New Priest Class Boasts Variety Of Religious, Ethnic Backgrounds

April 25, 2011 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—A deaf man, escapees from Vietnam, grandfathers, military veterans, and ministers who converted from other religions are among the men being ordained to the priesthood in 2011.

Men ordained range in age from 25 to 63. Their range of backgrounds shows on, and on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

The sites host results of an annual survey of ordinands conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) for the USCCB Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. The survey is reported each spring, when most dioceses and religious orders in the nation ordain new priests.

Almost 10 percent of the new priests have military experience. Dennis Suglia of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, commanded a 75-man U.S. Marine Corps unit overseas. David Severson of the Diocese of Helena, Montana, served in the Army in combat during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Cole Kracke of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis served in Spain in the U.S. Navy.

Some are twins. Nicholas Reid of Jefferson City, Missouri, has a twin brother who is an Air Force pilot. Barry Clayton of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has a twin sister. Matthew Hardesty of the Archdiocese of Louisville, and Jason Stokes of the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, have twin brothers. Adaly Rosado of the Archdiocese of New York has a twin brother who is on the New York Police Department.

In the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, two brothers, Matt and Terrence Coonan, will be ordained to the priesthood on June 11. June of this year marks 60 years since Pope Benedict XVI, then Joseph Ratzinger, was ordained alongside his brother Georg. George Michael Gossett of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, has a brother still in the seminary studying for the priesthood.

Ninety-four percent of the class report some fulltime work experience before entering the seminary. Charles Okeke of the Archdiocese of Atlanta taught medical microbiology at the University of Nigeria and worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at universities in Germany, Japan and the United States. Donald Bedore of the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas, managed a grocery store meat department and was a meat cutter. Quan Tran of the Archdiocese of San Francisco was an attorney for 12 years. Daniel Hess of Cincinnati also is an attorney. Eric Ayers of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, was a professional gardener at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s historic house and property. Michael Perucho of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles taught high school chemistry and physics. Radmar Jao, of the Jesuits, was a working actor in Los Angeles. Jonathan Kelly, one of five men to be ordained for the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese, was an investment banker on Wall Street.

More than 90 percent of the class were baptized Catholic as infants, but eight percent of this year’s ordinands converted to Catholicism as adults. Warren Tanghe of the Archdiocese of Baltimore was an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism last year. John Johnson of the Louisville Archdiocese was an Episcopal priest for 21 years. Jeffrey Henry of the Diocese of Sacramento, California, was a Lutheran minister. Philip Petta of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, converted to Catholicism when he was 48 and entered the seminary two years later. Joshua Bennett of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana entered the church in 2002 at the Easter Vigil. Scott Caton, a 49-year-old husband and father of six children, was a minister in Congregational, Reformed and Presbyterian churches, and served for a short time as a Baptist minister. He became a Catholic 12 years ago.

While 80 percent of the ordinands are under 40 years of age, one percent is over 60. Jeffrey Stealey of the diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, is a father and grandfather. The seven new priest in the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, range from 26-year-old Keith Romke to 47-year-old Michael Chernetzki. Others in the class include Jonathan Bakkelund, 27; Christopher DiTomo, 33; Joseph Jaskierny, 28; Johnson Lopez, 29; and Adalberto Sanchez, 38.

Sixty-nine percent are of Caucasian background; 15 percent, Latino; ten percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, Hawaiian; and five percent, African-American. Notable is that while Asian/Pacific islanders constitute four percent of U.S. Catholics, they make up ten percent of ordinands who responded to the survey. Joseph Minh Nguyen of the Divine Word Missionaries in Chicago, escaped from Vietnam by boat and spent four years in a refugee camp in Indonesia, before becoming a Divine Word Missionary. Anthony Bui of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, also escaped from Vietnam by boat to a refugee camp in Indonesia. Dominic Phan, a member of the Dominican order, was one of the boat people who left Vietnam in 1989 for a refugee camp in Malaysia.

Some have had other significant formative experiences. Christopher Klusman of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has been deaf since birth. Timothy Renz of the Diocese of Madison Wisconsin donated a kidney to a fellow seminarian, who is now a priest. Frank Zero of the Rockville Centre Diocese is an Eagle Scout.


Keywords: ordination, priesthood, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, CARA, USCCB, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations

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