Argentina, Philippines, Poland Serve as Starting Points of Faith Journeys
Reflecting the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of the Archdiocese of Newark, Archbishop John J. Myers will ordain 13 new priests on Saturday, May 26 at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. After leading the nation last year with 17 ordinands (see The Catholic Advocate, May 24, 2006), the Archdiocese of Newark is again among the leaders with this year's class.
"This achievement of the archdiocese is the fruit of much prayer, effort and commitment," Father Brian Plate, the director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Newark, said, citing the Class of 2007. "The perseverance of these men is a tribute to their faith and the formation and faculty of our seminary."
"This local Church in Newark and the Universal Church together are blessed through the faith and commitment that these men give us today," Archbishop Myers noted. "They join the order of the ordained priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ from all walks of life and with many different experiences. As the Church continues to face many challenges, she welcomes them, knowing that their love of God and His people will strengthen her."
Msgr. Thomas P. Nydegger, vice rector/business manager and director of formation at Immaculate Conception Seminary on the South Orange campus of Seton Hall University, praised the dedication of the men in this year's ordination class. "From day one they immersed themselves in priestly formation," Msgr. Nydegger said. "There are great expectations for the priestly ministry they will exercise here in the Archdiocese of Newark."
Biographies of the 13 new archdiocesan priests follow:
Father Renato J. Bautista
A deacon at St. Henry Parish in Bayonne, Father Renato J. Bautista, 44, had his life turned around five years ago when he left his native Philippines for a vacation in the United States.
That trip took an unexpected direction from what he called a "vacation with the Lord" into a vocation. At the time he had a "promising" banking career in the Philippines. He already had two years of college seminary experience "and the thought of entering (the seminary) then leaving again was just ridiculous," he said.
Looking back on his banking career, Father Bautista remembers he began "to allow God to enter my life again. I began to experience a growing joy and peace within me. I really thought God was only calling me to be more active in the Church. I got really scared when the idea of the priesthood starting popping into my head. What I did differently this time was that, instead of running away or hiding through work and other worldly diversions, I prayed more to God and turned to the Holy Eucharist.
"I think the key is to allow God's 'hand' to mold one's heart and mind to truly be another Christ for God's people," he continued. Father Bautista hopes to be "an earthen vessel through which God's grace is shared with everyone that He places in my care."
Before entering the priesthood, Father Bautista attended the University of St. Thomas and the Dominican House of Studies both in the Philippines. He has a Master of Divinity Degree. He will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at 5:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, Jersey City, on May 26. He will be the homilist.
Father William F. Benedetto
Just a year ago, Father William Francis Benedetto made history at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. On May 21, 2006, when he was ordained to the diaconate, it marked the first time in the history of the Cathedral Basilica that a deacon was vested at a Mass of Ordination by his father-a permanent deacon.
A native of Belleville, Father Benedetto, 29, attended Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, and Immaculate Conception Seminary, South Orange. He majored in Chemical Biology at Stevens and earned a Master of Divinity and Master of Arts, with a concentration in Systemic Theology. As a deacon, Father Benedetto served at the Cathedral Basilica.
The formation program at Immaculate Conception Seminary, he says, "was far more than the learning of the faith. It was about living the faith. There was great emphasis on becoming men of fervent faith and deep prayer, of profound and personal relationship with the Lord, of courage and intense zeal for the Church."
Prior to entering the seminary, Father Benedetto wanted to become a doctor. As his studies progressed something began to "bother" him. "I could be the greatest surgeon or the most competent physician in the world and I still would not be able to prevent someone from ultimately dying. It was then that I began to seriously reconsider another ambition that I had since I became an altar server at nine years old-one that I never really let go of even as I pursued a career in medicine, that of becoming a priest." Through discernment he realized he could do much more as a "physician of the soul. I aspire to spend myself in the service of the Lord until there is nothing else to give and to be profoundly joyful doing it."
Father Benedetto will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at noon on May 27 at Queen of Peace Parish in North Arlington. Rev. Msgr. William Fadrowski, the pastor, will be the homilist.
Father Mariano N. Dellagiovanna
After leaving his native Argentina, Father Mariano Nicolas Dellagiovanna recalled that Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary, Kearny, gave him "a home, a new family and new friends."
Father Dellagiovanna, 30, holds a Bachelor of Art Degree from Thomas Edison College and a Master of Divinity Degree from Seton Hall University. He was a deacon at St. Mary Parish in Plainfield. He served field education and summers at St. Joseph and St. Michael Parish and St. Anthony of Padua Parish both in Union City.
He hopes to serve God's people "without looking for my own benefit but with the only purpose of bringing them to the Father. I hope to be an instrument of mercy in God's hands. Many people, even Catholics, live a relationship with God based in fear. But, He loves the sinner. This is the message I want to give to the people: that God loves us as we are."
Father Dellagiovanna learned to "read the events" of his life as a word from God through the Neocatechumenal Way. "This is how I came to discern my vocation," he said. He will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Mary Parish, Plainfield, at 1:30 p.m. on Pentecost Sunday. He will be the homilist.
Father Manuel Dueñas
As part of his formation, Father Manual Dueñas, 30, spent three years doing missionary work, with most of that time on the Pacific island of Guam. During that period he saw "the joy God gave people through the Church."
Father Dueñas-a native of Spain-studied engineering at the University of Spain, before entering Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary. He confronted personal tragedy at the age of 18 when his father died in a traffic accident. "I believe that this event was a turning point in my life and in my vocation," he said. "At that moment the only thing that was able to help me and my family was the support of the Church. I felt compelled to offer my life to the Church to announce the Good News, the announcement of salvation, that the doors of heaven are open and that it is possible to be happy regardless of the events and circumstances we face in our daily lives."
Through his ministry, he said he wants to "open the doors of heaven" for those who do not believe that the Church can give them happiness. "My biggest hope for the priesthood is to make a difference in people's lives; to give them a word that may console them in times of distress, a word of courage in times of uncertainty.
Father Dueñas will return to Holy Family Parish, Nutley, where he served as a deacon, to celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at noon on May 27. Rev. Msgr. Paul L. Bochicchio will be the homilist.
Father Oscar D. Fonseca
A former Major in the United States Air Force, Father Oscar Daniel Fonseca intends "to live an enriching and prayerful life in the Archdiocese of Newark wearing myself out for the people of God."
The 41-year-old native of Puerto Rico earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in the Sciences of Physical Therapy at the University of Puerto Rico and Masters Degrees in Divinity and Systematic Theology from Seton Hall University.
Serving as a priest, Father Fonseca hopes to keep a "profound love and respect for the people of God." As part of his spiritual vocation, he plans to utilize his seven years of Air Force training as a physical therapist. "I believe that seeing the physical pain of people helped me discern my vocation to the priesthood," he said. "I am very blessed these days because I feel I can use my skills as a physical therapist and still be a priest."
Father Fonseca will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Francis deSales Parish in Lodi, where he served as a deacon. The Mass will be celebrated May 27 at 1:30 p.m. Father Fonseca will be the homilist.
Father Robert S. Gajewski
Born in Krakow, Poland, Father Robert Gajewski, 32, holds a Master of Divinity Degree. He attended SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Michigan and was a deacon at St. Teresa Parish in Kenilworth.
Father Gajewski will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at noon on May 27 at St. Theresa Parish.
Father Sebastian Garcia
"I hope to be humble enough to let the Lord lead my life in the way He wants" says Father Sebastian Garcia, 28, as he looks ahead to his life as a priest.
A deacon at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Union City, Father Garcia attended Liceo Castilla School in his native Spain and Seton Hall University. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in education and Masters Degree in Theology.
What struck him most about his life at Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary was "the immense patience the formators and my brother seminarians had with me." Before the seminary, the future priest was a high school student about to go to college. "However, God had other plans," he recalled.
His decision to become a priest also was inspired by his attendance at World Youth Day events since 1993. The "bottom line" of his vocation, declared Father Garcia, is "gratefulness." He is grateful to the Church "for what she has done in my life and the life of my family."
As he enters into the priesthood, his dream is "to have the same heart of Christ. I want to be an instrument and not an obstacle for evangelization." Father Garcia will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Anthony of Padua Parish at 11:30 a.m. on May 27. He will be the homilist.
Father Charles M. Kelly
A Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, Father Charles Martin Kelly, who hails from Scranton, PA, fervently wants to be "a happy, healthy and holy parish priest."
Father Kelly attended the University of Scranton, St. Pius X Seminary in Scranton and Immaculate Conception Seminary. He has Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Philosophy. As a deacon he served at St. Thomas More Parish in Fairfield, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Newark and Emmaus House also in Newark.
Citing the encouragement of his parents, Father Kelly said his formation was fostered primarily by 24 years of Catholic education, which "keeps a young man close to the Church." Father Kelly said "learning and practicing obedience was one of the most important and fundamental aspects of my formation. The salvation of souls is the work of the priest and I am humbled to be called to do that. I think Our Lord may have called me, with all my weaknesses and shortcomings, so that it will be completely obvious that it is always Him at work and not me."
Father Kelly will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at 2 p.m. on May 27 at Holy Rosary Parish in Duryea, PA. The homilist will be Rev. Msgr. Joseph G. Quinn, J.D., J.C.D. He will celebrate another Mass of Thanksgiving June 3 at noon at St. Thomas More Parish in Fairfield.
Father Piotr Koziolkiewicz
Father Piotr Koziolkiewicz will return to his native Poland on June 3 to celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish-the 445-year-old church where he received the sacraments of Christian Initiation.
"The first Mass is a very significant event in the life of a priest (because) it is the transition point between seminary formation and the beginning of priesthood life." It will be a moment, he stressed, that he wants to share with family and friends of his homeland.
Father Koziolkiewicz attended the Diocesan Major Seminary in Legnica, Poland; the Papal Faculty of Theology in Wroclaw, Poland; Seton Hall University; and SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Michigan. His advanced degrees include Master of Divinity, Papal Faculty of Theology earned in Poland and at the seminary level, Master of Divinity from SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary.
Preparing for the priesthood, Father Koziolkiewicz served locally at Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish, Harrison, Epiphany Parish, Cliffside Park and St. Aloysius Parish, Caldwell. He was a deacon at St. Gerard Parish in Michigan.
His most vivid memory from his seminary formation days was the cultural transition to the United States from Poland. "I discovered that the liturgy celebrated in some parishes is sometimes different than the one I experienced in my country," he said. "It took some time to adjust myself to the new reality."
Father Wilson A. Paculan
"A life of witness in ways of service, love and respect" is how Father Wilson A. Paculan, 35, views his priesthood. "My only hope is to remain faithful, open-minded and to persevere in the ministry."
Born in the Philippines, he attended Christ the King Mission Seminary and Divine Word Seminary in his native country. Father Paculan was a student at the Melbourne College of Divinity in Australia. His advanced degrees include a Bachelor of Theology and Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministry. As a deacon at St. Anthony Parish in Belleville, Father Paculan attended seminary at Holy Apostles Seminary in Connecticut.
Father Paculan will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Anthony Parish at 4 p.m. on May 27. Father Joseph Ferraro, the pastor, will be the homilist.
Father Jose H. V. Tovar
Father Jose Helber Victoria Tovar, who was born in the Republic of Colombia, entered the seminary when he was 17 year old. Before that he had worked on the family farm. Father Tovar attended the seminary in Colombia earning advanced degrees in Philosophy, religious education and Theology. He also served St. Columba Parish in Newark.
Reflecting on his childhood, Father Tovar said "living and working close to nature helped me to see God in all creation."
His vocation, explained Father Tovar, was "encouraged" by the pastor of his home parish. One of his greatest joys of seminary life was being able to spend time in the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament, he said.
Father Tovar, who served as a deacon at St. Thomas More Parish, Fairfield, looks forward to living "a wonderful priesthood and perhaps someday encourage vocations and help in the formation of new priests." Father John D. Gabriel, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Fairfield, will be the homilist at Father Tovar's first Mass of Thanksgiving at 3 p.m. on May 27.
Father Michael S. P. Trainor
When he was baptized, the priest told Father Michael Sean Patrick Trainor's parents that God had "special plans" for their son. The pastor's pronouncement came after doctors had told his parents he would not live for long because the lungs of their one-month premature son had not fully developed and that the baby had other health issues.
The 38-year-old Jackson, N.J. native remembers wanting to be a priest during his altar server days at St. Veronica Parish in Howell. Members of his high school graduating class voted him "most likely to become a priest."
He attended Ocean County College in Toms River and Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. Father Trainor received his priestly training at Immaculate Conception Seminary. As part of his field education, Father Trainor served at the Newman Center at Rutgers University in Newark, St. Michael's Medical Center also in Newark and Our Lady of Mount Virgin Parish in Garfield. He was a deacon at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Jersey City.
After college graduation in 1991, he went to work as an insurance company claims adjuster. Despite promotions and raises, Father Trainor explained, he discovered "there was something missing from my life-it was a void in my heart. I found that serving others through the Church was helping fill that void in my life."
In the summer of 2002, his parish, St. Michael in Cranford, was assigned a new weekend assistant: Father Richard Kelly who at the time was vocations director for the Archdiocese of Newark. Although thinking he was " too old" at age 32 to enter the seminary, Father Kelly spoke about vocations and told of a program at the seminary for older men.
"At that point I sat back in my pew and looked up to heaven and stated 'I get it already,'" Father Trainor recalled fondly. That very day he called Father Kelly to gather information.
"If I manage to make a difference to even one person; if I make just one person's life better and happier and perhaps help that person make it to heaven, then my life will have been worth living," he said of his calling to the priesthood.
Father Trainor will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at 2 p.m. on May 27 at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Jersey City. The homilist will be Msgr. Thomas P. Nydegger, vice rector of Immaculate Conception Seminary.
Father Maciej J. Zajac
Before entering the seminary in his native Poland, Father Maciej J. Zajac was "very involved" in high school life. His schooling in Poland included the Diocesan Seminary in Tarnow, the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow and the Diocesan Seminary in Radom at Cardinal Wyszynski University in Warsaw.
Father Zajac also attended SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Michigan and the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit. He holds advanced degrees of Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Religious Studies.
A deacon at both Our Lady of Refuge in Michigan and St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Summit, Father Zajac served locally at St. Elizabeth Parish in Wyckoff, St. Aloysius Parish in Jersey City, Most Sacred Heart Parish in Wallington.
"I do not aspire that my priesthood will be easy and dream-like," Father Zajac said. "I strongly hope that God and His people will help me rise to eventual challenges as much as they will share the joy of successes that are to come."
Father Zajac will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Teresa of Avila Parish on May 27 at 10:45 a.m. The pastor, Rev. Msgr. Robert E. Harahan, will be the homilist.