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: Forming mind and heart in faith

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“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

People tell me pretty regularly that we should not over-intellectualizing the faith — making the Church simply about ideas, doctrines, and rules. I agree that this can be a problem, but we also have to guard seriously against an opposite problem — emotionalizing and privatizing faith. We are blessed with a reasonable faith that can be studied in harmony with the truth of the natural world. Faith and reason strengthen one another, together leading our minds to conform to the mind of the God who is our Creator and Redeemer. In the midst of a secularism which pits science against the faith, it is important that we form our minds in the truth. Being rooted in the truth of our faith does not lead to abstract ideas, but to an encounter with the living God which sets our hearts on fire with His love.

The Dominicans have a long history of teaching the faith, founded originally to preach to those who had fallen into the dualistic heresy of Albigensian and producing the Common Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas. The papal theologian, who advised the pope, by tradition comes from St. Dominic’s Order. One of the most renown Dominicans teaching in the United States, Father Thomas Joseph White, has recently been called to Rome to teach at the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of the Dominicans. Father White, though a profound scholar, has produced a clear and accessible overview of the Catholic faith.

Father White’s book, The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Catholic University of America Press, 2017) offers a serious overview of the Catholic faith. It is not a scholarly work, but one that does challenge us to enter more deeply into the theological tradition of the Church, flowing from the Bible and Catechism, the Fathers, and especially the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. Part of the genius of the book is how it uses the theological tradition to address contemporary concerns such as evolution, sexual ethics, and relativism. The book contains seven major sections—Reason and Revelation, God and Trinity, Creation and the Human Person, Incarnation and Atonement, the Church, Social Doctrine, and the Last Things—as well as a robust epilogue on prayer.

Father White challenges us to “to be an intellectual. . . to seek to see into the depths of reality” (1). As intellectual beings, we have been created in the image of God and are called to enter into his truth and life. Therefore, White reminds us that “every person has to accept risk in truth’s call to us. Even religious indifference is a kind of risk, perhaps the greatest of all, for if nothing is ventured, nothing is gained. The mind is reason’s instrument, but the heart its seat” (5). Therefore, the ultimate questions lead the mind into prayerful contemplation of the truth. Theology cannot remain an intellectual enterprise alone, but must lead us to encounter God in prayer: “Prayer is grounded in our natural desire for the truth. When we pray we are trying to find God, to praise him, and to see all things realistically in light of him. In a sense, then, prayer stems from a search for perspective” (288).

Our faith forms us as a whole person and shapes our feelings and desires according to what is highest. Father White rightly points out that “heart and intelligence go together” (49). When it comes to God, intellectual theory is not enough, as he calls us to know him in a “concrete, personal, affective relationship” (48). This does not mean that we can dispense with theology. Quite to the contrary, “we want to get right who God is, and what the mystery of Christ is, so that we can be in living contact with divine love” (42). God speaks to us so that we may come to know him by exercising our minds to know the truth given us through the Church (36).

Knowing God is the work a lifetime and our eternal vocation. We can strengthen our faith by studying theological truths and deepening our capacity to contemplate divine things. Father White’s book will help us all to be theologians, entering into the practice of theology as faith seeking understanding. As we come to know God more, it should lead us to fall in love with him more deeply, strengthening our relationship with him and preparing us to see him face to face.