Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Getting to Know the Men Who Will Be Ordained the Diocese’s Newest Priests

Deacon Michael Pray and Deacon Drew Tanguay, who will be ordained to the priesthood on June 1, exchange a Sign of Peace with their fellow seminarians who were ordained to the diaconate May 18.
Deacon Michael Pray and Deacon Drew Tanguay, who will be ordained to the priesthood on June 1, exchange a Sign of Peace with their fellow seminarians who were ordained to the diaconate May 18.
Deacon Richard McAlister and Deacon Thomas Kappes, who will be ordained priests on June 1, exchange a Sign of Peace with the seminarians ordained to the diaconate on May 18.
Deacon Richard McAlister and Deacon Thomas Kappes, who will be ordained priests on June 1, exchange a Sign of Peace with the seminarians ordained to the diaconate on May 18.

The four men who will be ordained priests for the Diocese of Harrisburg on Saturday, June 1, have backgrounds, gifts and discernment stories as varied as life experiences: one entered seminary immediately after college, and one after graduating high school; another served ten years in education and one entered seminary not long after joining the Catholic Church.

The people of the Diocese are cordially invited to attend the Ordination Mass in person, at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg, or to view the livestream online at www.YouTube.com/hbgdiocese as we welcome with joy our four new priests.

So who are these men who will serve the people in our Diocesan Church? Read on to learn a bit about them and their call to the priesthood.

Deacon Thomas Michael Kappes
Deacon Thomas Kappes
Deacon Thomas Kappes

The journey toward the priesthood is different for each individual man. For Deacon Kappes, 31, it started when he was in college, studying for a degree in Public Health and Occupational Safety from Indiana University.

“I was starting to go to Mass and Confession more regularly,” said the member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Harrisburg. “Once I began disposing myself to the grace of Our Lord, the Sacraments and the Rosary, I started to hear the call.”

It wasn’t long before a seminarian recognized the potential in his college friend, too.

“He asked me if I ever thought about being a priest. At first, I laughed it off and said, ‘No, absolutely not,’ and that’s because I thought I had everything figured out for my life,” Deacon Kappes said.

But the call continued, and through more time in prayer, discernment and spiritual direction, he was able to dive further into what God was asking.

“God has His own ways of bringing us around in His own time,” Deacon Kappes said. “After a couple years of discernment throughout college, I figured the next step would be to go to seminary and see if this was what the Lord was calling me to. Since then, I’ve never been happier, and I look forward to serving as a priest.”

He received his formation at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

“The phrase ‘Iron sharpens iron’ comes to mind,” he said of his formation. “We’re all on this same journey toward the priesthood and living a life of virtue so as to lead others to God…. The support of the people of the Diocese is a huge blessing. Knowing there are so many people out there supporting us, and it inspires me all the more to sacrifice myself to serve them as a priest.”

“Seminary education has been more than just preparation to become a priest. I believe it’s also made me a better man and a better Catholic – one who can serve others and Christ and the Church,” he said.

Deacon Richard Joseph McAlister
Deacon Richard McAlister
Deacon Richard McAlister

A visit to St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg one morning led Deacon McAlister, 33, to not only join the Catholic Church but also to apply to study for the priesthood.

Raised in the Mennonite Church, he worked on a dairy farm, as a bookkeeper and for the United States Postal Service early in his adult life.

One winter Sunday morning nearly ten years ago, he decided to make a visit to the Cathedral during the celebration of Mass.

“After sitting there and listening to the Liturgy of the Word and seeing the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I fell in love,” Deacon McAlister said.

He soon delved into personal studies of the early Church and the writings of the Church Fathers.

“It helped me find my faith in the Catholic Church,” he said. “It wasn’t long before I talked to Father Joshua Brommer [pastor and rector of the Cathedral Parish] about becoming Catholic, and from there I went through the RCIA process and joined the Church in 2016.”

The momentum of being on fire with the faith and learning about the beauty of the Church spurred him to fill out an application to become a seminarian for the Diocese, and he studied at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg.

“Up to that point in my life, I had always felt as though I was being called to ministry, but never knew exactly how until I found out about the joy of the priesthood,” he said.

“I’m excited to get fully involved in service…and I want to commit to that calling from God,” Deacon McAlister reflected. “We are now just coming out of the Easter season, and we are an Easter people. I think that is the encouragement that gives me the strength to get up every morning to serve Him, the Church and our Diocese of Harrisburg.”

Deacon Michael Patrick Pray
Deacon Michael Pray
Deacon Michael Pray

God doesn’t waste experiences – that’s one lesson Deacon Pray learned in his formation at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg.

A native of St. Bernard Parish in New Bloomfield, Deacon Pray, 39, worked as a teacher, administrator and coach for 10 years before entering the seminary.

“I really rediscovered the faith in working with the students, taking them to Mass and kind of serving as the Catholic liaison for them,” he said. “I can look back and see how all those experiences have really helped to guide and shape my formation.”

Entering the seminary after pursuing a career has allowed Deacon Pray to “look at things from a different point of view, to know that a challenging or difficult situation isn’t the end of the road, and that there is always a way to work through it with God’s help. Having a previous career has taught me that God doesn’t waste any experiences,” he said.

Progressing through seminary formation and celebrating the steps along the way to priestly ordination – such as being instituted as an acolyte and lector, and being ordained to the diaconate – helped affirm for Deacon Pray that he was where God wanted him to be.

“The world presents us with a lot of things that it says are good, or things it says we should strive for. But we all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts and for those of us who are called to a vocation, He is the only thing that can fill it,” he said.

Deacon Pray expressed gratitude for the support and prayers the people of the Diocese have provided him and his fellow seminarians, and is eager to return it in spades as a priest.

“To have the title of Father will be a great privilege and something I’m looking forward to, to serve as another Christ at the altar for the people,” he said.

Deacon Drew Elliott Tanguay
Deacon Drew Tanguay
Deacon Drew Tanguay

For Deacon Drew Tanguay, 26, a member of Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Middletown, thoughts about becoming a priest first happened around the time of his Confirmation.

His dad taught religious education classes – which a young Drew attended on Wednesday nights – and his mom worked with the parish youth group, so the idea of one day being a priest wasn’t out of the norm. Still, he put those thoughts to the back of his mind, thinking he’d be a husband and father someday instead.

But things changed when he attended Quo Vadis Days, the Diocese’s vocation discernment camp for young men.

“I met some of the seminarians and got to see how normal they were and realized the priesthood was actually a possibility,” Deacon Tanguay said. “In my junior year of high school, I committed to God about at least entering seminary to see where it went.”

He entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg after high school graduation, and admits to “making a deal with God that I would apply to the seminary and get my answer right away if it was for me,” he said.

“I wanted an answer immediately, but I learned through formation that sometimes He wants us to wait. The most important thing about asking God what He wants you to do is to listen. You have to be willing to put the time in, listen and know that an answer will come,” he said.

Now, on the cusp of priestly ordination, Deacon Tanguay is eager to serve the people of God.

“I’ve been going to Mass every day, and it amazes me that I’ll be up on the altar very soon. I’m entering more and more into the mystery that God has called me to do this for Him and His people. It’s so hard to put into words, but it fills me with joy and excitement.”

Learn more about vocations in the Diocese at www.hbgdiocese.org/vocations and how you can support our seminarians with a contribution to the Pentecost Collection.

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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