Two newly ordained priests ready to serve
June 30, 2020
Click here or scroll down beneath the story for the two ordination profiles.
He summoned the twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (the sick). He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. …’ Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
– Luke 9:1-3, 6
Summoned by Jesus, two newly ordained priests – Fathers Mauricio Tovar and Zachary Tucker – have set out to bring healing and hope, proclaiming the kingdom of God in the Archdiocese of Omaha.
The passage above from the Gospel of Luke has been particularly meaningful for Father Tovar, he said, and especially now, as people suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said he hopes to be God’s instrument, bringing his comfort and hope, “putting everything in his hands and proclaiming the kingdom of God to all in need.”
Father Tucker said he looks forward to ministering the sacraments, “bringing people into the church through baptism, bringing them back through reconciliation,” and strengthening them with the Eucharist at Mass.
“I’m just excited to enter into ministry in the archdiocese,” he said. “I’ve received a lot from the archdiocese, and now I have the opportunity to minister and give back.”
“There are still blessings and joy amid the pandemic,” he said.
The June 6 ordination ceremony took place at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, despite ongoing health concerns. It was made a ticket-only event to help with social distancing, and was livestreamed for those who couldn’t be there in person.
The pandemic forced both men to be called back to the archdiocese to finish their studies. Father Tovar finished online coursework from Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. And even after ordination, Father Tucker still has online work to complete from the Pontifical North American College in Rome, which operates on a later schedule.
DIVERSE PATHS, SAME DESTINATION
Though the priests shared an ordination ceremony, their paths to the priesthood varied.
At an early age Father Tucker moved to Omaha and was homeschooled until 10th grade. He finished high school at Mount Michael Benedictine School in Elkhorn, graduating in 2008. He majored in criminology and minored in history at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, graduating in 2012.
For two years he was a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at Arizona State University. He said he deepened his prayer during that time and valued his time spent with the Lord.
“It was then that I began to discern my call, slowly through my conversation with him,” Father Tucker said. “The Lord was working in my heart.”
At chapel, he said, he tried to list all his reasons for not entering the seminary, “and they were all really lame.”
So in the fall of 2014, he entered Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis for two years of pre-theology classes. Then he was sent to Rome to study at the Pontifical North American College.
“Throughout my years of seminary, the Lord quietly confirmed my vocation,” Father Tucker said. “There was no lightning bolt-St. Paul moment, just a lot of peace and joy in accepting the call.”
His family, he said, has been excited by his call to the priesthood. “I’ve been blessed by their prayers and support.”
Also helpful in discerning his vocation, he said, were Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island and Father John Norman, who were pastor and associate pastor, respectively, at Christ the King Parish in Omaha when Father Tucker entered the seminary. More recently Father Damien Cook, the current pastor, offered his support, Father Tucker said.
FROM MEXICO TO NEBRASKA
Father Tovar began discerning his call to the priesthood about 1,600 miles away in the central Mexico city of Guanajuato. His parents encouraged him and his younger siblings in the faith and regularly attended Mass with them, he said.
In 2002, Father Tovar moved to Nebraska, where his grandfather and uncles worked in the meatpacking industry. While at Schuyler Central High School and part of a charismatic prayer group, he again began thinking about ways he could serve God, Father Tovar said.
After graduation in 2006, he joined the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and was in formation in San Antonio for a year. But he didn’t feel called there, he said, and returned to Schuyler in 2007.
He worked at a meatpacking plant and became increasingly active at Divine Mercy Parish in Schuyler, first as a catechist and extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. Then Father Carl Zoucha, who was the pastor at the time, offered him a part-time job in Hispanic ministry, which in months became a full-time job.
That time serving the parish was like a pre-seminary pastoral year, Father Tovar said, as he got a taste of what being a parish priest was like.
In 2012 he entered the seminary, studying first at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri, before going on to Assumption Seminary in San Antonio.
Father Tovar said his two uncles – Pablo Tovar of Divine Mercy Parish and Pedro Tovar of St. Bonaventure Parish in Columbus – were “very influential in my discernment.”
Pablo Tovar, who is in formation to become a permanent deacon, was especially helpful with support and advice, the new priest said.
FATHER MAURICIO TOVAR
Background: Hometown, Rogers, Nebraska; home parish, Divine Mercy, Schuyler. Parents, Martin Tovar and Martha Cano; siblings, Maria Guadalupe Tovar, Fernando Tovar and Martin Tovar, all Santa Cruz in Juventino Rosas, Guanajuato, Mexico; uncles, aunts and cousins, Pablo and Claudia Tovar, Rogers, and Pedro and Beatriz Tovar and their six children, Columbus.
Education: Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas; Central Community College, Columbus; Conception Seminary College, Conception, Missouri; Assumption Seminary, San Antonio.
Activities/Ministries: Ministry of presence, Our Lady of Rickenbach nursing home, Clyde, Missouri, and Northwest Missouri Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center, St. Joseph, Missouri; Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, St. Francis Xavier Parish, St. Joseph, and St. Luke Parish, San Antonio; pastoral semester, Divine Mercy Parish, Schuyler; pastoral ministry at Instituto de Formación Pastoral/Pastoral Formation Institute at St. Jude Parish, San Antonio; intern chaplain, Morningside Ministries Senior Living Communities, San Antonio; pastoral ministry as transitional deacon at Sacred Heart Parish, Comfort, Texas.
Summer assignments: Ss. Peter and Paul, Holy Name, St. Thomas More and Assumption-Guadalupe parishes, all Omaha, and Sacred Heart Parish, Norfolk; seminarian worker and student at the Institute for Priestly Formation, Omaha.
Reflections on ordination: “As a priest, I hope to continue growing in charity while serving others by proclaiming the Word of God, preaching and celebrating liturgical celebrations. Also, I want to continue being present to others by listening and accompanying them with sympathy and compassion, especially those in pastoral and spiritual needs. Serving others is meaningful for me because I am able to see God in their lives, in their Christian vocations and in my own vocation that God has called me to. Also, I hope to minister God’s people in a bilingual setting.”
FATHER ZACHARY TUCKER
Background: Home parish, Christ the King, Omaha. Parents, Patrick and Susan Tucker, Omaha; brothers, Adam Tucker, Atlanta; Josh, Luke and Jake, St. Paul, Minnesota; Ben, Omaha.
Education: Benedictine College, Atchison, Kansas; Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri; Pontifical North American College, Rome.
Activities/Ministries: “The ministries I was involved in during my time in seminary look a little different than normal given that I attended the Pontifical North American College. My first two years in Rome, I gave tours to pilgrims at the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. My second two years, I helped with campus ministry at the international campus of the University of Notre Dame in Rome.”
Summer assignments: St. Vincent de Paul and St. James parishes, both Omaha.
Reflections on ordination: “Approaching ordination to the priesthood feels simultaneously like a culmination and a beginning. It is a culmination of years of preparation, prayer, and classes, but it is also the beginning of the formal practice of the vocation God has called me to. I am intensely grateful for the gratuitous gift that God has bestowed on me through the call to the priesthood, and I look forward to sharing that gift through my ministry to the people of the Archdiocese of Omaha. I do not know everything that is in store for the future, but I am confident that it will be a great adventure that I look forward to undertaking.”