The Archdiocese of Chicago will welcome eight new priests on May 18. They hail from Vietnam, Mexico, other parts of the United States and the archdiocese itself, and they range in age from 28 to 38. The men, who will take up their new assignments July 1, have walked varied paths toward ordination. Learn about them here, and join Chicago Catholic in congratulating them.
Father Robert Carlton, 36
First assignment: St. John Brebeuf, Niles
Born in: Chicago
Education: Hardey Preparatory; Loyola Academy, Wilmette; Georgetown University; Fordham University; University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Frank and Caroline (Szathmary) Carlton
First Mass: May 18, 5 p.m., Immaculate Conception, 7211 W. Talcott Ave.
Robert Carlton was an electrical officer and ordinance officer on the USS Halyburton and also taught theology and coached cross country and track at Fordham Preparatory School in New York before entering the seminary.
He first felt the call to priesthood when he was at Loyola Academy and at Georgetown University, both Jesuit institutions.
“Through the priests that I had met there, who were doing anything from high school teaching to leukemia research, I saw how rewarding and valuable the life and work of a priest could be,” Carlton said. “When I was in the military, also, I met and worked with a number of the chaplains who made a significant impact on my life and the lives of many others who served on the base that I was stationed at and I grew to believe that God was calling me to do the same kind of work.”
Father Marco Antonio Franco, 28
First assignment: Good Shepherd
Born in: Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico
Education: Elementary school and minor and major seminary in Jalisco, Mexico; University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Angel Franco Jiménez and Felicitas Luna Morales
First Mass: May 19, 2:30 p.m., Good Shepherd, 2719 S. Kolin Ave.
Marco Antonio Franco, the third of four sons in his family, began his minor seminary studies in middle school, at the age of 12. He can’t recall a time when he didn’t want to be a priest, he said.
“I can just say that my vocation and I were born together, we are twins,” he said.
In 2010, when he was beginning his philosophy studies, his older brother was killed in a car accident. He decided to take a break from seminary to spend time with his family as they grieved and healed. For three years, he worked as a high school director of library services and substitute teacher, while completing my philosophy studies at the public university of Guadalajara.
“During the time out of the seminary my vocation did not diminish, but it grew even more in my inner desires,” Franco said. He arrived in Chicago in 2013, spent two years studying English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and entered the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary four years ago.
Father Patrick Kizza, 38
First assignment: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Glenview
Born in: Kampala, Uganda
Education: Elementary and high school in Uganda; Apostles of Jesus Major Seminary, Nairobi, Kenya; University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Matayo Siat Lubega Ssalongo and Melda Nkunda Nalongo
First Mass: May 18, 5 p.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Glenview
Patrick Kizza was one of 11 children in his family. After Catholic elementary and high schools, he attended a teacher’s training college with the intention of being a middle school religion teacher. Then he entered the Servants of Mary religious community and went to seminary in Nairobi, Kenya. After discerning that life in a religious community was not what he was called to, he returned to teach and work as an outreach minister in Uganda.
Kizza then received a scholarship to study at Catholic Theological Union. There, he said, the seed of a vocation to the priesthood continued to develop.
“After long discernment, I felt that God was calling me to be a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago,” Kizza said, and he entered the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.
Father Ryan McMillin, 30
First assignment: St. James, Arlington Heights
Born in: Denver, Colorado
Education: St. Linus, Oak Lawn; Richards High School, Oak Lawn; Georgetown University, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Charles and Patricia McMillin
First Mass: May 19, noon, St. Linus, Oak Lawn
Ryan McMillin earned a bachelor’s degree in math and economics and a master’s degree in math and statistics from Georgetown University, and worked for a short time in statistical programming after he graduated.
“It wasn't long before I realized I made a huge mistake,” he said. “My cubicle felt like a jail cell, and my work was routinely unexciting.”
He began to think about what kind of life would be fulfilling, and he found himself considering a call to the priesthood.
“I had flatly rejected the idea of the priesthood earlier in life when my pastor asked me to consider attending high school seminary; it sounded too boring,” he said. “Now, the joke was on me: just about anything sounded more exciting than my work in the cubicle.”
If he was waiting for another sign, God sent a 5.8-magnitude earthquake, and he fled his job, eventually returning to the Archdiocese of Chicago and entering the seminary.
Father Ton Nguyen, 28
First assignment: St. Julie Billiart, Tinley Park
Born in: Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Education: Elementary and secondary school in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City College of Economics, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Thanh and Thao Nguyen
First Mass: May 18, 5:30 p.m., St. Henry Parish, 6335 N. Hoyne Ave., in Vietnamese; May 19, 11 a.m., Mary, Seat of Wisdom, Park Ridge, in English
Ton Nguyen traces his vocation journey to being a child and having to shepherd cows. “Shepherding cows is considered a boring duty for many children in the countryside, but for some reason (ignoring the fact that once in a while I was annoyed at having to sacrifice my play time), I was just so excited to be shepherding and I loved to take the cows out to the field.” Nguyen said. “I wanted to be a shepherd and God had his way of planting the priesthood seed in this little child.”
But his path was not direct. Instead, he went to college and worked as a sales executive for a year before discerning his vocation.
“I was happy with my job but not fulfilled,” he said. “It is like St. Augustine, ‘My heart is restless until it rests in God.’"
He was helped in his discernment process by his sister, who is a nun, and he was invited to minister in the Archdiocese of Chicago by Father Paul Cao.
Father Brother Matthew Schuster, SJC, 31
First assignment: St. John Cantius
Born in: Leonard, Michigan
Education: Home-schooled with the Kolbe Academy program for elementary and high school, Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Cromwell, Connecticut; University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Michael and Carol (Root) Schuster
First Mass: May 19, 11 a.m., St. John Cantius, 825 N. Carpenter St.
Brother Matthew Schuster and his five siblings were all trained in music as children, and he planned to study violin performance in college and pursue a career in music. During weeklong silent retreat, however, he experienced a desire to give his life totally to God, and with the help of his parish priest, he discerned a call to religious life.
Soon after, he visited the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius.
“After my week-long visit, I realized I had fallen in love with this religious community — with its unique combination of a vibrant common life within the context of parish apostolate and its emphasis on restoration of a sense of the sacred — so that leaving Chicago after my visit felt to me like I was leaving my home,” he said.
He entered the community in 2007, completing postulancy, novitiate and juniorate before starting seminary studies.
“Now, after 12 years in formation between religious life and priestly studies, I am very eagerly anticipating my ordination,” he said.
Father Jay Suero, 31
First assignment: St. Francis of Assisi, Orland Park
Education: St. Joseph School, Downers Grove, Illinois; Benet Academy, Lisle, Illinois; Lewis University, Romeoville, Illinois; University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Erlita Doligosa and Maxie Suero
First Mass: May 19, 11 a.m., St. John Julie Billiart, Tinley Park
Jay Suero was born in Chicago and raised in Downers Grove. He did not consider a vocation to the priesthood until he was in college and looking more deeply into his faith, he said.
“I came to realize that I did not only want to point people to Christ, but also to give Christ in the Eucharist and the sacraments,” Suero said. “However, I had my doubts about my own worthiness.”
He found comfort in the words of St. Therese of Lisieux: "God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint."
“I followed that desire and soon entered the seminary and started my path to the priesthood,” Suero said.
Father Brother David Yallaly, SJC, 32
Born in: Villa Grove, Illinois
Education: Villa Grove elementary and high schools; Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Cromwell, Connecticut; University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
Parents: Cathy Hursey and Michael Yallaly
First Mass: May 19, 1 p.m., St. John Cantius, 825 N. Carpenter St.
David Yallaly earned an associates degree in dental technology and worked as a dental technician for four years after college, the last in Madison, Wisconsin, where he lived with his older brother. It was there that he was introduced to a vibrant Catholic culture, he said. A three-day silent retreat increased his desire to grow in holiness, and he began attending daily Mass and adoration. Soon he discerned a calling to religious life and priesthood.
He entered the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in 2010 and completed his two-year novitiate before starting seminary studies. He professed perpetual vows in 2015 and began studying theology at Mundelein that year.
Each year we honor the archdiocesan priests celebrating special jubilees. They have dedicated themselves to serving the Lord through his church in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and they often wear many hats, such as administrator, maintenance man, cook, accountant, friend. They have been parish priests, but also teachers, chaplains and counselors. Chicago Catholic congratulates and thanks them.
Father George McKenna, 99, was remembered for his love, generosity of spirit and brevity of speech at a funeral Mass that drew hundreds of mourners and more than a dozen priests to St. Barnabas Church Feb. 1.
Father George McKenna was born less than a year after the end of World War I. He was ordained a priest a month before D-Day. He had been, officially, retired for 13 years when 9/11 happened, but he was still the volunteer chaplain at Midway International Airport.