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: Pilgrimage: A journey through Church history

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“Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Paul proclaims these words the end of the book of Acts, capping off the biblical narrative of the work of the Apostles. The story of salvation history doesn’t end with the death of the Apostles, however, but continues in the life of the Church, fulfilling the words of Paul. The Gentiles have accepted the Gospel and have built up the Kingdom of God on earth. This is our story and we continue it.

If you want to know how the story continues after Acts, I’ll be teaching a class through the Denver Catholic Catechetical School this year, called “Pilgrimage: A Journey through Church History.” It begins with the early Church and follows the story to today. The class explores the Church Fathers, the fall of Rome, the building of Christendom, the High Middles ages, the Reformation (perfect for the 500th anniversary this year), the expansion of the missions around the globe, the modern revolutions, and the Second Vatican Council. We’ll be looking at and discussing the most important historical sources and exploring the art of the various time periods. We’ll be entering into the Church’s story by allowing the key figures and events to guide us.

We see one turning point in the story in the year 430. St. Augustine lay dying in Hippo as the Vandals prepared to sack and conquer the city. Augustine lived at the end of an age as the Roman Empire slowly crumbled, but also at the beginning of a new Christian one, an age he helped forge. The great doctor of the Church thought through the implications of the rise of Christianity in an age of political decline and saw right into the heart of history. History, unlike the focus of our textbooks, finds its true course not in politics or economics, but through love.

Augustine posited that all mankind belonged to one of two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. One city took its shape by loving God before all else and the other in a love turned inward on oneself. Augustine taught us that we live as citizens of our true homeland above even within the midst of this passing world: “The glorious city of God is my theme in this work. . . . I have undertaken its defense against those who prefer their own gods to the Founder of this city—a city surpassingly glorious.” Augustine’s teaching laid the foundation for a new Christian civilization, Christendom, which sprang up amidst the ruins of Rome in Europe.

One young man unexpectedly began building the foundations for this new civilization. He was studying within the ruins of the decadent city of Rome in about the year 500 and fled the temptations of town to live as a hermit in the wilderness. Eventually, others flocked to him and he laid the foundations for monasticism throughout Western Europe. The monasteries provided the foundation upon which a new society was built. St. Benedict, for this work, has been recognized as a patron of Europe and a true father of Christendom. His Rule does not seek to build up the earthly city, but looking to the City of God to “hasten to do now what will profit us for eternity.” And this is the key to Catholic culture and history: seeking the lasting the city helps us to live better in this life, with wisdom, courage, and hope.

We are all pilgrims, living in exile in the city of this world, and journeying toward the heavenly Jerusalem: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Heb 13:14). And yet we have to build a city on earth and looking to the past provides inspiration for this great project. This is why we should study Church history, especially as our culture goes through a period of upheaval, not unlike St. Augustine’s time. We need the witness and the legacy of the saints and doctors to guide our pilgrimage as we continue the story of the Church. Looking to the past helps us to plot out our own path on our journey to eternal life.

Class details

“Pilgrimage: A Journey Through Church History,” John Paul II Center, Denver. Tuesdays, 9:00 AM. Information Sessions: Aug 1 and Sept 5, 9:00 AM. Classes begin Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Register at: https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1968327