53 percent
Lectio divina: 26 percent
Ninety percent of ordinands interviewed say they were encouraged to consider the priesthood. Here are the top five categories of those who showed their encouragement.
Parish priest - 78%
Friend - 47%
Mother - 42%
Parishioner - 41%
Father - 33%
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