WASHINGTON (May 23, 2001) -- Twin brothers, an Olympic wrestler, a foster parent and a two-time leukemia survivor are among the more than 400 men being ordained priests in the United States this year.
A variety of backgrounds characterizes the men being ordained. Twenty-seven percent are under 30. Three percent are 60 or older.
Some vocations are a family affair. The twins, Paul and Patrick Gilbert, 26, are among the three men who will be ordained for the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire. The third, Robert C. Guillemette, 30, joins his brother, Father Marc Guillemette, the diocesan vocations director. Others have relatives who are ordained, including Christopher Looby, 30, of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York, whose father is a deacon and whose uncle is a priest. Andrew Brownholtz, 34, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and who was an electrician for eight years, also has an uncle who is a priest.
Sports figures predominantly in the lives of some. Cuban born Lorenzo Jesus González, 30, who will be ordained for the Diocese of Venice, Florida, was an Olympic wrestler and twice national Cuban wrestling champion. Sean McGraw, 30, a member of the Holy Cross Congregation, was a professional tennis teacher. Russell Hewes, 38, of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, was an Oklahoma state golf champion.
More than a quarter of the class are foreign-born. Gustavo Castillo, 26, of the Diocese of Los Angeles, came to the United States from Mexico when he was 15. Samuel Perez Tax, 29,
who is being ordained for the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, came to the United States from Guatemala, when he was 28 to be a missionary to the United States. Alphonse Mpia, 32, a member of the Missionhurst Congregation, is from Congo. Roberto Vera, 39, of the Diocese of Monterey, California, is an oceanographer from Mexico. Binh Nguyen, 27, of the Diocese of Orange, California, escaped from communist Vietnam when he was eight. In the Archdiocese of Newark, eight of the 12 men in the ordination class are foreign-born, coming from Congo, the Philippines, Canada, Spain, South Korea and Vietnam.
Some have a history of service to others. Kevin Michael O'Dell, 51, of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has been a foster parent. His career has included education and law enforcement, and he was recipient of an award for outstanding service from the State of South Dakota Department of Corrections. Paul Spellman, 46, of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was a certified public accountant at Price Waterhouse and spent time living and working at an orphanage in Bolivia. Oriol Regales, 29, of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was a lay missionary to Kenya.
Others have faced challenging life experiences. Jesuit Patrick Malone, 42, who served in the Peace Corps, survived leukemia twice. James Hall, 64, a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, has worked in pastoral ministry with the deaf and is deaf himself.
Careers span a broad range. Timothy Armbruster, 29, a member of the Society of the Precious Blood, worked on his family farm. Augustinian Richard J. Piatt, Jr., 32, has a master's degree in theater from Villanova University and has won awards for prop design and direction. John Robbins of the Archdiocese of Baltimore is a geophysicist and worked for 15 years at NASA. Paul Maillet, 42, also of the Baltimore Archdiocese, performed as a concert pianist and was a visiting professor at the Eastman School of Music.
Michael Kettenring, 57, of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, spent 32 years in broadcasting and amassed 200 national awards, including a Murrow Award for Best TV Newsroom in U.S. and Canada, and an Emmy Award for lifetime achievement. Martin Bancroft, Jr., 48, of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, and a marathon runner, was a model/actor for 14 years and worked with Mother Teresa.
Vito Perrone, Jr. , 43, of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, was a high school teacher and a director of religious education. Tod Ziegler, 39, of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, was an insurance agent. Kyle Vincent Dave, 29, of the New Orleans Archdiocese, taught in the public school system. Brian Nolan, 31, of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, has a communications degree, worked at Price Waterhouse, and co-hosted a local Catholic radio program
Some have children, including Robert Diebold, 59, of the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, who is an electrician and has four daughters and 12 grandchildren. William Callery, 60, also from the Fargo Diocese, has three grown children. Luis Alfonso Mesa, 53, of the Sioux Falls Diocese, is a father and grandfather. Albert Schifano, 62, of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, has two children and two grandchildren.
Some have military experience. Sean Vincent Knox, 35, of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, served in the U.S. Air Force for 7 and a half years. Robert Wedow, 35, of the Archdiocese of Denver, and Michael Hendrickson, 33, of the Diocese of San Jose, California, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Robert D. Burns, Jr., 56, of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is a teacher and spent nine years in the Marines. Yong Hyuk Lee, 37, of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, served in both the Korean and U.S. Armies. Bryan Keith Lowe, 43, of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, was a naval officer. Josef Vollmer-Konig, 63, worked in food service and spent 25 years in the Army Reserves.
Not all were raised Catholic. Peter Anderl, 28, of the Fargo Diocese and a physical therapist, converted to Catholicism five years ago, and entered the seminary one year later. Gregory Brian Wilson, 28, of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, also was a convert to Catholicism.
The men cited a number of influences that helped them decide on priesthood. Almost 90 percent spoke of a priest initiating a conversation about priesthood. Others spoke of the influence of campus ministry programs and other associations. Minh Cong Bui, 31, of the Orange, California diocese, who came to the United States from Vietnam when he was 22, spoke of the influence of the Vietnamese Vocations Association. Stuart Wade Gregory Crevcoure, 27, of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was encouraged to pursue priesthood by friends at his college Newman Center as well as the chaplain there.