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Archdiocese to welcome four men to priesthood

The Catholic Voice

The Archdiocese of Omaha will welcome four men to the priesthood Saturday, June 3. Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss will preside at the 10 a.m. 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 priests are: Brother Christopher Onuoha, An Duy Phan, Bernard Starman and Brother Francis Dominic Valerio.

Each of these men has unique talents and interests that they bring to the priesthood, said Father Ralph O'Donnell, vocations director for the archdiocese.

'Christopher is a deeply spiritual man with a great love for Catholic/Christian spirituality, and Francis brings a gentle quality that will stir a love and interest in the Gospel," he said. 'Phan is a joy-filled disciple and brings with him an eagerness to serve in the archdiocese. And Bernard, over the years, has had the opportunity to serve in parish ministry as a layman and will now bring all that experience into his role as a priest."

Father O'Donnell said it has been wonderful to watch these men focus on preparation for the priesthood.

'It's exciting to see this day finally come for the church, and for them to be ministering among us as priests," he said.

He also said he is encouraged by the number of young men in the archdiocese 'who continue to come forward interested in learning more about priesthood, taking the steps to apply to the archdiocese and who are currently working in the program. It's exciting to be a part of this work and I just continue to encourage people to promote vocations and pray for vocations."

A biographical sketch of each man follows.


Background: Born May 5, 1958, in Nigeria; parents, Roseleen and the late Christopher Dike Onuoha; three brothers; three sisters.

Education: University of Nigeria in Nsukka, Nigeria; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu, Nigeria; Anambra State University of Science and Technology in Enugu, Nigeria; Catholic Institute for Development Justice and Peace in Nigeria; University of Cordoba in Cordoba, Spain; Creighton University in Omaha; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Mo.; Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha.

Activities/Ministries: reader, acolyte, assistant chaplain at a residential living facility for the elderly in St. Louis, helped at an after school program run by the Missionaries of Charity in St. Louis, member of the Intercessors of the Lamb.

Summer assignments: Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Spanish Lake, Mo.; St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha.

Reflections on ordination: 'As ordination to the priesthood draws close, I find myself in a state of thanksgiving to Almighty God to be a hopeful recipient of his grace. I do not see myself drawing back from it, but rather moving consciously towards it with the Holy Spirit. Priesthood ordination means for me being open to God's inexhaustible love so that I can live Jesus in the world. It is about allowing God to spoil me with his love; it is through this love that God saves the world. In concrete terms, God's love it fully expressed in the cross of Jesus. My call to the priesthood is to live Jesus and his cross. Priesthood is a responsibility, it is an identity. It is a call to live for Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. My prayer is that God makes me a priest who prays; a holy priest who imitates and lives the virtuous life of the Blessed Virgin Mary to whom I surrender my priesthood when it is conferred."

Mass of Thanksgiving: Sunday, June 4, at 3 p.m. at Bellwether in Omaha. Father Onuoha will be the homilist. A reception will follow at Bellwether.


Background: Born May 8, 1979, in Vietnam; parents, My Phan and La Vu of California; six sisters; one brother.

Education: St. Gregory the Great Seminary, Seward; Conception Seminary, Conception, Mo.; Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.; Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha.

Activities/Ministries: extraordinary minister of holy Communion, religious education teacher, hospital ministry at various locations in Omaha.

Summer assignments: St. Vincent de Paul Parish and St. Peter Parish, both in Omaha.

Reflections on ordination:

'For me, priests are men that God calls in a special way, giving them a special mission to save souls. Being from God, the priestly call requires a man to remain in God in order to carry out this mission successfully. Remaining in God means first of all that the priest must be holy and faithful to the church."

Mass of Thanksgiving: Sunday, June 4, at 3 p.m. at St. Peter Church in Omaha. Homilist will be Msgr. Frank Chido.


Background: Born May 13, 1964, on a farm between Elgin and Raeville; parents, Norbert and Jeanette Starman of rural Elgin, and the late Clara Starman; sister, Sandra Karella of Soldatna, Alaska.

Education: Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School, Elgin; Conception Seminary, Conception, Mo.; Mount Angel Seminary Graduate School of Theology, St. Benedict, Ore.; Pontifico Collegio Sant' Anselmo, Rome, Italy; Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha.

Activities/Ministries: Pastoral care of the elderly at  Stanberry Nursing Center in Stanberry, Mo.; Prison ministry at Missouri Department of Corrections, Maryville Treatment Center in Maryville, Mo.; retreat programs and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults Program at All Saints Parish in Portland, Ore.; chaplain for Emergency Services Chaplaincy, Inc., and Crisis Chaplaincy Services for Marion County and Western Oregon; Co-director of Camp St. Francis at Mount Michael Benedictine Abbey, Elkhorn; support staff for the 2004 Archdiocesan Synod.

Summer Assignments: Pastoral practicum, deacon internship, Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Lake Oswego, Ore.; Sacred Heart Parish, Norfolk; St. Mary Parish, Bellevue; St. Patrick Parish, Fremont; St. Stephen the Martyr Parish, Omaha.

Reflections on ordination: 'I look forward to returning to the Archdiocese of Omaha and Northeast Nebraska to begin my ordained ministry to the people who have so generously and graciously supported me during all the stages of my seminary formation. While my time in parishes throughout the archdiocese has been limited to summer internships in recent years, it certainly has helped me to discern with clarity that I am called to diocesan priesthood. The opportunity to minister to people through the various apostolic and education placements during my years in seminary formation, both at Conception Seminary and at Mount Angel Seminary, has, I hope, better prepared me for serving the needs of the communities of faith to which I will be assigned in the future. As I have become acquainted with men from across the United States and from around the world who join me in the process of formation, they have given me great hope for the future of the priesthood and the church. I look forward to lifelong service to the people whom God calls me to serve."

Mass of Thanksgiving: Sunday, June 4, at St. Bonaventure Church in Raeville at 3 p.. Homilist will be Father Sean Weeks, parochial vicar of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Oswego, Ore., in the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore. A reception will be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Elgin beginning at 4:30 p.m.


Background: Born in 1970 in Garden Grove, Calif.; parents, Les and Jo Valerio of Smyrna, Tenn.; four sisters; one brother, Leslie Paul Valerio, who is deceased.

Education: Smyrna High School, Smyrna, Tenn.; Our Lady of the Holy Cross College, New Orleans, La.; St. Louis University, St. Louis, Mo.; University of Nebraska, Omaha; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.

Activities/Ministries: youth ministry, after school ministry, youth retreats, soup kitchens, worked with AIDS patients, member of Intercessors of the Lamb, assisted at St. Dominic Savio Parish in Affton, Mo.

Summer assignments: Mary Our Queen Parish in Omaha.

Reflections on ordination: 'To me, priesthood is about intimacy with the Lamb who willingly placed his life into the hands and heart of his Abba. The experience of that love enflamed a passionate heart within Jesus "“ a heart he then sacrificially shared with a world desperately desiring him. Jesus still desires to live, love, suffer, heal and reconcile all to the Father through those who accept his embrace and mission."

Mass of Thanksgiving: Sunday, June 4, at 9 a.m. at Bellwether in Omaha. A reception will follow at Bellwether.

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