Cardinal George to ordain 12 priests
Twelve men are expected to be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 20 at Holy Name Cathedral. The 12 range in age from 25 to 39 and hail from seven countries on five continents, with the greatest number four born in Poland. They will offer their first Masses, and then get a few weeks of well-deserved leave before taking up their first parish posts.
The Catholic New World congratulates them.
Thomas Belanger, 38
First assignment: St. Philip Neri
Education: Our Lady Star of the Sea, Gross Point Woods, Mich.; De La Salle Collegiate, Warren, Mich.; and DePaul University
Parents: The late Jean Maurice Belanger and Mary Ann Hawkins
First Mass: 11:15 a.m. May 21 at St. Clement Parish
Thomas Belanger spent four years under temporary vows as a Capuchin Franciscan, and worked in homeless shelters, food pantries and drug treatment programs in Detroit, Milwaukee, Toronto and Chicago. Belanger, who hopes to work with people suffering from addictions, said those experiences and his knowledge of the diversity of Chicago will serve him well.
The diversity of the archdiocese is one of its strengths, he said.
“My hope is [for the church] to become more unified by bringing diversity together to use as a building block to strengthen the church,” Belanger said, adding that Catholics should “look at true identity of what it means to be universal.”
Arkadiusz Falana, 27
First assignment: Queen of All Saints Basilica
Education: Elementary school in Luban, high school at Liceum Ekonomiczne, both in Poland; St. Joseph College Seminary
Parents: Stanislaw Falana and Teresa Zadlo
First Mass: 12:30 p.m. May 28 at Queen of All Saints Basilica
Arkadiusz Falana’s call to become a priest began when he was six years old. “Since that time God has been asking me to follow him,” he said. “Each step that I have made in my life is the continuation of that journey toward the Lord’s altar.” Falana credits his parents and his grandmother for introducing faith into his life and helping in his vocational development.
Falana said he feels called “to ‘communicate God’s love’ to all God’s children and at the same time I would like to be a living bridge between God and His people.”
Falana believes that the youth are the future of the church. “I would like to emphasize the words of Pope John Paul II who said to young people, ‘I ask you to open your hearts generously to him; do not delay your response. The Lord will help you to know his will; he will help you to follow your vocation courageously.’ Thus, do not be afraid but trust the Lord. I trust him completely.”
Pawel Komperda, 25
First assignment: Prince of Peace, Lake Villa
Education: Helena Marusarzowna School in Poland; Richard Edwards Elementary School in Chicago; Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary; St. Joseph College Seminary
Parents: Anna Rzadkosz and Kazmierz Komperda
First Mass: 12:15 p.m. May 21 at St. Bruno
Pawel Komperda has the distinction of being the only member of the 2006 ordination class who went through the entire archdiocesan seminary system, starting his freshman year of high school. That happened only a short time after he came to Chicago from Poland with his family at age 12. But he knew early on he wanted to be a priest, attending Mass as a child to watch the priests so he could imitate them. “It was a profound moment for me when I could connect the dots and understand why we do what we do,” Komperda said. Spending 12 years in seminary schools gave Komperda the opportunity to experience many areas of ministry, and he said he enjoys teaching and working with youth, especially the time he spent working with young people at the Cook County Juvenile Facility. But one area he hopes to do well in he has not yet experienced. “I hope to be a good confessor,” said Komperda, who said his own spiritual development has relied on the sacrament of reconciliation. “I ask people to pray for me because that I cannot practice.”
Jesús Medina, 31
First assignment: St. Bede The Venerable
Education: Dr. Jesús León, Colegio Portugal, Seminario Diocesano de Santa Maria de Guadalupe, all in Mexico
Parents: Jesús Medina Ramirez and Andrea Carreón de Medina
First Mass: 3 p.m. May 21 at St. Nicholas of Tolentine
Jesus Medina was attracted to the priesthood as a young boy, when his parents would take him to Mass and he saw the priest as someone set apart. But he could not see himself in that role, because all the priests he knew were older. That changed when he met Father Raul Martinez in a basketball court, he said.
“He helped to clarify my interior light, which I had for years. It is how my vocation made the next step, to enter the seminary,” Medina said.
A Catholic priest, Medina said, should be someone “who represents Christ, a pastor to the people of God, a true disciple of Christ. … I want to show the presence of Jesus in any sacrament that I celebrate by being open, welcoming and friendly to all. I would like to be a real image of the Good Shepherd, being caring, considerate, sensitive, a good listener, patient, approachable, understanding, generous, and forgiving. I will love the people and be able to show that I love them.”
That love should be a beacon, he said, adding that he hopes to help people who have left to return to the church.
“One of my hopes for the Catholic Church is that those people who have deserted for any reason may come back to the church,” he said. “As a future priest I have the responsibility of reviving the faith of those who declare that they have it but not live it.”
Bolívar Molina Ramirez, 28
First assignment: Good Shepherd
Education: José Joaquín de Olmedo, Vicente Leon, and Guayaquil Mayor Seminary, all in Ecuador
Parents: Hernán Molina and Belgica Ramirez
First Mass: 1 p.m. May 28 at St. Mary of the Lake
Bolivar Molina Ramirez did not make his First Communion until he was about 15 years old, but he had been considering whether he had a call to the priesthood ever since then. He was inspired, he said, by what he read about Jesus and the disciples in the four Gospels. “I saw in Jesus a very strong man who always said and told the truth,” Molina wrote in an e-mail. Molina wants to teach religion, perhaps following the example of his religious education teacher, who nurtured his vocation. He hopes the number of vocations will grow, he said, as church leaders work hard to be faithful to the teaching of the church.
Hugo Morales, 39
First assignment: Mary, Queen of Heaven, Cicero
Education: Elementary and high school in Durango, Mexico; Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, Wis.; and Sacred Heart School of Theology
Parents: Agustin Morales and Clementina Nuñez
First Mass: 2:15 p.m. May 21 at St. Anthony Parish, Cicero
Hugo Morales was born and raised Catholic and involved as a layman in church life. But when he was serving on the baptismal preparation team at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Cicero, he tried to avoid speaking to the parents and godparents who wanted to have babies baptized because he felt ill qualified to speak in public. He did it anyway, and was surprised to receive applause. “After this experience I got more and more involved in different ministries in the parish, I became lector and communion minister,” Morales wrote. “Little by little I felt more attracted to do what only a priest can do when he celebrates the Eucharist.”
But Morales still enjoys preparing people for the sacraments, something he hopes to emphasize in his ministry and something he can offer both to English- and Spanish-speaking parishioners.
“I hope that the Church as the Bride of Christ continues to carry on with a genuine concern for others, especially those who are less fortunate, with contagious style,” Morales said. “Also, I hope we can restore respect for the ministry.”
Phi Nguyen, 34
First assignment: St. Damien, Oak Forest
Education: Elementary and high school in Binh Thuan, Vietnam; St. Joseph College Seminary
Parents: Canh Cong Nguyen and Phuoc Tran
First Mass: 5:30 p.m. May 20 at St. Henry
Phi Nguyen was raised in a religious family in Vietnam, with daily Mass and nightly prayers a family ritual. So when he told his family he wanted to be a priest, his grandparents, parents and brother and sister gave him all their support for seminary studies. But in 1995, his studies were interrupted as his family had to leave Vietnam and emigrate to Atlanta. A year later, he left them to come to Chicago and continue his studies.
“As a grandson, a son, a brother, and a soon-to-be-priest, I strongly believe that the love, care, and support from my grandparents, parents, and my siblings have played a very special role in my vocational life,” Nguyen said.
“Moreover, the support of the Vietnamese priests of the two Arch-dioceses of Chicago and Atlanta and the communities of faith of these two places also has a major impact to my call to the priesthood. When I receive the countless blessings from God through my family, my fellow citizens, men and women, and people around me, I turn my mind and heart to the young people who seem not to see clearly the love of God in their lives.”
Benedykt Pazdan, 25
First assignment: St. John the Evangelist, Streamwood
Education: Elementary school in Zagorzyce, Poland; high school in Sediszow, Poland, Major Seminiary of the Diocese of Rzeszow, Poland
Parents: Zofia Czaja and Piotr Pazdan
First Mass 10:30 a.m. May 21, St. Helen
Benedykt Pazdan grew up in a small town of about 3,000 people in southeast Poland, one of a family of five brothers and sisters. He knew he was called to the priesthood from a young age, but it wasn’t until he was studying in seminary that he thought about coming to the United States. “Believe me, it was not an easy decision to make because one of the first consequences of that was to leave my whole family behind and face a new culture and a new language, basically a whole new world,” Pazdan said. But after five years here, he is convinced he did the right thing. “I never regretted my decision about coming to serve the people of this local church,” Pazdan said. “God has blessed me with a lot of friends.”
God has also blessed him with a love of music, which he hopes will be one avenue to bring the Gospel message to young people.
“This is my hope for the future of the Catholic Church that we can somehow present the Good News to the youth in such a way that it will be more attractive to them so that they can come to appreciate it more deeply in their lives and see that only Jesus Christ can satisfy their deepest longings,” he said.
Avitus Rukuratwa, 34
First assignment: Sacred Heart, Winnetka
Education: Omukyaya and Rutabo primary schools, Rubya Seminary and Dodoma Secondary School (in Tanzania), Consolata Institute of Philosophy
Parents: Ariadina Kiguta and the late Leonard Kiguta
First Mass: 5 p.m. May 20, St. Columbanus
Avitus Rukuratwa has felt a call to the priesthood since he was a child in Tanzania, where he was an altar server and choir member. He felt the desire to be a priest and joined a congregation devoted to caring for the sick, but after a few years decided that he was called to serve as a missionary, ministering to people from a different culture and different geographical location. Soon he had the opportunity to work with the Archdiocese of Chicago through a friend, and decided to minister here.
Now that he is here, he said, “I’m open to any ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. My experience has been in different areas herewhite, Hispanic, black and mixed parishes.”
He hopes to work with young people and in evangelization.
“Pope John Paul II said the pope should not be a prisoner of the Vatican,” he said. “The same way, the priest should not be the prisoner of the rectory. Twenty-four percent of people come to church. We have to go out to reach the rest of them.”
Adán Sandoval Duron, 32
First assignment: St. Micahel, Orland Park
Education: Belizario Domingo in Mexico; Monclair High School in California, St. Joseph College Seminary
Parents: Maria Duron and Ruben Sandoval
First Mass 2 p.m. May 21 at
St. Christina Parish
Adan Sandoval Duron used to play at being a priest, using an empty box covered with a towel for an altar in his backyard in Mexico. Those memories came to him when he was asked, as a member of a group of young adults at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Cicero, whether he had ever considered the priesthood. Nine years later, he is ready for ordination. “Right now, my main focus will be on learning how to be a holy and effective priest,” said Sandoval.
With 10 brothers and sisters and 27 nieces and nephews, all in the Chicago area, Sandoval will likely have lots of support. He hopes, he said, that the church in Chicago will recognize its richness. “We need to really understand the message of the Gospel,” he said. “The church in Chicago is so beautiful because it is so large and so diverse.”
Artur Sowa, 25
St. Julie Billiart, Tinley Park
Elementary school, Liceum Ekonomicze
(high school) and Wyzsze Seminarium Duchiown, all in Poland
Danuta Deliowska and Bronislaw Sowa
4:30 p.m. May 20 at St. Julie Billiart
Artur Sowa was born and raised in Poland and knew from the time he was a child that he wanted to be a priest. His call to the priesthood never left him, so he studied at the minor seminary in Poland before deciding to come to the United States. Sowa studied English in Bishop Abramowicz Preparatory Seminary for a year and then continued his studies at Mundelein Seminary. “I am grateful to God for the gift of vocation I received and I hope to serve him and his people for years to come,” he said.
Fernando Zuleta, 30
First assignment: Resurrection
Education: Escuela San Antonio, IDEM Eduardo Aguilar (high school) in Colombia; Universidad Pontidica Bolivariana/Universidad de la Salle
Parents: Gabriela Lopez and Orlando Zuleta
First Mass: 5:30 p.m. May 20,
Our Lady of Grace
Fernando Zuleta first felt he might have a call to the priesthood growing up in Colombia. A Catholic youth group he joined in high school deepened the call, and he attended college seminary. Between then and attending major seminary at Mundelein, he worked mostly with young people, spending a year working at an orphanage, teaching high school and serving as a Boy Scout leader. Those experiences have shaped his hopes for the church.
“I hope that no more innocents are wounded by sinful and irresponsible actions of priests or church people,” Zuleta said. “I hope and pray for union among Christians, and the Catholic Church being the promoter of that union in Christ Jesus.”
Personally, he said he hopes “to become a good and holy priest and to serve this particular church of Chicago with the best of my skills and love for the church.”