On Saturday, May 26, nine men will be ordained to the priesthood for service to the Archdiocese of Newark. The Ordination will take place beginning at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street in Newark.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, will be the celebrant.
The nine Ordinandi will join more than 700 priests who currently serve the 1.5 million Catholics of the Archdiocese, as well as Catholics and others elsewhere in New Jersey, in the United States, in the US military and in mission duty around the world.
Two of the new priests were born and raised in the New Jersey-New York area; the remaining seven come from Croatia, Colombia, Italy, Poland, and Venezuela.
They range in age from 27 to 53. Many have been involved in missionary work, parish ministry, prison ministry, hospital ministry and youth ministry. In choosing to answer God’s call to serve the Church as priests, each has cited the power of prayer, the Rosary, parents, grandparents, encouragement from a pastor, Religious Priests and Sisters, parish catechists, and the intervention of the Blessed Mother as key elements influencing their decisions.
Although each new priest took a different journey in responding to God’s call, all share a deep humility at being called to priesthood and the common desire to do the will of God and serve His Church.
(Biographical information on each of the new priests)
Father Anthony R. Di Stefano
Fr. Di Stefano, 53, was born in Brooklyn, NY. He received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Rutgers College-Rutgers University and a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers School of Law in Camden before earnings his Master’s degree at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall University.
On his journey to priesthood, Fr. Di Stefano first worked for some 18 years as an attorney. He says that he seriously began to listen to the call to priesthood following Hurricane Sandy. “I am convinced that the voice I heard was God himself asking me to answer his call and offer the gift of myself to Him in the priesthood, just like Jesus Christ offered himself up to the Father.”
Father Juan Carlos Velasquez Ducayin
Fr. Velasquez, 33, was born in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela. He earned a BA in Catholic Theology, and an M.Div and MA in Systematic Theology from Seton Hall University. He says he always knew he wanted to be a priest, and his parents provided him with a deep-rooted faith that was further strengthened by “many lay and Religious friends…without whose prayers and example of a Christian life this vocation would never have come to realization.”
Father Marcin Fuks
Fr. Fuks, 32, was born and raised in Jaktorów, Poland. He holds a BA and MA in physical education and pedagogy from the University of Łódƶ, Poland, and a MA in Systematic Theology and M.Div in Pastoral Theology from Seton Hall University. Making the pilgrimage to Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day in 2008 confirmed his call to priesthood. After hearing Pope Benedict XVI speak and meeting young people there, he said, “I felt peace and joy that I never felt before in my life.”
Father Joseph Anthony Furnaguera
Summit, NJ-born Fr. Furnaguera, 29, received a BA in Criminal Justice and Philosophy from Rutgers University-Newark and his graduate degree at the Pontifical North American College, Rome. He credits working in prison ministry and visiting jails to pray with inmates as having a significant effect on his decision to enter the priesthood. “One night a gentleman asked me if God could forgive him for what he had done,” Fr. Furnaguera says. “I saw in his eyes that it wasn’t a provocative question or false piety. He was on trial for murder. I wanted to be able to reach my hand out and tell him, with the authority of Christ, ‘I absolve you from your sins.’ I realized that we all need to hear those words.”
Father Sebastian Valencia Obando
Born in Medellin, Colombia, Fr. Valencia, 27, received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Seton Hall University. He says that his mother and local priests in Colombia inspired him to become a priest. Prior to entering the seminary, Fr. Valencia helped in the catechetical formation of children, and became involved in the dynamism of the charismatic renewal movement, which “contributed a lot to form the man and servant I am.”
Father Gabriel Perdomo
Father Perdomo, 33, a native of Puerto Boyaća, Colombia, earned his BA in philosophy from Seminario Cristo Sacerdote in Colombia, and his Master’s degree from Seton Hall University. Even as a teenager, he says, he had a passion for helping others, which led to his becoming a youth catechist in his parish in Colombia, and founded a group of young adults who helped prepare breakfast to share with poor children. “Through those activities, I realized that life has value and that we are called to spread love as Jesus commanded.”
Father Diego Navarro Rodriguez
Born in Albania, Colombia, Fr. Rodriguez, 36, took 20 years from the start of his formation for the priesthood as a teenager in 1999 until receiving his Master’s at Seton Hall University and his ordination. During those intervening years, he worked, explored Religious life with the Benedictines in Colombia, and then in 2013 entered Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University. Father Navarro believes that his decades-long journey to priesthood has made him more mature. “I believe that I am more realistic, less demanding, and I understand that God loves me so much that he has allowed me” to become a priest.
Father Jakov Vidov
Zadar, Croatia-born and raised Fr. Vidov, 38, credits both attendance at World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 and the strong community of his parish in Zagreb as catalysts toward his journey to priesthood. “After meeting with Pope Benedict, I remember a priest giving a reflection on Psalm 127: ‘If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor.’ At that period in my life, I had a good job, a nice place to live – everything that I believed should make me happy. But I was not in peace. I realized that I had been silencing the voice of God in my heart that was there from my early childhood, a voice that was calling me to become a priest."
Father Marco Vitrano
Born in Misilmeri, Italy, Fr. Vitrano, 30, lived in a small town with his older sisters and parents and was, by his own account, the center of attention and very judgmental. However, as he became more involved in his church community as a young adult, he grew spiritually and eventually considered a vocation. “I discovered as an adult that God loved me. I thank the Lord for the gift of the Church that gave my life meaning.”