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May 12 - May 25, 2013

ORDINANDI 2013 Meet the new priests

The Archdiocese of Chicago is to welcome 10 new priests on May 18. They hail from Uganda, Mexico, Poland, Indiana and the archdiocese itself, and they range in age from 26 to 53, The men, who will take up their new assignments July 1, have walked varied paths toward ordination. Learn about them here, and join the Catholic New World in congratulating them.

Geofrey Andama, 31

First assignment: to be determined
Born in:
elementary and secondary school in Uganda, minor seminary in Uganda, Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake
Parents: the late Veterina and the late Cyril Andama
First Mass:
May 18, 5:30 p.m. at St. Christopher, Midlothian

Geofrey Andama was three months old and riding in a car with his parents when there was an accident and both of his parents were killed. He survived, and was raised by his grandmother, a devout Catholic who took him to morning prayer and Mass every day before school.

“She tells me that I am here because of God’s blessing, and that maybe God has a plan for me,” Andama said. “I reflected on that and thought that maybe God wanted me to be a priest.”

After minor seminary, he received a scholarship to study at Mundelein Seminary and be ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago, for which he is very grateful. After six years in the archdiocese, he said, “I like it here very much — except for the winters.”

Mark Augustine, 28

First assignment: Our Lady of Ransom, Niles
Born in:
Evergreen Park
Bartlett Elementary School and Eastview Middle School, Bartlett; Streamwood High School; Loyola University Chicago; Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake
Parents: Mary Mullen and John Augustine
First Mass: May 19, 11:15 a.m., St. Clement

Mark Augustine began to discern his vocation to the priesthood while studying for a semester in Rome when he was completing his history degree from Loyola University Chicago. He has run the Chicago Marathon three times, and has extensive work and volunteer experience with the Boy Scouts of America. He is an Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor member, Ad Altari Dei recipient, and he worked at Camp Freeland Leslie in Oxford, Wis., for 10 consecutive summers (2000-2009).

Matthew Bozovsky, 33

First assignment: St. Joseph Parish, Libertyville
Born in:
Des Plaines
Forest Elementary School and Maine West High School, Des Plaines; Loyola University Chicago; Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake
Christine (Troland) and Ron Bozovsky
First Mass:
May 19, 11:30 a.m., St. Joseph, Wilmette

Matthew Bozovsky grew up knowing he had a vocation — to biology. He embarked on a career as a research scientist while still an undergraduate at Loyola University Chicago. It was there that he came to better know and understand his Catholic faith. But he did not begin to discern a vocation to the priesthood until he was in a doctorate program at Northwestern University and working as a part-time faculty member at Loyola University Chicago.

Thomas Byrne, 29

First assignment: St. Michael Parish, Orland Park
Born in: Chicago
St. George School and Andrew High School, Tinley Park; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake
Parents: Nancy (Bumba) and Dominick Byrne
First Mass:
May 19, 11:30 a.m., St. George, Tinley Park

Thomas Byrne said he first heard God’s call to the priesthood while attending Illinois flagship public university. “Living at the Newman Center and being surrounded by many of my young, Catholic peers caused me to take a closer look at my own faith,” he wrote in an email. “For the first time, I began to pray regularly and really build a strong relationship with the Lord. I encountered Jesus in the sacraments, the Scriptures, and in the people around me. Through all of this, I began to hear the Lord calling me to serve him as a priest.”

Living at the Newman Center also helped him get to know priests and the way they lived, making a life of priesthood seem like more of a realistic possibility for him. It “helped me to believe that the life of a priest was one that I really could live — and live joyfully.”

Brendan Guilfoil, 28

First assignment: St. Mary Parish, Lake Forest
Born in:
Elk Grove Village
Paddock Elementary and Fremd High School, Palatine; Catholic University of America, Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake
Karla Klein and John Guilfoil
First Mass:
May 18, 5 p.m., St. Theresa, Palatine

Brendan Guilfoil began to discern his vocation to the priesthood while in high school, when he was an active member of the youth ministry program at St. Theresa in Palatine, as well as a lector and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. “I began to become interested in ministry as I was training other lectors and extraordinary ministers at St. Theresa,” he said. After high school, he spent two years at St. Joseph College Seminary at Loyola University then was asked to attend Catholic University of America as a Basselin Fellow, a three-year fellowship for seminarians to finish their undergraduate studies and pursue graduate studies in philosophy.

Julio Jimenez, 26

First assignment: St. Joseph, Round Lake
Born in:
Acambay, Mexico
Elementary and high school in Mexico, Seminario Diocesano de Atlacomulco, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Rolando Jimenez and Zeferina Soto Hernandez
First Mass:
May 19, 11:30 a.m. at St. Cletus, LaGrange

Julio Jimenez had considered whether he had a vocation to the priesthood in his native Mexico, but the call became stronger when he arrived in Chicago in 2008, he said.

“Even though my discernment did not start there, it became clearer to me that God was calling me to serve in this particular archdiocese, its challenges as well as its opportunities,” Jimenez said. “It has been a long journey, which started in Mexico many years ago, but today, I am happy to accept this great gift, and just like any other Christian out there, I want to live my faith to the fullest, and in that same faith, I become a priest of Christ.”

Kevin McCray, 53

First assignment: Queen of Martyrs, Evergreen Park
Born in:
Marion, Ind.
Franklin Elementary School and Marion High School in Marion, Ind.; Valparaiso University and Ball State University; Mundelein Seminary/ University of St. Mary of the Lake
Elaine (DeWitt) and the late Walter Lee McCray
First Mass: May 26, 11:15 a.m. at St. Clement

Kevin McCray grew up in a Methodist family that was involved in their church because his mother was the pianist. He is the middle of five children, and one of a pair of twins. No one knew about his twin brother until he was born; the babies were positioned in such a way in the womb that the doctor only heard one heartbeat. He came to the Catholic Church in 2002, after a conversion experience in San Damiano, Italy, and entered the seminary five years later, at age 47. Before that, he worked for 21 years in the corporate office of Crate & Barrel.

Roberto Mercado Jr., 32

First assignment: St. George, Tinley Park
Born in:
Arlington Heights
Elementary and high school in Zacatecas, Mexico; St. Joseph College Seminary, Loyola University Chicago; Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake
Parents: Raquel Carranza and Roberto Mercado Sr.
First Mass:
May 19, 3 p.m. at St. Benedict, Irving Park Road

Roberto Mercado was born in Arlington Heights but grew up on a ranch in Zacatecas, Mexico. He briefly thought about entering the seminary there, but didn’t know where to go for guidance and dropped the idea. After high school, he returned to the northwest suburbs of Chicago, studied English and got a two-year technical certificate from Harper College in Palatine. He got a job and joined a group of young adults at St. Colette Parish in Rolling Meadows. It was there that he began to feel that something was missing. On a retreat, a priest suggested that he consider whether he had a vocation to the diocesan priesthood or religious life. After a year of discernment, he entered the Claretian community in Chicago, in part because he liked their missionary charism. But he decided that was not his vocation and left the community. Several months later, he entered St. Joseph College Seminary, where he studied for four years before entering Mundelein Seminary.

Rodlin Rodrigue, 38

First assignment: St. Benedict, Irving Park Road
Born in:
Cerca Carvajal, Haiti
Elementary and high school in Haiti; St. Joseph College Seminary, Loyola University Chicago; Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake
Victoire and the late Josue Rodrigue
First Mass:
May 19, 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Rodlin Rodrigue told his mother he wanted to be a priest when he was 7 years old. “Even though I was just 7 years old, I could see and understand how the pastor, Father Marcel Marshall, had played a crucial role in the lives of the people. He was a missionary priest from Belgium, who left his homeland to go to serve the people of Haiti in a very significant way. Marshall once told Rodrigue that when he was assigned to go to Haiti, he didn’t have any idea where was, but he ended up falling in love with the culture and the people. “I was influenced by his humility and the way in which he devoted his life to serve others, especially the poor,” Rodrigue said.

He came to the United States in 2003 to start studies with the Divine Word Missionaries in Iowa, and he came to know the need for priests in the United States. “I asked myself, ‘Do I have to become a Divine Word Missionary priest to consider myself as a missionary because I already left my country to come here in the United States to learn a new language and culture?’ So I am already a missionary.”

Rafal Stecz, 29

First assignment: St. Pascal
Born in:
Myszkow, Poland
Elementary and high school and minor seminary in Poland; Mundelein Seminary/University of St. Mary of the Lake
Helena Szczepanek and Alfred Stecz
First Mass: May 19, 9 a.m. (English) and noon (Polish) at St. Pascal

Rafal Stecz is the oldest of three children born into a farming family in a small town in Poland. He felt that he had a vocation to the priesthood early in life, perhaps as soon as he had his First Communion, where he recalls staying close to the altar. As a boy, he was both an altar server and a lector, and Mass was the culmination of the week for his whole family.

“The one thing I do know is that I heard God’s call growing stronger and stronger, and even though I didn’t want to follow it at the beginning, eventually I gave up and submitted to the will of God,” Stecz said.

He said he is grateful for the gift of his vocation and for the opportunity to study and minister in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and he wanted to thank everyone who has prayed for him.