On Saturday, May 26 Bishop Thomas John Paprocki was to have ordained five men to the priesthood at an ordination Mass set for 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. As the men finished up their preparations for ordination, here is what Deacons Robert Johnson, Aaron Kuhn, Dominic Rankin, Mark Tracy and Deacon Brother Adam Zawadzki, OP Miss, had to say about their future lives as priests.
Deacon Robert Johnson
Illiopolis native Deacon Johnson has just completed his fourth year of theology at Mundelein Seminary. He is the son of Patty and Doug Johnson. His family also includes his sister Amber Jensen and her husband Jason and their children Will and Jack; sister Jen Moffitt and her husband Justin and their children Johnson, Caroline and Anna; and his brother Ross Johnson and his wife Julie and their son Thomas, with another baby due in June.
“I’m excited and humbled at the reality of being a priest,” says Deacon Johnson. “I really do not have the words for it besides I know this is the life and vocation that God created for me, the love that I want to center my whole life around. If I had to sum up how I feel in a word: Grateful.”
Deacon Johnson has chosen Father Bill Miller, a priest of the Diocese of Peoria and pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Galesburg, to vest him at his ordination. Father Miller has “really been a pastor to my family as a whole. He is a great mentor and family friend and a great witness for the caliber of priest I want to be,” he says.
The newly-ordained Father Johnson will celebrate his first Mass on Sunday, May 27 at Resurrection Parish in his hometown. “The last priest to have been ordained from Illiopolis was Father Bob Porter over 50 years ago,” he says. “It will be great to have him there to celebrate as well!”
After visiting with family and friends in Illinois, he and his parents, grandmother, aunts and uncles will fly to Rome. “We will be able to attend a papal audience with Pope Francis and have the opportunity to celebrate Mass at the tomb of my great hero, St. John Paul II,” he says. “We’ll also spend a few days in Assisi and get to visit Lisieux, France — hometown of my favorite saint, Therese — and the Normandy beaches and American Cemetery at Omaha Beach.
“After we get back,” he says, “I’ll attend the priesthood ordination of some very good friends in Atlanta, welcome a new niece into the world, and get moved … .”
As of July 1, the newly-ordained Father Johnson will be serving as parochial vicar of St. Boniface Parish in Edwardsville and also as chaplain at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
He says St. Boniface will be “a really great fit” and that he is very excited to work with Father Jeff Goeckner and adds, “I know he will be a great mentor.” As for serving at SIUE, he says, “I had a very deep conversion to the faith through the Newman Center in Champaign and then worked for FOCUS before seminary so I believe in the importance of good and authentic college ministryin my heart. I’m so excited to get to dive into my first years of priesthood.”
Deacon Aaron Kuhn
Deacon Kuhn, the son of Barbara and the late Thomas Kuhn, has just completed his fourth year of theology at Mundelein Seminary. He has seven siblings: Myra Kuhn, Father Melvin Kuhn, Marvin Kuhn, Myron Kuhn, Anaise England (husband Derek), R. Robert Kuhn and Matthew Kuhn. He also has three nephews: Thomas, Daniel and John England.
Deacon Kuhn grew up near Mendon on a dairy farm and considers St. Edward the Confessor in Mendon his “home parish.” He attended grade school at St. John the Baptist in Quincy, and he says, “We were involved (there) a lot. After St. John’s closed, I became a member of St. Francis Solanus.” He went to high school at Quincy Notre Dame and went on to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree at Quincy University and worked in Quincy for a number of years. His last full-time job before entering the seminary was at the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois as a parish financial coordinator.
Deacon Kuhn has asked his oldest brother to vest him. “He is a priest for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D.,” he says.
The newly-ordained Father Kuhn will celebrate his first Mass at St. Edward Church in Mendon on Sunday, May 27 at 2 p.m. He plans to spend the month of June visiting with his family, attending the ordinations of some of his classmates and celebrating Masses in parishes where he has served during seminary.
Beginning July 1, he will be assigned as parochial vicar at St. Peter Parish in Quincy. “I am familiar with the area and I am looking forward to working with Msgr. Leo Enlow and serving the parish and the people of St. Peter’s. I am especially looking forward to meeting and getting to know all of the parishioners.
“I have a great sense of peacefulness,” he says. “The past six years in formation at the seminary seem to have gone by very quickly and I am looking forward to serving the diocese and the people as a priest. I just want to thank everyone for their support and I ask them to continue to keep me in their prayers so that all I do may be done for the salvation of souls. Please also continue to pray for and support vocations.”
Deacon Dominic Rankin
Deacon Rankin is being ordained for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, but he had to travel a long way for his May 26 ordination. He has been studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and was ordained to the diaconate at St. Peter’s Basilica.
A Quincy native, he is a member of St. Rose of Lima Parish. His family includes his father and mother, Mark and Stephanie Rankin; his twin sister, Sister Mary Thomas of the Holy Name of Jesus, OP; his younger brother Alex and his sister-in-law Philomena.
“I was able to be at my brother’s wedding after Easter, and I have been looking forward to seeing him and his wife now that they are in the first months of married life,” he says. “My sister is not able to come to the ordination, but she’s chosen the ‘better part’ of spending that time in prayer for me. And I will go down to Alabama to visit her in the monastery and celebrate Mass for the sisters shortly after I get ordained.”
After spending a few days with his family and friends, Deacon Rankin says the final two days before ordination will have been spent with his diocesan classmates “praying and preparing to be priests in our diocese.”
“I chose Father Chris House to vest me because at a number of stages in my discernment he has played a huge role in my following the Lord’s call,” he says. “When I was filled with fear and uncertainty during the process of applying for the seminary, he was the one that reminded me to ‘be not afraid’ and continue on the path God had placed before me. After two years at Bishop Bruté, he was the one who asked on the part of the diocese if I would be willing to continue my studies in Rome. And I spent my first summer-parish assignment with him at Cathedral in 2016, learning so much about the life and ministry of the priest in the process,” he says.
“I am thrilled to receive the vestments of a priest from a priest who has inspired and encouraged me many times during these past years, and look forward to being a brother with him and all of the priests of the diocese.”
The newly-ordained Father Rankin will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Rose in Quincy at 10:30 a.m. on May 27. On June 3, he will celebrate Mass at Sacred Heart in Effingham at 10:30 a.m. and at Cathedral at 5 p.m.
As of July 1, he is appointed to graduate studies for the Licentiate in Sacred Theology of Marriage and Family at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome. He will be residing at the Pontifical North American College.
“The degrees in Rome are a bit different than in the States, so after three years here I finished my baccalaureate in theology, and have now begun a license — a kind of master’s degree — which I will finish in two years including that one as a priest,” Deacon Rankin says. “Studies will remain the same, though the second year will involve not only about 15 years hours of class each week, but also work on the final thesis paper that I will be completing next spring.”
Finally, he says, “Each day brings more excitement and joy for the graces that the Lord is preparing me for. (I offer) the biggest of thank you’s to everyone in the diocese. I am filled with joy at the thought of being a priest in the years to come, and I am so grateful for your prayers in these coming days.”
Deacon Mark Tracy
Deacon Tracy has just completed his studies for the priesthood at St. Meinrad Seminary. A member of Holy Family Parish in Mt. Sterling, he is the son of Jim and Jil Tracy. He has two brothers, Rob (wife, Natalie) and Ben (wife, Annie), and a sister Kelsey. He has two nieces, Molly and Sloane, and a nephew, Benjamin Jr.
As his ordination was approaching, Deacon Tracy said, “I am humbled, excited and filled with joy as I meditate on the words of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel that ‘it was not you who chose me, but it was I who chose you.’ In no way do I deserve the call and gift of priesthood. It is all God’s grace that I and anyone else are chosen by Christ to participate in his priesthood. Like Mary, our task is simply to say yes to the grace of being chosen by Christ.”
Deacon Tracy asked Father Tom Henseler to vest him at his ordination. “I chose him because he along with others from Holy Family Parish and St. Mary School in Mt. Sterling were the first ones to form me in the Catholic faith,” he says. “Father Tom was always a steady and reliable presence who helped to plant the seeds of faith in me during my childhood. He was the pastor of Holy Family basically my whole childhood.”
After his ordination, the newly-ordained Father Tracy will travel to both Kansas and Minnesota to attend the ordinations of two of his classmates. “I also hope to attend the priest’s retreat in early June and I will also go with my family on vacation in South Carolina for about a week,” he says. “Finally I am going to make a trip back to Charleston, to celebrate the weekend Masses. I served there last summer as a deacon.”
Beginning July 1, the newly-ordained Father Tracy will be serving as parochial vicar at two parishes: St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham and Annunciation Parish in Shumway. “I am very excited for my assignment. I have enjoyed every summer assignment in the diocese as a seminarian and I expect St. Anthony and Annunciation to be a great assignment as well. I have visited the Effingham area a few times during my time in seminary and I really enjoyed visiting. The whole area is filled with great people who seek to live their faith in their daily lives.
“I am also very excited to work with Father Chuck (Edwards) as we work together to be of priestly service to the people of St. Anthony and Annunciation. It is very surreal to get my first priesthood assignment with Father Chuck because he served as a seminarian back in the day at my home parish.”
The newly-ordained Father Tracy will celebrate his Mass of Thanksgiving on May 27 at 3 p.m. at Holy Family Parish in Mt. Sterling.
“I want to say thank you to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and to all the great people in the parishes and Pastoral Center who have provided me so much support for these past six years of seminary,” he says. “I am truly grateful to you all for everything and I am grateful to God for this call to priesthood.”
Deacon Brother Adam Zawadzki, OP Miss.
A native of Indiana, Deacon Brother Zawadzki is the son of Jan and Paul Zawadzki, who live just north of Indianapolis in Westfield. He has two older brothers, Eric (wife Beth Kinderman) and Brian (wife Autumn), and an older sister Heidi (husband Craig) Thedwall. He also has nine nieces and nephews: William, Arya, Dante, Francesca, Gideon, Aramis, Artemisia, Malachy and Bridget.
Deacon Zawadzki’s vocation story started at about age 10 when he attended a play at the Indiana School for the Deaf. “Years later, while I was in high school, there was a girl who was signing some of the music in my parish. I did some research and found that, at the time, only 10 percent of deaf people attended a church of any denomination! Much of that is because of a lack of linguistic accessibility,” Deacon Zawadzki says.
“I decided that I was going to become an interpreter so that I could bring the deaf back to church. At the same time, many of my teachers and friends were telling me that I should consider the priesthood. At the time, I dismissed them saying that I simply didn’t have the discipline for that. For college, I attended a Vincennes University program at the Indiana School for the Deaf for American Sign Language. As I was approaching my last semester, I started to realize that I wasn’t called to be an interpreter … I was called to something more. I started to discern a vocation to priesthood,” he says.
“I knew that I wanted to be in a religious community. I also knew that God would not have called me to learn ASL for no reason. I started to scour the internet for a religious community that did ministry for the deaf. I found three at the time.” Two of those communities weren’t right for him.
“I found some rumors of the Dominican Missionaries, but couldn’t find a website or anything else. At the same time, I made contact with the National Vocations Placement Service in Washington, D.C. They forwarded my email to the Western Province of Dominicans, who forwarded me to Father Tom Coughlin. I made first contact with Father Tom on Jan. 31, 2005 and moved to San Francisco to join the community that same July.”
Deacon Zawadzki says he feels joy and relief as he approaches ordination. “I have been working for this day for 13 years. When people ask me about how I knew I was called to priesthood, I say that I just felt a sense of calm ... a sense of peace with the idea. Despite earlier feeling that there was no way I could do it, as I sat with the idea in adoration and in prayer, it just felt right. I remind myself to let God’s plan unfold as God intends. My job is to do what I can for God.”
He has asked Father Joseph Pesola to vest him. “When I was learning ASL, I had to attend a deaf church. I managed to find Father Joe, who was the director of deaf ministry for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He has been a mentor to me ever since.”
The newly-ordained Father Zawadzki, OP Miss., will celebrate his first Mass on May 27 at 10:30 a.m. at Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield, where he has been serving since last summer. In July, he will also have a Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Carmel, Ind., and another at St. Boniface Church in Erie, Pa. “Most of my aunts and uncles, as well as my grandmother, are in Erie,” he says.
As of July 1, he will begin full-time ministry with the Dominican Missionaries for the Apostolates of the Deaf and Disabled in Madison.