Six St. Louisans to be ordained to transitional diaconate

LISA JOHNSTON | lisajohnston@archstl.org

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson will ordain six men to the transitional diaconate at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 4, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Lindell Boulevard and Newstead Avenue in the Central West End.

They are Deacons Andrew Burkemper, Paul Hamilton, David Hogan, Conor Sullivan, Thomas Vordtriede and Ryan Weber, being ordained for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. They currently attend Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.

Transitional deacons are seminarians in their last year of preparation for ordination to the priesthood. A transitional deacon may baptize, distribute Communion, witness marriages and lead rites for Christian burial. The seminarians are expected to complete their master of divinity degree by spring 2014 from Kenrick School of Theology. Each is also working toward completion his master of arts in theology.

In addition, 13 other Kenrick-Glennon seminarians will be ordained this spring to the transitional diaconate for other dioceses. They are: Adam Maus for the Diocese of Bismarck, N.D.; Michael Buckley and John Stearns for the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Christopher Aubuchon for the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo.; Mark Ostrowski, Anthony Saiki and Jaime Zarse for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan.; Colin Blatchford and Adam Kane for the Diocese of Knoxville, Tenn.; Yoelvis Gonzalez for the Diocese of Memphis, Tenn.; Benjamin Boyd for the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb.;and Sam Brand and Andrew Walsh for the Diocese of Wichita, Kan.

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Andrew Burkemper

Deacon Burkemper, 23, is the son of Vincent and Marianne Burkemper. His home parish is St. Joseph in Manchester. A graduate of St. Louis University High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Cardinal Glennon College Seminary. He served supervised ministry at St. Mary Magdalen (south St. Louis), St. Cletus, St. John the Baptist and St. Francis of Assisi.

"The idea that I was possibly being called to the priesthood goes all the way back to early grade school. As I grew up, I always enjoyed spending time around our parish, serving Holy Mass, and learning everything I could. It was really not until my later high school years, though, that I seriously considered entering the seminary. As I looked at various colleges, nothing quite seemed to fit, and I always came back to the idea of the priesthood. Without being entirely sure of my vocation, I entered the seminary immediately after high school.

"My years in the seminary provided the perfect environment for discernment. I learned from the example of the priests and my brother seminarians and was challenged to grow as a Christian man while discerning my calling. After about two years in the seminary I was sure of God's call for me, and have spent the remainder of my time learning and preparing to serve the archdiocese."

Paul Hamilton

Deacon Hamilton, 27, is the son of Eugene and Christine Hamilton. His home parish is St. Clare of Assisi in Ellisville. A graduate of Chaminade College Preparatory School, he began his studies at Cardinal Glennon College Seminary and then went on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in philosophy from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He served supervised ministry at St. Dominic Savio, Ascension, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (seminarian master of ceremonies) and All Saints.

"I first began thinking about a vocation to the priesthood in the fourth grade. In eighth grade, I went to the first Kenrick-Glennon Days; it was around that time that I also began seriously questioning my faith. I asked many questions, but the one that I had the most difficulty answering was: Why did God create the world? Is He just an egotistical God who needed our praise? That didn't sound right, but I didn't have a better answer. It was Kenrick-Glennon Days that kept me active in my faith during the next few years.

"I didn't know what I believed going into my senior year of high school, but through Providence I still wound up going to Kenrick-Glennon Days that year. Many things happened on that retreat, but the most important one happened late at night as I was sitting in the chapel.

"(I realized) the reason God created the world is not because He is an egotistical God in need of our praise, but because He, being love Himself, wanted to share that love with others. At first, I thought, 'Wow, I finally have an answer to that question that's been bothering me for all those years.' But slowly — I have no other way to describe it — the thought grew in my head. When I awoke the next morning, I was so grateful to God for all He had done for me that I was looking for a way to return His gift in some way. Now, looking back on that desire to repay God for His goodness, I realize that there is only one gift that is capable of repaying Him: the Eucharist. That's when I knew I was called to the priesthood."

David Hogan

Deacon Hogan, 28, is the son of Berna Hogan and Francis Sorrentino. His home parish is Incarnate Word in Chesterfield. A graduate of Bishop Machebeuf High School in Denver, Colo., he earned a degree in communications (multimedia) at Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Steubenville, Ohio. He served supervised ministry at St. David, Queen of All Saints and St. Mark.

"Growing up in a strong Catholic family, where my older brother was 'supposed' to be the priest, and I was 'supposed' to get married, my life I thought was already set. Then a personal encounter with the living God changed my life. This happened while serving two years with the National Evangelization Team (in St. Paul, Minn.). God opened my mind to a life of unimaginable joy rooted in self-sacrificial love. Certainly a life not without its difficulties and struggles. For there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends, according to St. John's Gospel. If you were to ask me if sacrifice is a blessing, the answer is yes."

Conor Sullivan

Deacon Sullivan, 24, is the son of Laura Sullivan and the late Christopher Sullivan. His home parish is Our Lady of Lourdes in Washington. A graduate of St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Cardinal Glennon College Seminary. He served supervised ministry at Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Ambrose, St. Richard, St. Ann and St. John the Baptist.

"I thought about the priesthood when I was very young, but I didn't really think about it at all through my later time in grade school, or through most of my time in high school. At the end of my junior year, I was introduced to someone who was entering the seminary and, through him, many other seminarians. As I spent more time with these young men at Kenrick-Glennon Days or Come and See Retreats, I found myself pulled more and more to the atmosphere at the seminary. I noticed that when I visited I had a strong sense that I belonged there — I was surrounded by young men who had a lot of my same interests, especially in talking about the faith, philosophy and theology.

"God has been working in me to prepare me for this amazing life, and I thank God everyday for calling me to the holy priesthood. I have already received far more than I have ever given. Especially humbling and exciting for me are the prospects of bringing people to life in the Church through baptism, witnessing marriages, hearing confessions and imparting absolution, making Christ present on the altar at Mass, and all the other aspects of a priest's daily life — bringing Christ to others and others to Christ."

Thomas Vordtriede

Deacon Vordtriede, 25, is the son of David and Beth Vordtriede. His home parish is St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in Oakville. A graduate of St. Louis University High School, he has earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Cardinal Glennon College Seminary. He served supervised ministry at Epiphany of Our Lord, St. Ferdinand, St. Alban Roe and Sacred Heart (Florissant).

"I found high school to be very difficult, and I often felt like I could not keep up with the workload. As a result, I noticed myself frequently wandering into the school chapel at the end of the day in order to complain to God. Without realizing it, this grumbling was actually prayer, and little by little, I found myself more drawn to the Lord Himself. At the same time, I was being inspired by the example of several priests, for they had an unshakable joy and conviction while defending Church teaching and giving up their whole lives for both God and man. By junior year all it took was a priest's invitation to visit the seminary on a Come and See Weekend to realize that I simply had to enter so that I could further recognize God's will. Over the last few years, I have gained a deeper grasp of my vocation, and yet I remain awestruck. I would go into that high school chapel looking for a quick-fix answer to my prayers. I came out of that chapel with a more fulfilling long-term answer: a path of discernment to follow as I began to realize my very identity as one called by God to offer sacrifice to Him on behalf of His people."

Ryan Weber

Deacon Weber, 25, is the son of Edwin and Karen Weber. His home parish is Immaculate Conception in Arnold. A graduate of Windsor High School in Imperial, he has earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Cardinal Glennon College Seminary. He served supervised ministry at St. Gerard Majella, St. Monica, St. John Vianney High School and Washington University Catholic Student Center.

"I first began hearing the call to the priesthood when I was a young child. Throughout elementary and middle school it was something that was always present in my mind to some degree or another. In high school, I became involved with the Life Teen program in Jefferson County and began to grow deeper in my relationship with God and, as a result, began taking His call to the priesthood more seriously. During my junior year of high school I received an invitation in the mail to attend a Come and See weekend retreat at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. I attended the retreat and began attending seminary retreats and summer camps regularly during my junior and senior years. During this time I became more and more convinced that the seminary was where God was calling me to be. This ultimately led to my entrance into the Cardinal Glennon College program after graduation in 2006.

"I have been in the seminary for seven years and have grown in knowledge of and love for God and His Church. I can see how active God has been in my life bringing me to this point, and I am very excited to serve Him in this new way as a deacon and ultimately as a priest." 

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