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Archbishop to ordain five priests

James de Anda

Ernest Ogugua

Andrew Sohm

Michael Swanton

Anthony Weidner

By Lisa Schulte
The Catholic Voice

The Archdiocese of Omaha will welcome five men to the priesthood Saturday, June 4. Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss will preside at the 10 a.m. Ordination Mass at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.

The public is welcome to attend. A reception will follow at the Cathedral Cultural Center.

Those men being ordained to the priesthood are: James de Anda, Ernest Ogugua, Andrew Sohm, Michael Swanton and Anthony Weidner.

Father Ralph O'Donnell, vocations director, said the men bring "a rich and diverse combination" of talents to the priesthood.

"This class has really placed a commitment on academic pursuits preparing them for public ministry and ordained ministry in the archdiocese," Father O'Donnell told The Catholic Voice.

As a priest, he said, it's encouraging to see five men enter the brotherhood of priests in the archdiocese.

"It revitalizes us to see their generosity of spirit in their answering the call of the church to be ordained," he said. "I know they're all very anxious to get into their parish assignments and to get started on priestly ministry and to learn more, not just from their pastors, but also from the parish communities that they will serve."

A biographical sketch of each man follows:

James de Anda

With a grateful heart to family, friends and people of the archdiocese, de Anda said he embraces the priesthood whole-heartedly.

The son of Sylvia and the late Ramon de Anda of Omaha, de Anda has two sisters, Ana Maria and Theresa.

Born and raised in Omaha, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., where he received bachelors degrees in Catholic Studies and Spanish, with a minor in philosophy. He went on to study at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. There he received a master's of divinity and a master's degree in church history.

At the seminary, he was a catechist for foreign exchange students from Latin America, did hospice and HIV care with the Missionaries of Charity in Washington, D.C., and made hospital and home visits for St. Francis Parish in Harrisburg, Pa.

In the summers, he spent time at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk and St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha.

Father de Anda will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, June 5, beginning with Vespers and Benediction at 4 p.m. and Mass at 5:30 p.m. at St. Cecilia Cathedral. Homilist for the Mass will be Father Adam Ryan, OSB. A reception will follow at Happy Hollow Country Club.

Father de Anda will be the assistant pastor of St. Peter Parish in Omaha, with pastoral duties at St. Joseph and Immaculate Conception parishes.

"My heart is filled with gratitude to God, who in His infinite love and mercy, has called me to serve as a priest after the likeness of His own son, and has enabled me to respond to that call by the grace of the Holy Spirit," he said. "I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and privilege to serve God's people in the Archdiocese of Omaha."

Ernest Ogugua

Ogugua sees the priesthood as a ministry of charity, love, grace and service.

The priesthood, he said, means taking on the image of Christ, who not only became everything for all people, but was also going about doing good.

"I pray that I may never cease to be a source of strength to all people and light to the most in need," he said.

Born April 5, 1968, in Enugu State, Nigeria, Ogugua is the third child of Esther and the late Captain Bartholomew Ogugua. He has two brothers, George and Victor, and two sisters, Mary and Joy.

He received a bachelor's degree in communications from the State University of Science and Technology in Enugu, Nigeria, and a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a master's of divinity from Bigard Memorial Seminary, an affiliate of the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome. He then attended Fordham University Graduate School of Social Services in Terry Town, N.Y., where he received a certificate in counseling.

He completed a master's degree in social work and was honored with the Chancellor's List Award at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.

Ogugua studied theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J., before going to Kenrick.

He also was a student at the Institute for Priestly Formation on the Creighton campus.

During the summers, Ogugua assisted at St. Pius X Parish in Omaha and St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Summit, N.J. He also provided pastoral care to hospital and hospice residents, and volunteered with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd's Global Exchange Project in Queens, N.Y.

Ogugua has written extensively in the areas of psychology and religion.

Father Ogugua will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at noon on Sunday, June 5, at St. Pius X Church in Omaha. The homilist will be Msgr. James Telthorst, his former pastor from the Archdiocese of St. Louis. A reception will follow in the parish center.

Father Ogugua has been assigned as assistant pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Omaha.

Andrew Sohm

Sohm says he's looking forward to "serving the people of the Archdiocese of Omaha along with my brother priests."

The son of Terry and Cherie Sohm of Hornick, Iowa, Sohm has three sisters, Amy, Melissa and Emily.

He attended Western Iowa Tech in Sioux City, Iowa, and Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn., before going to the seminary. He attended Cardinal Glennon College Seminary, St. Louis University, where he received a bachelor's degree in philosophy, and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, where he earned a master's in divinity and a master's of theology.

During the summers, he worked at soup kitchens and a women's shelter, taught religious education and did pastoral work at a hospital. In the Archdiocese of Omaha, his summer assignments included St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha, Holy Family Parish in Lindsay and St. Edward Parish in St. Edward.

Sohm also spent a summer at the Institute for Priestly Formation.

Father Sohm, 29, will celebrate two Masses of Thanksgiving on Sunday, June 5. A 9 a.m. Mass will take place at St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Omaha. Father Daniel Willenborg is scheduled to be the homilist. A reception will follow in the cafeteria.

He also will celebrate Mass at 4 p.m. at St. Mary Church in Danbury, Iowa. Homilist will be Father Gerald Gonderinger, pastor at St. Mary Parish in West Point, St. Aloysius Parish in Aloys, St. Boniface Parish in Monterey and St. Anthony in St. Charles Township. A dinner reception will take place in the parish hall after the Mass.

"I am very grateful to Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss for his support of my vocation," he said.

Father Sohm's first assignment will be at St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha where he will serve as assistant pastor.

Michael Swanton

Born April 27, 1965, Swanton is the son of Patrick and Joan Swanton of Casper, Wyo. He has two brothers, James and Stephen.

He received degrees from Casper College and the University of Wyoming before entering Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. There he received a master's degree in New Testament Scripture Studies and a master's of divinity.

As a seminarian, Swanton was involved in several ministries. He was a cantor for daily Mass, sang in special choirs and played guitar in a praise and worship band. At Kenrick, he helped in the seminary's writing center. He also worked with abused and homeless mothers and their children at Karen House in St. Louis, and made pastoral visits to St. John Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis. On weekends, he assisted at Mass at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish in St. Louis.

In the summers, Swanton, a fourth degree Knight of Columbus, served at St. Leonard Parish in Madison, attended the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton and performed pastoral care at Immanuel Hospital in Omaha. He also worked at St. Bernard Parish in Omaha and helped to direct the archdiocese's Camp St. Francis.

Swanton, 40, said he "looks forward to celebrating the sacraments with the people of God, encouraging them to become excited about their Catholic faith and helping them grow closer to the Lord."

Father Swanton will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, June 5, at 12:15 p.m. at St. Gerald Church in Ralston. Father Tim Forget, assistant pastor at St. Leo Church in Omaha, will be the homilist. A reception will follow in the Father Larry Dorsey Fellowship Hall.

Following ordination, Father Swanton will serve as assistant pastor at St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha.

Anthony Weidner

As a priest, Weidner said he looks forward "to celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for and with the people of God, sharing in a way in Jesus Christ's espousal to his people, his body, the church, and helping God's people to know, love and serve their Lord."

Born July 11, 1971, to Elton and Sarah Weidner of Blair, Weidner graduated from Creighton Prep in Omaha. He has three siblings: Kris Wolf, Dan Kennedy and Sherry Brownrigg.

Weidner attended Loyola University in New Orleans where he graduated Summa cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in history. He earned a master's degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and taught in Dallas, Texas, from 1995-1999.

He attended Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis and took classes at St. Louis University before studying at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, where he received a master's of divinity and continued working on a master's degree in theology.

As a seminarian, he helped with Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. Anthony Parish in Columbus, Ohio, was assistant chaplain at Grady Hospital in Delaware, Ohio, and assisted with RCIA to Spanish-speaking candidates at St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Columbus, Ohio.

Weidner's summer assignments included St. Leo Parish in Omaha, and a pastoral year at St. Cecilia Cathedral. He also attended the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton.

Father Weider's first Mass will be celebrated on Sunday, June 5, at noon at St. Francis Borgia Church in Blair. A reception will follow in the parish hall.

After his ordination, Father Weidner will be assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk with summer studies in Mexico.

"Having faults and weaknesses as we all do, I know that I am not worthy to share in the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ – no one is," he said. "However, over the years, I have seen how the Lord has used me as a seminarian and as a deacon to be a weak, yet graced, instrument to bring people closer to him and that in presenting myself for ordination I am doing his will for me."

"I hope that my ministerial priesthood will be God's means to assist the Catholic people of Northeast Nebraska in their own baptismal priestly charism to glorify his name and win souls for him in the new evangelization."

The Catholic Voice

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