Ordination Class is Largest in the Nation
On Saturday, June 28th at 11 a.m., the Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, will ordain thirteen men to the priesthood for the Diocese of Brooklyn. The ceremony will take place at the newly renovated Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph located at 856 Pacific Street in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn.
“These thirteen men represent the great diversity of ethnicity, life experience, and socioeconomic background of the Church of Brooklyn and Queens. Yet, all share the one desire to serve as a priest,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “I am privileged to ordain them as priests of Christ and welcome them to the Presbyterate of Brooklyn.”
Ordained as transitional deacons in August of last year, the thirteen men successfully completed their seminarian formation. They will serve the multi-cultural communities of the Diocese of Brooklyn, known as “the Diocese of Immigrants.”
These thirteen include eight born in the United States, and five foreign-born. They are: Jeremy Canna, Vincenzo Cardilicchia, Marcin Chilczuk, Jason Espinal, Felix Herrera, Cezariusz Jastrzebski, Evans Julce, Juan Luxama, Gregory McIlhenney, Peter Penton, Robert Pierre-Louis, Anthony Rosado and Carlos Velásquez.
The Ordination Mass will be live streamed by NET TV at www.netny.tv. NET TV is a cable network featuring news and information with a Catholic point of view, and is available in the New York area on Cablevision, channel 30, and on Time Warner Cable, channel 97, and nationally on Verizon FiOS on Demand.
Rev. Jeremy Canna, 27, was born in Marine Park, where he grew up as a member of St. Thomas Aquinas parish, Flatlands, and attended Sunday Mass with his parents, Maria and William, and younger siblings, Brandt and Noël. He became an altar server and was inspired by the example of his parish priests and Father Joseph Gancila, who served his pastoral year at the parish. He attended kindergarten at Good Shepherd School, Marine Park; grammar school at St. Agnes Seminary, Marine Park; and middle school in the Genesis Program at Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge.
For Father Canna, the door to the priesthood opened when his parents suggested he consider attending high school at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, Elmhurst. During freshman year, he was impressed by the priestly example of his teacher, Father Fred Marano, and he began “falling in love with all things Catholic.”
He went on to attend Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston; Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, L.I.; and St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y. During summers, he assisted in the diocesan Archives Office. He earned his bachelor’s degree with a double major in psychology and philosophy and a minor in theology at St. John’s University, Jamaica. He attained master’s degrees in theology and divinity from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception.
A gifted pianist and organist, Father Canna grew in his love for the faith through music ministry. He played the keyboard for daily Mass at the prep seminary and played the organ at Mass while living in Douglaston.
He left the seminary to study mental health counseling in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University, Manhattan, during the fall of 2008, and serve as organist at Holy Child Jesus, Richmond Hill, 2008-09. During that year away, he kept his heart open to the Holy Spirit and further discerned his path with guidance and encouragement from Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros, pastor of Holy Child Jesus. “Bishop Cisneros was a great example as rector (of Cathedral Seminary Residence) and has been like a father figure to me,” he said.
Father Canna felt the Lord was calling him back to the seminary and if he did not heed that call, he said, “I knew my life wasn’t going to make sense.”
He served his pastoral year at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Forest Hills, and his diaconate year in the neighboring parish of Our Lady of Mercy, Forest Hills. Both experiences enabled him to enter more fully in the lives of the people of God and minister with them in various ways, including music.
“We always imagine the angels and saints praising God through singing and music,” he said. “Music helps me to praise God and make a song out of my life.” Father Canna has a special devotion to the Blessed Mother, and in his priesthood, he hopes to serve with “the spirit of availability that the Blessed Virgin Mary showed at the time of the Annunciation.”
Father Canna will offer his First Mass of thanksgiving at St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands, on Saturday, June 28 at 5:30 p.m.
Rev. Vicenzo Cardilicchia, 43, discovered his calling to the priesthood through the Neo-catechumenal Way. Born in Turin, Italy, he attended public primary and secondary schools before moving on to Istituto Professionale Statale Giuseppina Colombatto, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in catering management. After completing a year of mandatory military service, he returned home to work as a caterer in hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs. In his spare time, he enjoyed street bikes, snowboarding and travel.
“However, something was missing in my life,” he said. “I sought happiness in relationships, sports and arts, yet remaining deeply unsatisfied.”
Although raised in a devout Catholic family, he drifted from the Church in his teenage years and underwent an existential crisis in his late 20s. “I was crying out for a spiritual life, for deeper meaning in my life,” he said.
He began contemplating God in nature and by February 2002, he felt a clear desire to return to the Church. At this same time, his parents had become deeply involved in the Neo-catechumenal Way and through prayer with them, he felt drawn into meditation by the Word of God. That spring, he entered the Neo-catechumenal community in his hometown.
In 2003, he attended a retreat at which Chapter 21, verse 17 of the Gospel of John was proclaimed. In the days and weeks after the retreat, Jesus’ command, “Look after my sheep,” continued to resound in his mind and heart. “I was touched by Christ’s invitation,” he said.
Following a vocational program and retreat, he discerned that the Lord was truly calling him to the priesthood. When his community invited him to attend Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary, based at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, Denver, Colo., he accepted.
As part of his pastoral formation, he was sent on a field experience to the Brooklyn Diocese to serve in St. Joseph’s Church, now the co-cathedral. “I spent three years in Prospect Heights and it was a blessing,” he said. “I watched the church go from ashes to glory.”
In August 2012, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio invited him to stay in the diocese and he was happy to give up the Rocky Mountains for city skyscrapers. He transferred to Redemptoris Mater Seminary, Kearny, N.J., and completed his studies at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception at Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy through St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and his master in divinity degree at Seton Hall. He served his diaconate year at St. Benedict Joseph Labre, Richmond Hill. “In all of this time of formation,” he said, “I saw the mercy of God. The prayer and generosity of many brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those in the Neo-catechumenal Way, have sustained me in my journey.”
His priestly role models include Father Florian Martin-Calama, rector of Redemptoris Mater, Denver; Msgr. Renato Grasselli, rector of Redemptoris Mater, Kearny; and Msgr. Kieran Harrington and Father Jorge Ortiz, pastor and parochial vicar of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, respectively. He is grateful to be ordained in the co-cathedral where he served as a seminarian, and thankful that his parents, Lorenzo and Anna, and older sister, Giuseppina, will be able to attend his ordination.
Father Cardilicchia will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, June 29 at 10 a.m. at St. Benedict Joseph Labre, Richmond Hill.
Rev. Marcin Chilczuk, 26, is Polish born, and will model his priesthood on the examples of St. Pope John Paul II and St. Padre Pio. Born in Gliwice, Poland, he is the oldest son of Jolanta and the late Krzysztof Chilczuk. He has one younger brother, Lukasz. The family attends All Saints Church, Sieradz.
He attended public elementary and high schools before entering SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Krakow, Poland, and then SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Mich., where he earned his master of divinity degree. While studying in Orchard Lake, he learned about the Brooklyn Diocese and was invited to visit.
“I really liked the diversity of the diocese,” he said. “There are so many cultures.”
He served summer assignments at Corpus Christi, Woodside, and Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen, Carroll Gardens. He served his diaconate year at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Ridgewood.
Priesthood was something he considered from childhood, having become an altar server after receiving First Holy Communion. Growing up, he said, he was “always connected with the Church.”
During high school, he thought more seriously about religious life. He attended religious vocation retreats and participated in walking pilgrimages to the national sanctuary of Our Lady of Czestochowa, where he prayed before an image of the patroness of Poland. As she gazed at him, and he at her, he realized the call to enter religious life was the deepest desire of his heart.
Father Chilczuk said his priestly – and saintly role models – are St. Pope John Paul II and St. Padre Pio. As a priest, he hopes to embrace John Paul’s “integrity” and “openness to different people.” He aims to follow Padre Pio’s example of “really listening to people” and speaking the truth with gentleness, especially in the confessional.
His mother and brother will come to the U.S. for the first time to attend his ordination.
Father Chilczuk will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Ridgewood, on Sunday, June 29 at 12:45 p.m.
Rev. Jason Espinal, 27, conveyed that evangelizing young people is the ministry closest to his heart. The son of Carmen and Jose Espinal, immigrants from the Dominican Republic, he was born in Williamsburg, and has one older sister, Yaniriz.
He grew up as a member of Transfiguration Church, Williamsburg, and attended the parish school. He attended Bishop Loughlin M.H.S., Fort Greene, and Murry Bergtraum H.S. for Business Careers, Manhattan. He went on to the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and also worked at a law firm in Downtown Brooklyn.
On some level, he always knew he was called to the priesthood. Growing up, he was mesmerized at Sunday liturgies and after receiving the sacraments; he stayed close to the church. He sang in the choir and participated in the parish youth group, which was connected to the Jornadas de Vida Cristiana Movement. He lived Jornada 139.
At age 18, then-parish Deacon Jorge Gonzalez asked him a life-changing question: “Did you ever think about the priesthood?” Something stirred in his heart and “the Holy Spirit didn’t let those feelings go away.” When he was ready to answer the call, Deacon Gonzalez guided him through the process.
He entered Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston, and studied at St. John’s University, Jamaica, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy with a minor in theology. He attended the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington, L.I., and St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers. He attained master’s degrees in theology and divinity from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception.
Along the way, he drew inspiration from his parish priests, especially longtime pastor, Msgr. Brian Karvelis, now deceased. He best remembers the monsignor’s “sanctity, his love for the people and real true love for the liturgy.” He is also grateful for the support he received from the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, who served in his home parish, especially Sister Peggy Walsh, C.S.J., and the late Sister Maryann Ricciopo, C.S.J.
He went on to complete his pastoral year at Immaculate Conception, Astoria, and his diaconate year at the Basilica of Regina Pacis, Bensonhurst. In both parishes, he said he derived the greatest joy from working with youth and young adults.
While he aspires to bring all people closer to God, Father Espinal looks forward to ministering with young people and accompanying them on their journeys of faith. Music will also play a role in his priesthood. A talented singer, he feels music helps people “to know and love the Lord” while enhancing the reverence and beauty of the liturgy.
Father Espinal will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish of Transfiguration, Williamsburg, on Sunday, June 29 at 11 a.m. Deacon Gonzalez will assist at the altar.
Rev. Felix Herrera, 27, was born and raised in Blessed Sacrament parish, Jackson Heights. He studied at Blessed Sacrament School; Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, Elmhurst; Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston; Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, L.I.; and St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers. He served his pastoral and diaconate years at Blessed Sacrament, Cypress Hills.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. John’s University, Jamaica, and his master of divinity degree from Immaculate Conception Seminary.
As a young child, he sat in awe of his pastor, Auxiliary Bishop Rene Valero, offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass and wondered how he could be up there on the altar. He sensed the bishop was a “man of great faith” and saw that manifested in the care and concern he had for his flock.
In fourth grade, he was invited to become an altar server and was honored to assist the bishop at Mass. “It was fun and nerve-wracking,” he said. “The greatest joy was the peace and tranquility I experienced when I was serving. I believe that was God’s way of saying, ‘This is for you.’”
He received support along the way from his parents, Felix and Rocio, who worked long hours to ensure the best education for their four children. “Their main goal for us was Catholic school,” he said. “They told us, ‘We work hard to give you a good education and the best education possible is Catholic school.’”
From his parish school to the prep seminary, he continued to discern his vocation and credits several priests with guiding him along the way. Among the priests he considers “true pathways to a life imaged in the likeness of Jesus,” are his former pastors, Bishop Valero and Msgr. Raymond Kutner; and his spiritual director, Msgr. Thomas Casserta, whom he calls an “amazing mentor and friend.”
But the person that had the greatest influence on his vocation was his paternal grandmother, Gloria, who nourished her grandson with faith and Ecuadorian food. She took him to Mass, taught him to pray the rosary and discussed God and the Church over home-cooked meals at her kitchen table. “Grandma was one of the main catalysts as to why I am here now,” he said. “We were best friends and still are.” His grandmother, parents, sisters and brother will be present for his ordination.
Father Herrera will offer his first Mass of Thanksgiving at Blessed Sacrament, Cypress Hills, on Sunday, June 29 at 12:45 p.m.
Rev. Cezariusz Jastrzebski, 28, realized the power of the priesthood as a teenager in his native Poland. The eldest of two sons born to Urszula and the late Cezariusz Jastrzebski, he grew up as an active member of Holy Trinity Church, Luban. His parents and maternal grandmother Adala took him to weekly Mass and taught him to pray the rosary.
He attended Primary School nr.6 in Luban; Pope John Paul II H.S. in Gryfów Slaski; the Metropolitan Seminary in Wroclaw; and SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Mich., where he received his master of divinity degree. During the course of his studies, he served a vacation assignment at Our Lady of Czestochowa-St. Casimir, Sunset Park, and summer assignments at Our Lady of the Angelus, Rego Park. He completed his pastoral year at Holy Trinity, Whitestone.
As a high school student, he was interested in history, biology and kickboxing. He had a girlfriend and many friends. He aspired to have a career in education or sports and wanted a nice house, a beautiful wife and some children. Still, he said, “I felt something missing in my life.”
While walking on the beach with his girlfriend one day, he saw lifeguards trying to resuscitate a man who had been drowning. A priest ran over and gave the man something only a priest could — general absolution. “This incident revealed to me the power of priesthood,” he said. “Only a priest can give absolution by the power of God.”
On that beach, he found what was missing in his life plan — his true calling, which is to serve God as a priest. He entered the seminary and when the opportunity arose to continue his studies in the U.S., he considered the exhortation of Polish St. Pope John Paul II: “Duc in altum!”
On his journey, he said he has received guidance and support from Msgr. Thomas C. Machalski, rector of SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, and Father Witold Mroziewski, diocesan director of the Polish Apostolate.
In his priesthood, he hopes to be an instrument of the Lord, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation. “Forgiveness is important for people, especially in today’s world,” he said. “People live like God is not present.”
He hopes to help people turn to God more and invite Him into their lives. His mother and younger brother, Szymon will attend his ordination.
Father Jastrzebski will celebrate his first Masses of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of the Angelus Church, Rego Park, June 28 at 5:30 p.m., and at Holy Trinity, Whitestone, June 29 at 11 a.m. He will celebrate his first Mass in Poland in July.
Rev. Evans Julce, was challenged to live his faith more deeply by a religious sister, and that challenge changed the course of his life. Born and baptized at Holy Cross Church, East Flatbush, he is the second of three sons born to Haitian immigrant parents, Joseph and Marie Julce.
He began his schooling at St. Francis Xavier, Park Slope, and transferred to St. Teresa of Avila, when his family moved to South Ozone Park from Brooklyn. He attended Bishop Loughlin M.H.S., Fort Greene; Leadership Secondary School, Manhattan; and Bayside H.S., where he developed an interest in film studies.
That interest became his major at Hofstra University, Hempstead, L.I., where he earned his bachelor’s degree in film studies with minors in English literature and philosophy. He planned to be a police officer, a public high school teacher or even a filmmaker, but never a priest. He planned to get married and have children, but never officiate over marriages and baptize children.
While at Hofstra, he became involved in campus ministry and joined the college’s pro-life group. He attended a pilgrimage to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January 2005. On that pilgrimage, he met Sister Frances Gabriel, a Franciscan Sister from Alabama, who asked him over and over: “What kind of Catholic are you?”
At the time, he was doing many good things in his life but he wasn’t going to Mass regularly and knew little about the Catholic faith. “The Lord chose those words, through her, to spur me on,” he said.
Prompted by her challenge, he delved into the history and teachings of the Church and was captivated by what he learned. He began praying the rosary and attending daily Mass at Our Lady of Loretto, Hempstead, L.I. It was there, while meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries, that he felt God calling him to be a priest.
He started exploring religious orders and monastic life before realizing that he wanted to serve the people of his home Diocese of Brooklyn. He enrolled in Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston, and began studies at St. John’s University, Jamaica. He went on to Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, L.I.; and St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y. He earned his master of divinity degree from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception.
As part of his formation, he served at Presentation B.V.M., Jamaica, before spending his pastoral year at St. Clare, Rosedale, and his diaconate year at St. Bonaventure-St. Benedict the Moor, Jamaica. In his priesthood, he looks forward to abandoning himself to the Lord’s will. He is most humbled by the prospect of administering the sacrament of reconciliation, which he sees as an opportunity for “conversion and great teaching.”
His parents will attend his ordination along with his siblings, Donald and Juvens.
Father Julce will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at Presentation B.V.M., Jamaica, on Sunday, June 29 at 9 a.m.
Rev. Juan Luxama, 35, is Haitian-born, and wants to be a sign of hope to the world. Born in Les Cayes, Haiti, he is the seventh of eight children born to Marie-Renee Jean-Pierre Luxama and Jean Duvalon Luxama. He grew up as a member of Eglise du Sacre-Coeur (Sacred Heart Church), Les Cayes, and attended the parish school, Ecole des Frere Du Sacre-Coeur, and College Saint-Jean des Cayes.
In August of 1996, his family immigrated to East Flatbush, where they joined Holy Cross parish. He attended John Adams H.S., Jamaica, and went onto earn his bachelor’s degree in biology at Medgar Evers College, Crown Heights, where he served as a laboratory adjunct professor. He attained his master’s degree in medical microbiology at Long Island University.
Having always wanted to make a difference in the world, Father Luxama considered the medical field as a possible path but knew there was only one way for his life. An altar server from a young age, he discerned his priestly vocation with the guidance of his family, especially his late cousin Msgr. Charlo Augustave, a priest of the Diocese of Les Cayes, who served summers at Holy Cross Church, East Flatbush.
Father Luxama admired how his cousin taught through his homilies and simple lifestyle to always have hope in God. “I am here today because of him,” he said, “and I know he’ll always be with me in spirit.”
He entered Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston, while studying theology at St. John’s University, Jamaica, and the Pontifical North American College, Rome, where he earned his baccalaureate degree in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. He’s attending Alfonsiana Accademia, Rome, where he will continue his studies toward a licentiate in moral theology.
He enjoyed summer assignments at Holy Child Jesus, Richmond Hill; St. Teresa of Avila, Prospect Heights; and St. Nicholas of Tolentine, Jamaica.
In 2006, he helped co-found the Life of Hope Center, a non-profit outreach program currently based at St. Jerome, East Flatbush, that provides a range of services to immigrants. Having watched the struggles his parents had when they immigrated to the U.S., he set out to ensure other immigrants have the resources they need.
In his priestly ministry, he wants to be a witness of hope, joy and service to God and His people, especially the immigrants and the poor. Among his other priestly role models are retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq, Father Thomas Pettei and Father Cuong Pham.
His parents and siblings will attend his ordination as well as one of his mentors, Father Stanley Klasinski, a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio.
Father Luxama will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish of Holy Cross, East Flatbush, on Sunday, June 29 at 3 p.m.
Rev. Gregory McIlhenney, 34, is proud to have been formed in the faith by his parents and parish religious education program. “Even though I attended public school from fourth grade until I entered the seminary,” he said. “God still found me and invited me to serve Him and the Church.”
Born in Port Richmond, Philadelphia, Pa., his home parish was Nativity B.V.M. He attended his parish school and Our Lady Help of Christians, Philadelphia, Pa. When his family moved to Cape May, N.J., they joined St. Raymond Church, Villas, now part of St. John Neumann, N. Cape May. He completed his elementary education in Cape May public schools and attended Cape May County Technical H.S., where he finished a three-year medical program. At that time, he aspired to be a pediatrician.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Galloway, where he met Father Jeff Burton, S.J., campus ministry chaplain. It was Father Burton who asked him if he ever thought about the priesthood. “This invitation changed my life forever,” he said. “Father Burton was the instrument God used to bring me to know, understand and accept the Lord’s call in my life.”
After college, he taught at his alma mater, Cape May County Technical H.S., and worked as associate director of operation in the Catholic Campus Ministry Center at Richard Stockton College.
In 2005, he took his first step toward becoming a priest for the Diocese of Camden, N.J., when he entered the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception at Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J. After three years, he left the seminary and accepted a position in student affairs and development at Belmont Abbey College, Charlotte, N.C.
Through the prayers and example of Father Burton, Father Mark Cavagnaro and Father Stephen A. Saffron, his road led back to the priesthood. He found himself drawn to New York City, where he had priest friends, and he reconnected with Camden’s former bishop, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.
He spent a year in discernment at Pope John Paul II House of Discernment, Cypress Hills, while working in Catholic Cemeteries and attending Mass at St. Matthias, Ridgewood. After much consideration, he petitioned to enter the seminary program for the Diocese of Brooklyn.
He earned his baccalaureate of sacred theology degree through the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome, at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, where he also earned his master of divinity degree. After ordination, he will complete his master’s in theology at St. Joseph Seminary. As part of his pastoral formation, he assisted with faith formation at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Forest Hills, and was also involved in faith formation during his diaconate year at St. Sebastian, Woodside. He also served in ministerial capacities at St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly, Totowa, N.J.; Church of the Resurrection, Marmora, N.J.; and Our Lady Hope, Blackwood, N.J.
Educating children in the Catholic faith has been a blessing for Father McIlhenney, who has several nieces and nephews. He has strong bonds with his family and enjoys close relationships with his siblings, Charles Jr., and Jennifer Lynn Sauners, and his parents, Charles Sr. and Elizabeth.
“I would not be where I am without the love and care of two amazing parents who have been an example of self-gift their entire lives,” he said. In his priesthood, he hopes to share the love he has been blessed to receive and offer his life as “total self-gift for the service of the Diocese of Brooklyn.”
Father McIlhenney will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Sebastian, Woodside, on Sunday, June 29 at 1:15 p.m.
Rev. Peter Penton, 55, knows that ordination day is the culmination of a nearly lifelong journey. Born in Manhattan, he was raised as a member of St. Bernard Church, Chelsea, and attended the parish school, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, Lenox, Mass. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education at the University of St. Francis, Joliet, Ill., and Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., respectively.
As a third grader, he became an altar boy and felt a “spark” when serving on the altar. He discerned his call to the priesthood through his high school years, but during college, he started dating and even considered marrying a long-time girlfriend. Yet that spark still lingered in his heart.
After graduation, he returned to New York where he taught for more than 20 years in public elementary and high schools as well as in Catholic school system of the Archdiocese of New York. For 1985-92, he took a break from teaching to travel the world as a flight attendant. In both fields, he became an advocate for unions in the workplace and justice for workers’ rights.
His journey took a turn when he began teaching at his alma mater, St. Bernard, in 1992. The pastor asked him to volunteer in the rectory and his life began to revolve around the parish. “That was when I started to discern on a deeper level,” he said.
He applied and was accepted by Franciscan Friars of the Province of the Immaculate Conception, Manhattan. He completed his postulancy in Boston, Mass., his novitiate in Onset, Mass., and started pre-theology studies at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, Mass.
His journey took another turn as he began to consider diocesan priesthood. He returned to New York in 1997 to teach again in the Catholic schools of the New York Archdiocese. Eight years later, he moved to Bellerose to be closer to work, and chose St. Gregory the Great Church to be his spiritual home. He became an active parishioner and Father Joseph Cunningham, then-pastor, encouraged him to pursue becoming a priest of the Brooklyn Diocese.
He completed a year of discernment at Pope John Paul II House of Discernment, Cypress Hills, 2008-09, and went on to theological studies and priestly formation at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington, and St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y. He earned his master of divinity degree from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception.
While completing his formation and studies, he served and temporarily lived in residence at Assumption B.V.M., Brooklyn Heights, while also teaching spirituality, life skills and GED preparation during summers at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, Wards Island, N.Y. He completed his pastoral year at Presentation B.V.M., Jamaica, and served as a transitional deacon at St. Luke, Whitestone.
In his priesthood, he aspires to be “a man of service,” and will look to the examples of priests who have accompanied him on his journey, including the late Msgr. Joseph T. V. Snee, former pastor of St. Bernard.
His siblings, Mary, Armando and Elvira, have been great supporters on his journey to ordination and he knows his late parents, Margaret and Peter, would be proud. “They were the pillars of this whole journey,” he said.
Father Penton will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Luke Church, Whitestone,Sunday, June 29 at 2:30 p.m.
Rev. Robert Pierre-Louis, Haitian-born, aspires to be “a priest according to the heart of Mary and Jesus.” Born in Port de Paix, Haiti, he is the only son of Francina and the late Nicholas Pierre-Louis. He grew up as a member of St. Louis de Montfort Church, Port de Paix. He attended his local elementary school, high school and college, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial and domestic electricity.
From age seven, Father Pierre-Louis said he “felt the appeal of the Lord” and knew he was called to be a priest. He became an altar server, parish sacristan, president of the liturgical and choir committees, and by age 16, his pastor entrusted to him the responsibility of formation for the altar servers. He later started the Youth Team of Our Lady, a young adult ministry at his parish.
As a young adult, he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to live with his grandmother while discerning his path. He was introduced to a member of the Community of St. John, based in Lyon, France, and felt drawn to this religious community. He entered formation in Princeville, Ill., and went to continue his studies and formation in France.
For his pastoral formation he was sent to Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, Orange, N.J., where he oversaw the altar server ministry, served as a catechist, helped with the Haitian choir and assisted with campus ministry at Seton Hall University.
While serving in the parish, he became aware of the shortage of diocesan priests in the U.S. and brought his concern to God in prayer. Through prayer, he felt God calling him to leave the community of religious brothers that had been his family for eight years and serve the Church in another way.
Eager to serve people from many nations, he applied to the Diocese of Brooklyn after having heard of its great diversity. He was accepted into the diocese and enrolled at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington, L.I., and then St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y. He earned his master of divinity degree from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception. He served a summer assignment at Holy Cross Church, Flatbush, and then spent his diaconate year at St. Michael Church, Sunset Park.
In his priesthood, he hopes to emulate the examples of Father Didier Marie, F.J., his novice master in the Community of St. John, and Father Kevin Sweeney, St. Michael’s pastor. Under their guidance, Father Pierre-Louis says he has learned more about himself and how to serve the people of God.
He is fluent in French, Creole and Spanish, and he loves to sing. He has devotions to St. Louis de Montfort, the Blessed Mother and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, whom he believes have guided him on his long journey to Brooklyn and Queens.
Father Pierre-Louis will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Michael Church, Sunset Park, on Sunday, June 29 at 12 p.m.
Rev. Anthony Rosado, 30, conveys that a life of faith is the fullest kind of life there is for him. Born and raised in Jackson Heights, he is the first-born child of Frances and the late George Rosado, who trace their roots to Italy and Puerto Rico. He grew up as a member of Our Lady of Fatima parish.
From the first notes he played on a piano at age five, Father Rosado fell in love with music. He attended The Garden School, Jackson Heights; Fiorello H. LaGuardia H.S. of Music & Art and Performing Arts, Manhattan, for vocal studies; and Manhattan School of Music, Manhattan, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music.
Outside of school, he sang in his parish choir and played the organ at Mass. He served as music director at St. Bonaventure Church, Jamaica, through his high school years. He wanted to become a professional musician who composed opera music, but during his senior year in college, he realized that the operas he composed were always sacred in theme. It was a turning point in his life.
“Once I realized that music was my own little way of sharing faith, I started to ask why not begin to share my faith at the broadest level, using every means at my disposal — namely, being a priest,” he said.
He completed his graduate degree and began his doctorate in sacred music at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., while praying and discerning his life’s vocation.
He soon recognized that while he loved music, it was not the direction for his life. At Catholic University, he had met the Paulist Fathers and was attracted to their mission of evangelization. He entered the order, professed first vows and served pastoral assignments in Toronto; Berkeley, Calif. and Grand Rapids, Mich. In that time, he became “absolutely confident” that he was called to be a priest.
While he was grateful for the three-and-a-half years he spent with the Paulists, he felt that God was calling him back to his roots — to serve the faithful in the city he knew best. In 2012, he entered formation to become a priest for the Diocese of Brooklyn. He completed his theological studies at Catholic University, where he obtained his master of divinity degree with a concentration in Hispanic Ministry.
“Reaching out to the Hispanic community is important to me,” he said. He served his diaconate year at St. Fidelis, College Point, where he ministered to the needs of both the English- and Spanish-speaking parishioners.
In his priesthood, he hopes to “bring people into an experience of God” and aims to follow the good example of Father Denis Herron, St. Fidelis’ pastor. “He has been tremendously open to broadening the scope of what church ministry is – not just spiritual, but social and cultural – and making church a place to fulfill all the needs of the people,” he said.
His mother and younger sister Andrea will attend his ordination.
Father Rosado will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Fidelis, College Point, on Sunday, June 29 at 11:45 a.m.
Rev. Carlos Velásquez, 26, was given the gift of an early vocation. Born in Fort Greene, he is the only son of Nicaraguan immigrants, Carlos C. Velásquez and Martha E. Solís from La Paz Centro. He has an older sister, Martha L. Velásquez, and a 13-year-old niece, Mercedes Spanoudakis.
He grew up as a member of Sacred Heart Church, Fort Greene, now part of Mary of Nazareth parish, and attended public schools, PS 46 and JHS 113, before enrolling in Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, Elmhurst. He went on to Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston; Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, L.I.; and St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y. He earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy at St. John’s University, Jamaica, and his master’s degrees in theology and divinity from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception.
As part of his formation, he served several summers at St. Mary Star of the Sea and St. Gertrude parish, Far Rockaway, while working at the Margert Community Corporation, a non-profit housing organization originally founded by that Far Rockaway parish. He also completed a summer assignment at DeSales Media Group. He served his pastoral year at the merged parish of SS. Peter and Paul and Epiphany, Williamsburg, and his diaconate year at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Prospect Heights.
For Father Velásquez, there was never any question as to what God’s will was for his life. “I have always wanted to be a priest,” he said. “I am very grateful that the Lord placed that desire in my heart at a very young age.”
Before he received First Holy Communion, he wanted to be an altar server; so much so that he would cry at the doors of church, begging his pastor, the late Msgr. Walter C. Murphy, to allow him to serve. “Finally, he said yes,” Father Velásquez recalled, smiling. “They had to cut one of the cassocks to fit me.”
Altar service was just the beginning. He went on to sing in the choir, serve as a catechist, organist and sacristan, and as a teenager, he volunteered in the rectory, where Sister Eileen Neary, R.S.M., gave him a steady supply of encouragement and support. “I grew up there; it was my second home,” he said.
Looking back, Father Velásquez credits Msgr. Murphy’s “joy in his life and ministry” with helping him to hear and answer God’s call. “Watching him celebrate Mass drew me into the beauty of the priesthood, the beauty of the Church,” he said.
In the years that followed, he found inspiration in other priestly role models, including Fathers John Gildea and James Cunningham, and Msgrs. Peter Vaccari and Kieran Harrington. “They all live lives of self sacrifice and yet are still joyful men,” he said. In his priestly ministry, he looks forward to bringing “the joy and peace of the Gospel to all those whom I encounter.”
Father Velásquez will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral on Sunday, June 29 at 2:30 p.m. Msgr. Vaccari will preach at the Mass.
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