Six prepare for ordination to the priesthood
Six men – the largest class in the Archdiocese of Omaha since 2002 – are preparing for ordination to the priesthood at a June 4 Mass at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.
"The entire church rejoices in priestly ordinations," said Father Joseph Taphorn, moderator of the curia and vicar for clergy. "It shows a sign of life and vitality to the local church, and the fact that we have six men being ordained underscores a great strength and a zeal among young people, and the fruit of a lot of prayers for vocations."
The seminarians and several members of the 2002 class of seven echoed that joy, as well as gratitude and excitement.
"Such a large ordination class engenders gratitude to God … and reinvigorates people’s hearts with trust in God’s care for us," said Deacon Tobias Letak as he prepares for his 10 a.m. ordination by Archbishop George J. Lucas, with Deacons Marcus Knecht, Rafael Majano, Patrick Nields, Eliot Schwer and Joseph Sund. "I know what a great joy it is for the archdiocese and for the church to be ordaining so many ministers to tend Christ’s flock."
Vocations to the priesthood have been strong in the archdiocese through the last 14 years – often two or more men ordained each year, with classes of five in 2005, four in 2006 and 2011, and three in 2007 and 2008. And two men will be ordained as transitional deacons May 27, one more step toward the priesthood.
Father Paul Hoesing, a member of the class of 2002, former vocations director for the archdiocese and now dean of students and director of human formation at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, said any number of men ordained to the priesthood is a gift and a grace from God to be met with gratitude.
"The larger the gift, the greater the gratitude," Father Hoesing said.
Many graces flow from the sacraments of the church, and among graces of ordinations are gathering faith-filled family members who nurtured vocations and young people who might be intrigued and then inspired by the commitment of those called to the priesthood, he said.
"We’ll see vocations in the proportion that we have people practicing their faith," Father Hoesing said. "This brings gratitude and encouragement."
Two other members of the class of 2002 – Father Timothy Forgét, pastor of St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish in Randolph and St. Mary of the Seven Dolors Parish in Osmond, and Father Mark Beran, pastor of St. Mary Parish and head of campus ministry at Wayne State College, both in Wayne – said the ordinations are a great blessing for the archdiocese.
"It’s awesome news, awesome," Father Forgét said. "It’s a great help."
Parishes, particularly young people who might be considering a vocation, and fellow priests will be infused with new life, as well, Father Beran said.
"There’s something about the energy of a young priest," he said. "I know the people at my first parish, they could see me grow" from being nervous at Mass to a more relaxed confidence. "It’s a good, human thing for people to see."
Deacon Schwer said it is an honor to be ordained with his classmates, and Deacons Knecht, Majano, Nields and Sund said they were grateful for the support they could provide each other through seminary and they look forward to continuing that support in the course of their ministry.
DEACON MARCUS KNECHT
Background: Home parish, St. James, Omaha. Parents, father, Dale Knecht of Thompson, Iowa; mother and stepfather, Julie and Jeff Duncan of Leland, Iowa; sister and brother-in-law Josi and Mitch Gunderson; half sisters, Megan Duncan and Brianna Duncan, all of Forest City, Iowa; half brother, Adam Duncan, Camanche, Iowa.
Education: Forest City (Iowa) Community Schools; Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.
Activities/ministries: President of Catholic student organization at Wartburg College; board member, Pro Sanctity, Theology on Tap; Steubenville Youth Conference small group leader; helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity; extraordinary minister of holy Communion; took two years of classes at Catholic Biblical School of the Archdiocese of Omaha; led study groups at St. James Parish on St. Paul and St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body; attended World Youth Day in 2008 in Sydney, Australia, and 2011 in Madrid, Spain.
Summer assignments: Institute for Priestly Formation, Creighton University, Omaha (both as a worker and participant); Spanish immersion program, Guatemala; St. Francis Parish, Humphrey; and as a deacon, St. Leo the Great Parish, Omaha.
Reflections on ordination: "Once ordained a priest, I look forward to being immersed in the sacraments in a whole new way. I want to help others encounter the joy and mercy of God."
DEACON TOBIAS LETAK
Background: Home parish, St. Stephen the Martyr, Omaha. Parents, Benjamin and Seraphia Letak; sister, Melissa Letak; brothers, Jonah and Benjamin Letak, all of Omaha.
Education: St. Stephen the Martyr School; V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School, both in Omaha; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; St. John Vianney Seminary, and the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.; Pontifical North American College (Seminary), and Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.
Activities/ministries: "Rome to Home" segment on Spirit Catholic Radio; teaching religious education at Santa Susanna, the American parish in Rome; member of evangelization team – Legion of Mary, Our Lady of Humility Praesidium (PNAC) – for two years; member of seminary choir for three years; member of Knights of Columbus; in Minneapolis-St. Paul area, service at St. Joseph’s Home for Children, to the elderly in a nursing home, parish and school religious education; and talks on Scripture at Christ the King Parish and service to the elderly at St. Joseph’s Tower, both in Omaha.
Summer assignments: Totus Tuus, Archdiocese of Omaha (2010, 2011); Institute for Priestly Formation, Creighton University, Omaha; Italian language studies, Verbania, Italy; English tutoring with Maryknoll Missionaries, Jilin City, China; St. Gerald Parish, Ralston; Christ the King Parish, Omaha. Served as deacon at Santa Susanna Parish in Rome.
Reflections on ordination: "St. John Vianney said, ‘The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.’ I hope that through God’s grace and the gift of the sacrament of Holy Orders, I will be able to share the joy of Jesus’ love and help people love him more. I am grateful to everyone who has encouraged me and prayed for me on my journey!"
DEACON RAFAEL MAJANO
Background: Home parish, St. Michael, South Sioux City. Parents, Rafael Jose and Maria del Pilar Majano of Barquisimeto, Venezuela; brother and sister-in-law, Rafael Gerardo Majano and Yohanna Carolina Majano of Pompano Beach, Fla.; sister, Pilar Virginia Majano of Barquisimeto, Venezuela.
Education: University Centro-Occidental Lisandro Alvarado, Barquisimeto, Venezuela; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Mo.; St. John Vianney College Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.; Assumption Seminary, San Antonio, Texas.
Activities/ministries: Active in parish youth group at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, including organizing youth retreats, serving as catechist for first communicants, coordinating pilgrimages to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, and other sites; served as deacon at Assumption-Guadalupe Parish, Omaha.
Summer assignments: St. John Vianney Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.; Holy Cross Parish, Omaha; St. Michael Parish, South Sioux City; Assumption Seminary, San Antonio, Texas; St. Augustine Indian Mission, Winnebago; Institute for Priestly Formation, Creighton University, Omaha.
Reflections on ordination: "There are so many great emotions in life that are difficult to put into words. Today, within just weeks of my ordination to the priesthood, the sentiment within my heart is gratitude. First, my gratitude to God for having called me to this service, a service that demands so much from the one who accepts it, and who with God’s grace can do so much for the church. Second, my gratitude to the Archdiocese of Omaha, both Archbishop (George J.) Lucas and Archbishop (Emeritus Elden Francis) Curtiss, as well as the priests and the people for having supported me throughout these many years of formation and study with your encouragement and your prayers."
DEACON PATRICK NIELDS
Background: Home parish, St. Philip Neri-Blessed Sacrament, Omaha. Parents, Jerry and Kathy Fox of Omaha; sister and brother-in-law, Susan and Mike Caligiuri of Waukee, Iowa; brothers and sister-in-law, Paul Nields of Omaha, and David and Christina Fox of Simi Valley, Calif.
Education: Creighton Preparatory School, Omaha; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Creighton University Law School, Omaha; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.
Activities/ministries: Institute for Priestly Formation, Creighton University, Omaha; helping with youth group at St. Norbert Parish, St. Louis; Spanish immersion program, Guatemala; communion to homebound; Ixim mission trip, Guatemala; teaching at Christian Brothers College High School, St. Louis; deacon at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.
Summer assignments: Sacred Heart Parish, Norfolk; St. James Parish, Omaha (including as deacon).
Reflections on ordination: "The upcoming ordination and priesthood means many things to me, a response to the Lord, striving to follow him, being sent on mission, to be of service to others, to convey the love of God, his mercy, to be a bridge for others, to help others come closer to the Lord, especially through the Eucharist and confession. Being in the Year of Mercy is a particular blessing, to extend the love and mercy of God through the priesthood. I look forward to serving as a priest and am grateful for the support of so many."
DEACON ELIOT SCHWER
Background: Home parish, St. Margaret Mary, Omaha. Parents, Avery and Marilyn Schwer; brother, Ryan Schwer, all of Omaha.
Education: Millard North High School, Omaha; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; St. John Vianney Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.
Activities/ministries: Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary, 2007-2009 (served at University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and University of Northern Colorado).
Summer assignments: Holy Name Parish, Omaha; St. Wenceslaus Parish, Dodge; St. Patrick Parish, O’Neill; St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, Omaha; Institute for Priestly Formation, Creighton University, Omaha; Spanish immersion program, Guatemala; deacon at St. Gerald Parish, Ralston.
Reflections on ordination: "How can one summarize seven years of seminary in preparation for the priesthood? I entered formation in the Year for Priests (Solemnity of Sacred Heart, 2009-2010) on the 150th anniversary of St. John Vianney’s death and now to be ordained in the Year of Mercy is very special to me. I see it as an honor to be ordained with so many great men as well. To have a class of six of us is an occasion for the entire archdiocese to be excited about and a wonderful answer to the prayers of so many of us who pray daily for vocations in our own local church. Once again the words of St. John the Baptist resound in my heart: ‘The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete.’ I feel such joy in that another season of my life has come to a blessed completion and now, in a new season, Jesus is calling me as a friend to help attend to his bride."
DEACON JOSEPH SUND
Background: Home parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Omaha. Parents, Jerome and Mary Jo Sund of Omaha; sisters and brothers-in-law, Jennifer and John Schneider of Bellevue, and Teresa and Tay Bledsoe of Omaha; brother, David of Omaha; two nieces; three nephews.
Education: Creighton Preparatory School; Northwest High School, both in Omaha; University of Nebraska Omaha; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Mo.; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis.
Activities/ministries: Extraordinary minister of holy Communion; homebound visits; lector; youth ministry; Catholic Leadership Institute; catechist; teaching Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults; Teens Encounter Christ.
Summer assignments: Archdiocese Youth Camp (sacristan and aquatics director); Institute for Priestly Formation, Creighton University, Omaha (both as a worker and participant); St. Mary Parish, West Point; St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Omaha; deacon at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Oakville, Mo.
Reflections on ordination: "I am humbled that the Lord has chosen me to be his priest. It is exciting to be ordained with five other men whom I have grown in fraternity with over our years together as seminarians. I am most looking forward to offering Mass and also hearing confessions and absolving sins. Our Lord has given us such a great gift in the priesthood. Please continue to pray for us six men as we near ordination."