The 14 men who are to be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Chicago are a diverse group. Ranging in age from 25 to 45, with a median age of 32, some of the men went directly from school into seminary, but others pursued professional careers. Among them are a construction engineer, a physical therapist, a CPA and an attorney. In a break from recent years, half were born in the United States, and two of the four born in Mexico came to the Chicago area as children. Whatever the route their vocation journeys took, we welcome them to the priesthood.
Elvio Baldeon Lope, 32
- First assignment: St. Sylvester
- Education: Elementary and high school in Peru, Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Gaudencia Lope and Walter Baldeon
- First Mass: May 23, 4 p.m. at St. Ansgar, Hanover Park
Elvio Baldeon began discerning his vocation when he was 17, living with his family in Lima, Peru. After high school, he studied in the seminary for seven years. Then he left and taught religious education for three and a half years.
He still felt the call to priesthood, so he went back into the seminary, this time in Chicago. He studied for a year at Casa Jesus, a house of formation for Hispanic men, and then entered Mundelein Seminary in 2007.
Baldeon said he looks most forward to celebrating the sacraments. “All sacraments are encounters between God and human beings,” he said. “I would like to bring the sacraments to the people in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals and nursing homes.”
He credits two priests with showing him “the image of Christ the priest.” The first is Jesuit Father Ignacio Muguiro, who was his spiritual director after he left the seminary in Lima. “He is for me a great example of priest: a humble man, a man of strong prayer and intimacy with Jesus, a man who is able to help people and bring them close to God,” Baldeon wrote. The other, Father Alfonso Tapia, brought the Gospel to remote places in the Peruvian jungle, inspired his vocation and how he wants to live his future ministry.
Sergio de la Torre Carrillo, 31
- First assignment: Studying Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University with residence at Casa Jesus.
- Education: Elementary school in Mexico; Morton East High School, Cicero; Loyola University Chicago; and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Elvia Carrillo and Sergio de la Torre
- First Mass: May 22, 4:30 p.m. at Good Shepherd
Sergio de la Torre Carrillo was discerning a vocation to the priesthood even before he moved with his family from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Cicero. He attended a Catholic school in Mexico, where the nuns introduced him to devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, de la Torre wrote. That vocation was nurtured at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Cicero, where he was active in the Tropa de Cristo, the young adult group. Since then, his family moved to Good Shepherd Parish, which has been his family for the last nine years, he said. He will return there as a priest.
Manuel Dorantes, 26
- First assignment: St. Clement
- Education: Elementary school in Mexico, Waukegan High School, Loyola University Chicago and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Sofia Beltran and the late Domitilo Dorantes Lopez
- First Mass: May 23, 1 p.m. at St. Clement
The story of Manual Dorantes’ vocation to the priesthood is really the story of three priests.
“Growing up in El Refugio, Ixtapan de la Sal in the State of Mexico, I was puzzled by the mystery that drove Father Domingo Grimaldo Sanchez every Monday evening to celebrate ‘Sunday Mass,’” Dorantes wrote. “Though older, he would travel from town to town every week to provide the Eucharist for the people who lived in his parish. His parish was composed of the main parish church and several chapels in the nearby towns. Our turn was on Monday evenings.”
Dorantes moved to Waukegan when he was 12, and met first Father William O’Connell and then Father Gary Graf, who became pastor of two parishes which eventually merged into one.
“Between the two sites, there was a period of time when he had 11 weekend Masses and no other priest to help him,” Dorantes said. “His dedication and love for his people was clearly evident. As many people, especially immigrants, came to see him seeking his help he embraced their pain and fought for justice. Their problems became his. Once again I was puzzled: What was it that drove men like Gary to do this?”
Dorantes entered St. Joseph College Seminary with Graf’s encouragement and encountered Bishop Edwin Conway, who asked Dorantes to serve as one of his masters of ceremonies. “As we traveled throughout the archdiocese for confirmations and other liturgies I watched him connect with countless amounts of people, giving hope and sealing countless young people with the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Dorantes wrote. “When he became ill with cancer, he did not keep me away from his struggles rather he invited me to walk along with him during this painful time. I saw him pray and have hope during the most difficult moments. Once again, I was puzzled by the mystery of love that gave Bishop Conway his unwavering faith during that time.
“The witness of these three priests and their love for God drew me closer to the mystery, and along with them many others have shown me the effects of selfless love. I now desire to give my life back to God as a priest, imitating these great priests who have served him and loved him by serving and loving his people.”
Shawn D. Gould, 34
- First assignment: St. Alphonsus, Wellington Avenue
- Education: Mary A. White Elementary School and Grand Haven High School, Grand Haven, Mich.; University of Notre Dame; University of California at Berkeley Law School; and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Karen and James Gould
- First Mass: May 23, 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Shawn Gould, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., did not start life as a Catholic. He was baptized in the Reformed Church of America and grew up in the Presbyterian Church. He considered himself an atheist for a time in high school, he wrote, but returned to Christianity at Notre Dame. “While at Notre Dame I became friends with a number of devout and knowledgeable Catholics who were open to sharing their faith and challenging my own presuppositions,” he said.
He continued to explore matters of faith while in law school, eventually delving into the issues of the Reformation. “Although I began my reading with the intention of justifying my Protestant beliefs, I consistently found the Catholic position more compelling,” he said.
As he learned about the church, he began praying about his vocation, which he thought would be to the married life. “To my surprise, I was regularly and ever more insistently drawn to the celibate life,” he wrote.
The idea of priesthood surfaced when he was confirmed, but at first, he dismissed it as “an excess of enthusiasm.” When it kept recurring, he began to discuss it, first with his pastor, then the archdiocese’s vocation director and a spiritual director. He entered Mundelein Seminary in 2005.
Brian Kean, 45
- First assignment: St. Germaine, Oak Lawn
- Education: Mary Seat of Wisdom School and Maine South High School, Park Ridge; Northern Illinois University; and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Joan and Thomas Kean
- First Mass: May 23, noon at Mary Seat of Wisdom, Park Ridge
Brian Kean worked as an accountant and auditor in banking and health care before entering seminary. He initially decided to get more involved in parish and other faith activities as a way to possibly meet his future wife. “God had another plan for me!” he wrote.
At the same time, he was working with the 20/30 Club of Chicago, a men’s organization that raises money for and volunteers, time to children’s organizations, especially Mercy Home for Boys, and taking advantage of the opportunity to attend daily Mass. “I found great consolation in the Eu charist, and it made me recognize that my joy lie in the church and in service to others,” he said. “Thoughts I had had about being called to the priesthood in grade school resurfaced.” Kean said he is most looking forward to celebrating the Eucharist, “the heart of our faith.” He cites Father John Cusick, director of the archdiocese’s Young Adult Ministry, as having a strong influence on me. “Not only is he a holy and good man, but he is a dynamic and powerful speaker whose passion for the Lord floods over the people to whom he speaks,” he said.
Christopher M. Kituli, 37
- First assignment: St. Damian, Oak Forest
- Education: Elementary and high school, Kenya; Consolata Philosophium, Kenya; University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: John and Margaret Kituli
- First Mass: May 23, 9:30 a.m. at St. Damian, Oak Forest
Christopher Kituli, who hails from Kenya, credits his grandmother, Mary, and his parents with nurturing his vocation to the priesthood. “I thank my Lord for the blessing of perseverance he has granted me for the last 10 years, since I began the journey of formation to priesthood.”
Kituli arrived in the Archdiocese of Chicago from Kenya in 2005. Since then, he said, two of his biggest influences have been Father James Donovan at St. Barnabas Parish and Father James Flynn at Holy Name of Mary Parish.
“Both priests have helped me transcend through many difficult moments,” Kituli said. “Their seriousness in the ministry, their life of prayer and their maturity has greatly encouraged me to keep going.”
He also thanked a Cincinnati couple, Edward and the late Alice Willig, for supporting him in his vocation since 1996.
“Edgar and Alice have shown me how to live as a balanced person,” he said. “They acted as my parents since they knew that my parents were a million miles away.”
Andrew Liaugminas, 25
- First assignment: Mary Seat of Wisdom, Park Ridge
- Education: St. Petronille School, Glen Ellyn, Ill.; Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary; St. John Vianney Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.; and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Dalius and Sheila Liaugminas
- First Mass: May 23, 2:30 p.m. at St. Mary of the Annunciation, Mundelein. Also will have solemn vespers May 22 at 5:15 p.m. at the St. James Chapel of the Archbishop Quigley Center
Andrew Liaugminas, the youngest of this year’s ordination class, began to sense a call to the priesthood in junior high, when he served daily Mass in the summer for Father Raynor Richter, a retired priest. “He had a strong love for the Eucharist and a desire to serve others,” Liaugminas wrote. With his pastor’s encouragement, he enrolled at Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, and felt the call even more strongly on a service trip to Lourdes, France, in his junior year.
Approaching ordination, he wrote: “I really look forward to celebrating the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and being a representative of Christ to all those I serve. I look forward to spreading God’s Word through preaching and teaching, and to showing the love of God to the poor, the sick and dying, and to witnessing to God's presence in the joys and difficulties of people’s lives.”
Sergio Mena Mena, 32
- First assignment: St. Frances of Rome, Cicero
- Education: Elementary and high school in Mexico; Seminario Conciliar de Nuestra Senora de Oco Han; and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Francisco Mena and Josefina Mena
- First Mass: May 23, 10:45 a.m. in English and 12:15 p.m. in Spanish, at St. Jerome
Sergio Mena Mena always thought he would get married and have a family, and at 18 years old, he was planning to build a house for his future family to live in. Then he went on a spiritual retreat and everything changed. “I was experiencing God in a very particular way,” he said. “It was God who touched my heart and called me to the priesthood. I did not know anything about priesthood or religious life.” His father objected at first, but then, when he saw his son was serious, supported him. Mena started his seminary studies in Mexico and then came to the Archdiocese of Chicago to complete them in 2006. He looks to the example of a priest offered by the bishops of the Latin American bishops: “A priest should be a disciple missionary of Jesus the good shepherd. He should be a man of prayer, well integrated in his humanity, with a profound experience of God, with extraordinary love for the Church and therefore for his brothers and sisters.”
He also looks to the example of Father Felipe Cuamatzi Cano, a Bible scholar and former rector of the seminary in his home diocese. “I learned a lot in his class but also in the way he was forming us,” Mena said. “He always taught us how to be a good shepherd of the people of God. For example, he was always with us playing, praying and working. His presence produced a profound impact on my formation. He was like Jesus with the Twelve.”
Michael Moczko, 32
- First assignment: St. Thomas of Villanova
- Education: Elementary school in Poland, high school in Australia, Flinders University of South Australia and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Janina Zamarska and Alfred Moczko
- First Mass: May 23, 11:15 a.m., at St. Thomas of Villanova
Michael Moczko was born in Poland and spent his teenage years in Australia. While he was fascinated with the way God becomes present to his people through the prayers and actions of priests, he did not immediately pursue a vocation to the priesthood. Instead, he studied electrical engineering. His last job in that field was as a programmer at Motorola.
“I have to say that studying a lot of physics, math and programming has brought me closer to God,” he wrote. “I was in awe discovering the intricacies of creation.”
He has been inspired by both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Francis Xavier. “I liked their zeal, their love for God and for his creation and how they did everything to lead other people to that same love of God and one another.”
When he recognized his call to priesthood, he returned to Poland to join the Polish Jesuits. The order sent him to the United States to work with Polish immigrants. While here, he discerned that his call was to the diocesan priesthood.
“I continue to discover how God works in wonderful ways,” he said.
Nathaniel Payne, 27
- First assignment: St. Mary of the Annunciation, Mundelein
- Education: Private elementary and high schools, St. Joseph College Seminary and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Daniel and Eva Payne
- First Mass: May 23, 11:30 a.m. at St. John Vianney, Northlake
Nathaniel Payne was one of 11 children, born into a family that encouraged the idea of a vocation to the priesthood. But he doesn’t recall one moment that he knew he would be a priest. “While I cannot say that in my younger years I always thought I would be a priest, I also cannot say the opposite,” he wrote. “Why God chooses whom he does will always remain a mystery, and his choosing me, an even more profound one.”
One turning point was his decision to get information about St. Joseph College Seminary. Even though he started at a public university, he transferred after two years, in 2006.
“It has been quite a journey, quite literally a journey of a lifetime from which I have no regrets,” he wrote. “Some call it coincidence, I believe it to be providence; my home parish is St. John Vianney, the patron of priests, and I am a member of the ordination class for the ‘Year of the Priest.’”
Payne said he is looking forward to celebrating the sacraments.
“I find even as a deacon it is very humbling to assist at the altar, and to minister the sacrament of baptism,” he said. “I look forward to ministering and doing all that a priest is called to do, and to all the surprises the Lord sends along the way.”
Carlos Rodriguez, 40
- First assignment: St. Michael, Orland Park
- Education: PS 260, Brooklyn; Canarsie High School, Brooklyn; SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn; and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Aida Estel Ramos and the late Jose Antonio Rodriguez
- First Mass: May 22, 5:30 p.m. at St. Alphonsus, Wellington Avenue
For Carlos Rodriguez, it took an encounter with a born-again Christian to rekindle his interest in the Catholic faith — an interest that fascinated him as a boy. After becoming more interested again in college, he was invited — begged, he said — by a friend who was discerning his own vocation to attend a retreat.
“It was on that retreat that I first felt the call to the priesthood, and Pope John Paul II’s subsequent visit to New York City that helped propel it forward,” the Brooklyn native wrote. “Unfortunately, after a brief discernment with the Vincentians I ended up choosing my physical therapy career and the possibility of marriage over this call.”
Five years later, still hearing the call to priesthood, he applied to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. After three years of formation, it became clear that health issues would keep him from serving as a foreign missionary. When he left the society, he was in Chicago and decided to stay here, working as a physical therapist at St. Anthony Hospital and attending Mass at St. Alphonsus Parish. With the help of God and a spiritual director, he wrote, he decided to enter Mundelein seminary. “I have not regretted my decision since,” Rodriguez said. “In retrospect I have come to realize that God had been calling me all along but the allure of this life frequently got in the way of saying ‘yes’. I hope that in the time I have left, I can give myself fully to the service of God and his church.”
He looks forward to celebrating the sacraments, especially the Mass, the sacrament of reconciliation and anointing of the sick. “As a former health care worker I guess I am most attracted to those sacraments where God’s mercy and healing are particularly manifested,” he said.
Of Pope John Paul II, he wrote: “I was completely mesmerized by him and could only imagine that this must have been what those early convert’s felt when they encountered the apostles after Pentecost,” Rodriguez said. “It was his heroic and public struggle with Parkinson’s disease and his death that forced me to consider whom I was living my life for. He continues to inspire me to this day and I hope to thank him for his witness to the priesthood when I am finally called home to the Father.”
Stanley Stuglik, 35
- First assignment: Infant Jesus of Prague, Flossmoor
- Education: Hazelgreen Elementary, Marist High School, Purdue University and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Angie and Walter Stuglik
- First Mass: May 23, 12:30 p.m., St. Joseph, Summit
Stanley Stuglik had a career building God’s church — or rather, churches. As a chief estimator and project manager for Mazur and Son construction company, he worked on building projects for the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Joliet, among other clients. But watching his brother, Robert, become a priest in 2003 showed him that he was called to build the church spirtually.
“From the day of my brother’s ordination, my work at Mazur and Son Construction was no longer fulfilling,” he wrote of his vocation story. “Something was missing. There is more to this life that I can enhance and share with people the gifts, and talents that God has given and the mysteries of his kingdom that have been revealed to me through the Holy Spirit.”
His mother nurtured his vocation, announcing at the Mundelein Family Day in 1999 that she believed both her sons would be priests. “The more I prayed about priesthood from that day, the more I felt in my heart that God had chosen me and was calling me to be a priest.”
Luis G. Valeria, 32
- First assignment: St. Jerome, Chicago
- Education: Elementary and high school in Aguascalientes, Mexico; St. Joseph College Seminary and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Esperanza Romero and J. Guadalupe Valerio
- First Mass: May 23, 10 a.m., St. Henry
For Luis Valeria, the day of his First Communion was the day his life took on its direction.
“I still remember this day as it was yesterday,” he wrote. “This celebration took place in a small chapel by the country side of my hometown, but that small chapel to me was like the most beautiful and largest cathedral of the world where I was going to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. ... After my First Communion day my desire to bring Jesus to others like that priest did to me was growing and I believe this was the way God was calling me to start my priestly journey.”
He started as a catechist at age 16, preparing a class of 30 children for First Communion and experiencing the joy of the sacrament all over again. “The day came when they received Jesus in their lives,” he wrote. “I do not have words to explain how I was feeling when I saw those kids in church and the special sparkle in their eyes. This event helped me to strengthen my desire to become a priest and in that way bring Jesus to the lives of many. The last time I was in Mexico I saw some of those kids whom I helped with their preparation for First Communion and I was really amazed when I saw them preparing others for the sacrament.”
Andrew M. Wawrzyn, 37
- First assignment: St. Peter, Skokie
- Education: Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Glenview; Loyola Academy, Wilmette; Marquette University; Fordham University; Weston Jesuit School of Theology; and University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
- Parents: Barry and Kathleen Wawrzyn
- First Mass: May 23, 2 p.m. at St. Mary; May 30, 12:15 p.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Andrew Wawrzyn, a Columbus, Ohio, native, thought he was called to serve the church as a Jesuit. He was a member of the Society of Jesus from 1997 until this year, when he was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Chicago as a deacon. However, he made the decision two years ago, after serving as a teacher at Regis Jesuit High School in Denver, Colo., and St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.
“I am looking forward to parish work,” Wawrzyn wrote. “The preaching of the Gospel through the sacraments and the liturgy of the Word is important for both faithful Catholics who need to be bolstered in their faith and those who search for meaning in life and, maybe without knowing it, seek the joy and peace that only the Lord Jesus can bring.”
He cites Father Myles P. McDonnell, the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help when he was growing up, as an example he would like to follow.
“He was friendly, a good teacher, he made you feel that the church was a safe and helpful place, which made finding Christ all the more easier,” Wawrzyn wrote. “This is what the priesthood should be — a means for persons to encounter Christ — and I hope that I can be able to do that as well as Father McDonnell.”