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New priest opted to care for souls, rather than budgets

Father Joseph LaJoie’s path to the priesthood was stitched together with threads from across the Archdiocese of Denver.

His parents, Joe and Vickie, began the first stitch when they wed at Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora. Joseph, who was born in Wichita, Kan., made his first Communion at Queen of Peace after the family moved back to Colorado. And while other kids his age were playing cowboys and Indians, Joseph was “playing priest.”

When he made his confirmation at 14, he felt a spiritual thread leading him to the priesthood that tugged at his heart through his teens and young adult life.

Another thread to his father’s past surfaced after Joseph entered St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in August 2006 and he lived with other seminarians at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in northwest Denver. His father received his first Communion there and attended fourth-grade at the former parish school.

When Joseph became a deacon in 2012, he was assigned to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver and the last five months at St. Michael the Archangel in Aurora near his family’s home. Some of the parishioners recognized Joseph from when he worked at a nearby King Soopers while in high school and college.

On Dec. 7, the woven threads revealed his destiny when the 31-year-old was ordained at the Cathedral Basilica by Archbishop Samuel Aquila.

“Today our Lord chooses you to be a priest,” Archbishop Aquila said. “It is his word within your heart and soul that calls.”

The 90-minute ceremony and Mass began with Archbishop Aquila introducing Deacon Joseph LaJoie to the celebrants and congregation that included his fellow seminarians, priests, family and friends.  Shortly after the ordination, Father LaJoie emotionally embraced his parents and three younger sisters before bestowing a blessing on them.

The archbishop urged Father LaJoie to be a humble, understanding priest while administering the sacraments. He also thanked Father LaJoie’s parents for encouraging their son’s faith and giving him to the Church.

“You give up your mother and father, your brother and sister to follow Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Aquila said. “He comes first before anything else.”

The days leading up to the ordination were filled with excitement and pride for his family.

“When he entered the seminary, his great-grandmother was so excited,” his mother, Vicki said. “She told us she wished to live long enough for Joey to say her funeral.”

Great-grandmother Ann Dohmen, 96, watched the ceremony via a live computer feed from the cathedral to her Nebraska home with other family members there. The ordination can be viewed here: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/3170708/events/2598859.

“As parents, we raised our kids to be good people and we also want them to be happy,” his mother said. “Joey has put so much time and effort into this and he is so happy.”

A few days before the ordination, Father LaJoie reflected on his eight-year journey to the priesthood. His parents were initially conflicted when their son, the first to attend college, announced he wanted to quit school and enter the seminary.

“When I finally allowed myself to be open to the priesthood, I left both my degree in progress and my job in a matter of months to enter seminary,” Father LaJoie said.

He attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Colorado at Denver and had only a semester of college left for his accounting degree. He said his return to the sacrament of confession, after a 10-year absence, helped him reach his decision not to delay entering the seminary.

“He wrote me a letter from his heart explaining his decision and I finally understood,” his father, Joe, said. “I broke down and wept because he was able to articulate his passion and why this was his career path.”

His mother said the priesthood is her son’s true calling.

“Anyone who knew Joseph before the seminary and sees him now understands how he has transformed,” Vicki said.

While he continued his college studies and eventually received a degree in philosophy, his sister, Ashley, completed her master’s degree in counseling.

“We definitely were shocked when he told us he wanted to go to the seminary,” Ashley, 28, said. “But he was so ready to go; so while it was a surprise it was very cool, too.”

Father LaJoie acknowledged he faced challenges while in the seminary, including the death of his young aunt and a few weeks later the passing of Pope John Paul II, who he considered a hero.

“The struggles came on and off but that is good because it actively engaged me to really believe this is what Jesus wants me to do,” he said.

He credits the Blessed Mother and reciting the rosary daily for helping him find the right direction in his life.

Father LaJoie will continue to serve St. Michael’s through until Jan. 7. The next day, he’ll begin a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Stephen Parish in Glenwood Springs.

 View a clip of the Ordination Mass here

ordination

Roxanne King
Roxanne King is the former editor of the Denver Catholic Register and a freelance writer in the Denver area.
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