Meet Denver’s newest transitional deacons, ordained Feb. 10

On Saturday, Feb. 10, four seminarians studying for the Archdiocese of Denver were ordained to the transitional diaconate, putting each of them one step closer to the priesthood.

Adam Bradshaw attends St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver; Julio Cesar Amezcua and Mateusz Ratajczak both study at Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary in Denver; and Witold Kaczmarzyk attends Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Detroit, Mich.

Adam Bradshaw

Adam Bradshaw was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and lived what he calls a “pretty typical” life. His family moved to Golden, Colo., in 2005, an he worked at the gift shop at Coors brewery for six years, up until he entered seminary. His home parish is St. Joseph’s in Golden, which is where his faith was planted and fostered. He went through the RCIA program there, which is when he first felt the tug from God toward the priesthood. After being fully received into the Church, he felt on fire for the Lord, and decided to enter the seminary. “I knew God was calling me to something so much deeper than the life I had been living up to that point,” he said. As he gets closer to becoming a priest, Bradshaw is most excited to “bring Christ into the lives of all his children and to administer his sacraments.” St. John the Baptist played a vital role in his discernment of the priesthood, and he requested that Venerable Satoka Kitahara’s name be sung during his ordination, a holy Japanese woman who served the poor in Tokyo after World War II.

Julio Cesar Amezcua

Julio Cesar Amezcua hails from Madrid, Spain, where he was born and raised into a family of five. “My childhood was a happy one,” he recalled. He attended Catholic school and grew up playing soccer and riding horses. When he turned 21, he moved to Denver to study psychology at Metropolitan State University of Denver. It was there he met Father Angel Perez-Lopez, who helped him grow in his faith and eventually led him to join a community of the Neocatechumenal Way in 2009. After a discernment period of a few months, Amezcua felt the Lord was calling him to enter Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary. The missionary calling of his eventual priesthood is very appealing to him. “This is what excites me the most,” he said. “It means that the Lord can take me anywhere in the world at any moment.” Amezcua served in Boston during his mandatory year of mission outside of the seminary, and saw firsthand the challenges the Church in Boston is facing: intensifying secularization. “This event opened my eyes to the difficulties that we can face in Denver if we don’t evangelize,” he said.

Mateusz Ratajczak

Born in Pila, Poland, in 1989, Mateusz Ratajczak is the eldest of six children. He became attracted the priesthood as early as eight years old, when he began serving as an altar boy. He lost his attraction to this vocation during his teenage years, where he rebelled against his family and his faith. However, at the age of 18, the Lord called him back to the Church through the Neocatechumenal Way, and he eventually entered Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary in Denver. He believes it was through the seminary’s patron saint, St. Casmir, that he was sent to Denver. Ratajczak spent three years on mission in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, which he said was a “time of desert” for him, “During which I could experience God’s providence daily.” As he gets closer to the priesthood, Ratajczak said he wants to “share with others the immense mercy of God I experienced in my life. I am very excited to share the Good News of the Resurrection and communicate it through preaching and the sacraments.”

Witold Kaczmarzyk

As a child growing up in Poland, Witold Kaczmarzyk was taught by his parents that “Without God, I could do nothing.” He grew up in a devout Catholic family that cared very much about his education. In 2010, Kaczmarzyk was a student of the faculty of Physics at Warsaw University of Technology, and it was around this time that he began reading the bible to delving deeper into his faith. He would speak with other students about his faith, and it was due to them that his vocation “came to the surface,” he said. He received his parents’ blessing to drop out of the university and began to study theology. After working as a science tutor, a sales clerk in a furniture factory and falling in love with a girl, Kaczmarzyk felt that the Lord was calling him to enter the seminary, so he did. He began attending a seminary in his home diocese of Kalisz, Poland, and eventually transferred to Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Detroit, which specializes in training Polish seminarians to serve in the U.S. He is most excited to “love, serve and walk” with the people of the Archdiocese of Denver in their journey of faith.

Featured image by Anya Semenoff

COMING UP: New pipe organ installed at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary

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If a seminary’s primary role is to form the priests of tomorrow – a divine task – then it’s only fitting that the instrument used for adoration and worship during that formation be equally as divine in nature.

A brand-new pipe organ was installed at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in January, replacing the electric organ that’s been there for the past 20 years. The organ contains over 1,500 individual pipes that fill Christ the King Chapel with the sounds worthy of an angelic choir and was custom-made by Kegg Pipe Organ Builders based out of Hartsville, Ohio. The organ cost $500,000 to build and was funded entirely by private donors.

The electric organ was in dire need of replacement after a dead squirrel was discovered in its components and was causing all sorts of malfunctions.

Pipe organs are a much more practical instrument to have than an electric organ, said Mark Lawlor, associate professor at St. John Vianney. Pipe organs last at least 100 years as opposed to the typical 20-year lifespan of an electric organ.

“We’d be buying four electric organs for [what will last 100 years],” Lawlor said.

More than just practical, there is a distinct difference in the sound produced by a traditional pipe organ versus an electric organ. Electric organ sounds are produced digitally; the pipes on a pipe organ are produced organically with air, similar to the way a human voice speaks, and in the case of the Kegg organ at the seminary, it allows for a wide range of sonic dynamics that allow the faithful to enter into more ardent worship.

Mark Lawlor performs on the new pipe organ installed in Christ the King Chapel at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary during the blessing ceremony Feb. 13. (Photos by Andrew Wright)

“It surrounds you with the sound,” Lawlor said. “But as loud as it can be, it can also be so hush, and so angelically soft.”

In addition to the organ’s principal sound, its console contains a variety of different knobs that enable the player to produce a wide range of sounds that fall within the woodwind family of instruments, from a clarinet to a flute. However, the organ also features a trumpet and a brighter-sounding pontifical trumpet, which Lawlor says he only plays for Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Cardinal J. Francis Stafford.

The six-man crew from Kegg built the organ at their workshop in Ohio, then essentially disassembled it, brought it to the seminary and rebuilt it there. They spent two weeks voicing each pipe individually so they all sound even.

It truly is a sight – and sound – to behold.

“It’s custom-made for [Christ the King Chapel], and that’s where the artistry comes in,” Lawlor said. “The master builder was the one who did that. He has great ears, knows what will fit the room and he did it specifically to the men’s voices.”

Christ the King Chapel is utilized many times in the weekly activities of the seminary – from seminarian formation to permanent diaconate formation to various retreats and workshops – which means that the organ is also used a fair amount in any given week.

What’s exciting to me is if you were a priest and graduated from [St. Thomas Seminary] in the 1950s, you will hear some of the same sounds as the guys in 2050, because we’re still using that organ. We’re tying the whole institution together.”

“We use [the organ] three to four times per day,” Lawlor said.

The organ is an integral part not only to the seminary, but also to the Catholic Church as a whole. Along with the voice, the organ is the preferred instrument for liturgical music. The way an organ functions is congruent with how the human voice functions, and they complement each other perfectly, Lawlor said. Plus, where else do you find an organ besides a church?

“You don’t hear the organ anywhere else, and that’s what makes it special,” Lawlor added.

The original St. Thomas Seminary had a pipe organ made by Kilgin that was replaced with the electric organ in 1997, but many of the original pipes were still intact and were used to construct the new organ. This organ contains 900 new pipes constructed by Kegg, while around 600 of the pipes are from the original 1930s Kilgin organ – meaning some of the same sounds from the 1930s are still being echoed throughout the seminary today.

“What’s exciting to me is if you were a priest and graduated from [St. Thomas Seminary] in the 1950s, you will hear some of the same sounds as the guys in 2050, because we’re still using that organ,” Lawlor said. “We’re tying the whole institution together.”