Priestly ordination on Fatima centennial a reminder of Mary’s role in priesthood

It’s not every year that a priestly ordination falls on the anniversary of one of the Church’s most celebrated events.

On May 13, the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, eight men will be ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Denver. We caught up with each of them ahead of their big day and asked about the significance of being ordained on such a special day.

Peter Wojda

Deacon Peter Wojda came to realize his call to the priesthood after spending time as a missionary with The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). After several years of discernment, he realized that he had discerned as much as he could outside the seminary; the next step was to enter.

For Deacon Wojda, being ordained on the 100th anniversary of Fatima is a blessing.

“God has a particular plan for me as a priest. I did not choose this date but God did. He is calling me to grow in love of Mary, the Mother of God, and be guided by her in my priesthood,” Deacon Wojda said.

“I know that she also loves me and desires me to have that same love for all of her spiritual children as I serve them as their priest. I want to have a pure and sacrificial love like Mary has.”

Father Wojda’s first Mass will be at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Longmont.

Shaun Galvin

After experiencing an encounter with God at a CU Boulder Awakening retreat, Deacon Shaun Galvin started to get involved his faith, which then led him to discern his vocation and decide to become a priest.

“It is quite an honor to have my ordination day on such a special occasion as the 100th anniversary of Fatima,” Deacon Galvin said.

“I look forward to continuing to grow in my relationship with our Lady, particularly as a priest, as priests are honored with a special identification with her son.”

Father Galvin’s first Mass will be said at St. Joseph’s Parish in Fort Collins.

Daniel Ciucci

Deacon Daniel Ciucci recounted seven years ago when he and some of his classmates dreamt ahead of their ordination and would marvel at the idea of being ordained on the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima.

“When we found out a few years ago that that was the date of the ordination, it was very thrilling,” Deacon Ciucci said. “I have gone through difficult moments throughout seminary and at each point I have re-offered my vocation to Our Lady of Fatima saying something to the effect of, “Mama, if you want me you’re going to have to work this out.”

In 2008, Deacon Ciucci was studying in Spain and made a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal, which he said was very impactful, and especially reinvigorating for his devotion to the rosary.

“Our Lady is a powerful intercessor and is tenderhearted; she always leads us to Jesus,” he said.

Father Ciucci’s first Mass will be at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Boulder.

Nicholas Larkin

Deacon Nicholas Larkin was inspired to become a priest by St. John Paul II. After watching the broadcast of the saint’s visit to Denver in 1993, he decided that he wanted to become Pope — but family members pointed out that being a priest first was necessary. Now, his ordination to the priesthood takes place on the anniversary of one of St. John Paul’s greatest devotions: Our Lady of Fatima.

“I cannot but help but see the hand of Providence in being ordained on the 100th anniversary of Fatima. I entered seminary 9 years ago, right out of high school. And without a doubt I know that it has been Our Lady who has gotten me to this moment,” Deacon Larkin said. “Our Lady has played a vital role in forming my priestly heart and identity. She, more than anyone else, has taught me to ponder the mysteries of salvation prayerfully in my heart.”

“And Her purity has strengthened me in living out my celibacy joyfully,” he continued. “To be ordained on the 100th anniversary of Fatima is to be absolutely assured that She has me under Her mantle, and …that she will be watching over me in my own journey towards holiness. My priesthood will be consecrated to Her Immaculate Heart.”

Father Larkin’s first Mass will be said at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

John Mrozek

Seminary has been a long and difficult road for Deacon John Mrozek. Though he felt at times he wasn’t going to make it through, it was the constant guidance of Mary who he says gave him the strength and discipline to persevere.

“I do not think I would have made it past the first day without Mary,” Deacon Mrozek said. “It was by her that I received my foundational call to be ordained. My Mother and Queen was most important to my vocation.”

Deacon Mrozek said he tends to lean toward a Marian spirituality, and to that end, being ordained on the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima is the greatest ordination gift God could have given him, he said.

“I see this ordination date as a gift from my King and Queen, as reminder to be humble, and as [my] life’s mission ‘to do whatever He tells you.’”

Father Mrozek’s first Mass will be said at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Littleton.

Daniel Eusterman

As a parishioner at Our Lady of Loreto, Deacon Daniel Eusterman had several great examples of the fruitfulness of the priesthood that plant the seed for his vocation. When he attended the ordination of one of those mentors, Father Matt Hartley, Deacon Eusterman felt the tug on his heart more than ever before.

“To witness his laying down of his life for the Church as a priest as someone who is happy, who is young and relatable, and who I thought was cool and still think is cool — his example especially not just made me interested or open to the idea of considering it, but it actually started making it pretty desirable,” he said.

Now, on the eve of his own ordination to the priesthood, fittingly on the 100th anniversary of Fatima, Deacon Eusterman is especially reminded of the role Mary has played in his own vocation.

“Having our ordinations on her feast frames and gives new meaning to the whole vocational project that seminary has been leading up to,” he said. “[Mary] has shown me who and what the Church, my bride, is, what it means to be attentive to the actions and desires of God, and what it means to be willing to walk with Christ in his mission in for the salvation of people.”

Father Eusterman’s first Mass will be at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield.

Francesco Basso

Born and raised in Italy, Deacon Francesco Basso’s vocation to the priesthood was born and fostered upon joining the Neocatechumenal Way. His father was killed in the Bologna Massacre of 1980, and the suffering which his widowed mother and sisters was a source of pain for him.

However, his heart was softened as he grew in faith, and at the age of 35, he came to Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary in Denver to study to become a priest.

Deacon Basso’s May 23 ordination has significance to him not only because it is the 100th anniversary of Fatima, but also because it is his mother’s birthday.

“The Virgin has helped me through this journey of my vocation,” he said. “Being ordained on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima is also proof that my vocation is a miracle — like the dancing sun. My friends who knew me when I was young cannot believe that I will be ordained a priest.

Father Basso’s first Mass will be at St. James Parish in Denver.

Boguslaw Rebacz

Deacon Boguslaw Rebacz was ordained to the diaconate last year in the Italian chapel of the Divine Mercy Shrine, dedicated to St. Faustina. Originally from Poland, Deacon Rebacz studied for the priesthood at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Lake Orchard, Mich., which also has a location in Krakow. The seminary specializes in training young Polish seminarians who wish to become priests in the U.S.

After visiting four dioceses, Deacon Rebacz felt most called to serve in the Archdiocese of Denver. As he enters the priesthood on the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, Deacon Rebacz said he is reminded of Mary’s message calling all mankind to prayer, penance and conversion, as well as her example of steadfast trust in the Father.

“This is the way to obtain God’s mercy,” he said. “As a priest I will accompany people on this journey of their encounter with Christ especially through the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. In Fatima, Mary pointed to the destroying power of evil; she also pointed to the means to overcome it.

“Mary is for me the perfect example of trust in God and fulfilling the will of God. She brought up Christ, the High Priest and she also has a special care for those who are called to Christ’s priesthood,” he said.

Father Rebacz’s first Mass will be said at Holy Name Parish in Steamboat Springs.

COMING UP: Remembering John Paul the Great: Three new books

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When teaching college students a few years ago, I was shocked when I asked my students to tell me what they knew about Pope St. John Paul II. It wasn’t much. We went on to read George Weigel’s definitive biography of John Paul, Witness to Hope (Harper Perennial, 2004), and the students were blown away by the greatness and compelling life of the Pope. The class made me realize how quickly the memory of even monumental figures can fade away if we do not work deliberately to continue their legacy.

The first place to begin “getting to know” John Paul better would be Weigel’s biography, mentioned above, along with the sequel, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (Random House, 2010). In addition, I would recommend John Paul’s interview book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (Knopf, 1995) and his trilogy of greatest encyclicals: Fides et Ratio, Evangelium Vitae, and Veritatis Splendor. The great Pope left us an enormous legacy of writings to explore, but especially relevant now are his “Letter to Families,” Familiaris Consortio (an exhortation on the family), and the Theology of the Body.

For those looking go deeper in their knowledge of John Paul, three new books can help us to remember and continue his great work for the renewal of Church and society.

George Weigel, Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II (Basic Books, 2017)

The final volume of a tryptic of the Pope, Weigel provides a memoir of his interactions with John Paul and an account of how he became his biographer. For those who love Witness to Hope, Weigel provides a fascinating account of how the book came about, tracing his work within the Vatican, Poland, and across the world. It narrates his own story as seminarian, lay theology student, writer, and his activity in politics, including writing speeches for a leader of the pro-life movement in Congress. His work caught John Paul’s attention, especially his book chronicling the Church’s role in the fall of Communism, The Final Revolution. Weigel gives testimony to the providence that prepared him to write John Paul’s biography and the friendship they developed in their common witness to the hope that comes from Christ.

Paul Kengor, The Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century (ISI, 2017)

This book traces not only the remarkable working friendship of Regan and John Paul, but narrates the entire story of the struggle between European Communism and the Church. Surprisingly, the book’s common thread comes from Our Lady of Fatima, predicting Russia’s errors and uniting the faithful in prayer, as well as guiding not only John Paul but also Reagan. The two men recognized their providential role in what Reagan called the Divine Plan to end Communism in Europe. Portraits of many other key characters (on both sides) emerge: Stalin, Pope Pius XII, Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bishop Fulton Sheen, and Gorbachev. Kengor presents extraordinary connections between the two figures: both were actors, deep men of prayer, survived assassination attempts only months apart, and played key leadership roles in the world. The book presents ground breaking research to make a compelling and undeniable case that the two great men worked together closely and succeeded in bringing freedom to Eastern Europe.

Pope St. John Paul II/Karol Wojtyła, In God’s Hands: The Spiritual Diaries 1962-2003 (Harper One, 2017)

This book gives us inside access to John Paul’s prayer life by presenting notes of his regular retreats from his time as a bishop through most of his papacy. It’s somewhat misnamed, as the book consists in his notebooks responding to the retreat material, not a normal diary. It reinforces what we know about the Pope: his strong focus on the Eucharist, his Marian spirituality of uniting our intentions to her fiat, and his concern as a bishop for the evangelization of his people. There are many gems, such as the following: “The most appropriate effects of the redemption in the human being are deeds that stem from it – deeds that through Mary are rooted in Christ, through one’s belong it Her, and that are simultaneously in accordance with Christ’s law, with His gospel” (10). The book will not disappoint those looking to enter more deeply into the spirituality of John Paul.