Ordinandi 2023: ‘Looking forward to serving the people of God’

By Chicago Catholic staff
Saturday, May 20, 2023

Chicago Catholic file photo

The Archdiocese of Chicago was to welcome five new priests on May 20. They hail from Mexico, Puerto Rico and Illinois. 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 Kevin Gregus, 35

First assignment: Two Holy Martyrs Parish, 6135 S. Austin Ave.

Born in: Crystal Lake

Education: St. Thomas the Apostle Elementary School and Prairie Ridge High School, both in Crystal Lake; bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan; bachelor’s degree in sacred theology, master’s degree in philosophy and religious studies and master of divinity from the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary

Parents: Michael and JoEllen Gregus

First Mass: May 21, St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Crystal Lake

Kevin Gregus grew up in Crystal Lake and is the oldest of four siblings. Growing up, he attended St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Crystal Lake, where he was an altar server.

After a retreat for teens during high school, he felt compelled to develop a relationship with Jesus and give more of himself to the youth group community, eventually joining the Peer Ministry team.

While studying at the University of Michigan, he was involved with the Newman Center. He also played trumpet in the marching band. He first felt the call to priesthood as a Totus Tuus missionary, since the missionaries do many “priestly” tasks: participating in daily Mass, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, teaching and  meeting with families, he said.

Following graduation, he worked as a civil servant for the U.S. Navy in Maryland. In 2015, he returned to Chicago and worked as a certification engineer at Astronics Armstrong Aerospace, working to certify electronics systems for commercial aircraft.

In Chicago, he attended St. Alphonsus Parish in Lakeview and was very involved with the men’s group.

“We took a weekend to go on a silent retreat together. I certainly didn’t have seminary on my mind before the weekend started. However, after giving in to the advice of a priest that ‘prayer shouldn’t be exhausting,’ I entered a time in adoration just trying to be quiet,” Gregus said. “It was at that moment that God broke down any barrier I had even unintentionally put up to a priestly call. He showed me all of the ways that priesthood already fit with my life — love of the church, love of brotherhood, love of teaching.”

He left that weekend knowing he wanted to answer God’s call. He joined the men’s discernment group InSearch, for men who have graduated from college and are working in the world and then begin to discern a call to the priesthood.

In 2017, with the support of his family and pastor, he applied and was accepted into the seminary.

Father Daniel Korenchan, 30

First assignment: St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, Orland Hills

Born in: Burr Ridge

Education: St. John of the Cross School, Western Springs; Lyons Township High School, La Grange; bachelor’s degrees in finance and accounting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; master’s degree in accounting science from the University of Illinois at Chicago; bachelor’s degree in sacred theology, master’s degree in philosophy and religion and master of divinity from the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary

Parents: James and Elizabeth Korenchan

First Mass: May 21, St. James Church, Arlington Heights

The middle of five boys, Daniel Korenchan grew up in Burr Ridge and entered seminary after working for a year after graduate school.

“I never considered being Catholic something that was important to me until I was a senior in college,” Korenchan said. “My first real interest in spiritual things occurred when I attended a Kairos retreat as a junior in high school, and that interest was reinvigorated through a Protestant Bible study through the marching band at the University of Illinois.” 

He wanted to see if the Catholic faith he grew up with could give him the same vigor, so he dug into it.

“I signed up for a retreat called Koinonia during the fall of my senior year and it wound up being the most pivotal weekend of my entire life. I realized I didn’t know what my purpose was, and it increased more and more as the retreat went along, which made me increasingly upset and frustrated,” he said.

So he sought out the priest on the retreat and spoke with him for several hours in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The priest helped him process his thoughts and encouraged him to pursue a relationship with the Lord.

“In 2015, I attended the SEEK conference presented by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. This is where my faith life took off. The retreat was filled with young college-aged Catholics who were genuinely interested in the faith, and together we listened to the laity, priests and religious talk about myriad topics: truths of the faith, prayer, morality, theology, philosophy, history of the church, sacraments and vocations,” he said.

He joined a FOCUS Bible study on campus that led him to grow in prayer and pursue his calling to the priesthood.

“I love to talk about my experiences of God’s profound love in my vocational discernment, the seminary and Christian prayer, and I often encourage others to ‘be not afraid,’ in the words of St. John Paul II,” Korenchan said.

Father Michael Mehringer, 33

First assignment: Queen of Apostles Parish, 2330 W. Sunnyside Ave.

Born in: Barrington

Education: St. Anne School, Barrington; Barrington High School; bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and Spanish from the University of Indiana; master’s degree in philosophy and religion, the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.

Parents: Joseph and Martha Mehringer

First Mass: May 21, St. James Church, Arlington Heights

Before entering the seminary in 2017, Michael Mehringer worked as a chemist for five years in the water treatment field.

“When I first felt called to the diocesan priesthood at the age of 23, I naturally reached out to the vocations office for the Archdiocese of Chicago. … I had returned to the practice of my faith after college, and for the first time ever felt a serious call to the priesthood out of the blue,” Mehringer said.

Support from family, resources from the vocation office and InSearch helped him discern his call.

He enjoys playing soccer, shooting pool and playing bridge. He has served as a Totus Tuus missionary, attended the Institute of Priestly Formation summer program, lived in a Chicago L’Arche community and worked at Northwestern University Hospital as a chaplain. Mehringer also traveled to Piura, Peru, and Huandacareo, Mexico, for cultural immersions.

“Since 2020, I have been assigned to St. Alphonsus Parish in Chicago as part of the Teaching Parish Program and I’ve had the privilege of ministering to that community as a deacon for the last year,” he said. “I’ve been involved in many different ministries there and have enjoyed preaching, celebrating baptisms and marriages and accompanying the people in their Christian journey. I am extremely excited to serve the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago as a priest.”

Father Francisco Javier Pagán Portalatín, 34

First assignment:  San José Sánchez de Río Parish, 952 N. Kostner Ave.

Born in: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Education: Escuela Pascasio P. Sancerrit; Escuela Gilberto Concepcion de Gracia; bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in management information security from Universidad Ana G. Mendez, Puerto Rico; bachelor’s degree in sacred theology, master’s degree in religion and philosophy, master of divinity, the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.

Parents: Edwin F. Pagán Ortiz and Miriam S. Portalatín Perez

First Mass: May 21, Our Lady of the Woods Church, Orland Park

The younger of two children, Francisco Javier Pagán Portalatín said his life has revolved around his parish “because in my family, faith has always been a very important value. We used to go to church every Sunday as well as during the week.”

Following graduation he worked for eight years before taking a position at a Catholic parish for three years.

“This is where I discovered my vocation. After a year of prayer and discernment, I made the decision to apply to seminary,” he said.

Father Jesús Raya Custodio, 34

First assignment: St. Alphonsus Parish, 1429 W. Wellington Ave.

Born in: Piñicuaro, Guanajuato, Mexico

Education: Jane Addams Elementary School and George Washington High School, both in Chicago; bachelor’s degree in teaching of history, the University of Illinois at Chicago; master of arts, the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.

Parents: José Jesús Raya and Maria Amor Custodio de Raya

First Mass: May 21, Our Lady of Nazareth Parish, 11128 S. Avenue G

“When I was 11 years old, my family immigrated to the United States looking for opportunities and a better future. Coming to the United States was both exciting and challenging — exciting because I was going to live somewhere different and challenging because I did not want to leave my country, my extended family, friends and did not speak English,” Jesús Raya Custodio said.

Through his parents’ efforts and sacrifices he was the first person in his family to graduate from college. He taught in Chicago Public Schools for five years.

“I was looking forward to many years in the field of education, but God had other plans,” he said.

During college, Raya Custodio’s faith grew and following graduation he volunteered with his parish’s religious education program.

“It was there that I began to discern the calling to the priesthood,” he said. “I was a bit more mature in my faith and was introduced to a couple seminarians who had an impact in my faith journey. As part of the discernment, I remembered that as a child and young adult I had experienced an interest in the priesthood, but it remained in the silence of my heart. It was then the time to express my interest and vocalize it. Things were falling in place.”

His pastor also encouraged him to pursue priesthood. “I was torn between my teaching vocation, which I enjoyed, and answering God’s call. It was a difficult decision, but God placed people in my journey who helped me discern. He gave me the grace and the courage to take that important step in my life,” Raya Custodio said.

He applied to the seminary thinking that if it did not work out he would return to teaching. 

“I have been in seminary formation for almost six years, and I am more confident in my calling. These years in formation have been fruitful and challenging, but my friendship with Jesus has been strengthened, and seminary formation has provided many opportunities for personal and ministerial growth,” Raya Custodio said. “I’m excited for ordination and looking forward to serving the people of God.”


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Meet the new priests

Cardinal Cupich ordained seven men to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Chicago June 29 at St. John Brebeuf Church, Niles. The men range in age from 26 to 52 and hail from the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Philippines, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador. They begin their new assignments July 1. An eighth priest, born in the Diocese of Peoria and educated at Catholic Theological Union, also will be ordained for the Archdiocese of Tabora, Tanzania. Chicago Catholic congratulates all of them.