This weekend, my seven classmates in the diocese and I will celebrate our first anniversary as Catholic priests. Dave Beagles, Michael Berndt, Peter Kosk, Paul Luczak, Michael Meinhart, Michael Trummer, Dominic Vahling, and I – Peter Chineke, were ordained to the sacred priesthood of Christ last June 19, 2020, by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki. That day was the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After the ordination, we all began our ministries in various parishes and schools across the diocese officially on July 1, 2020. Father Dominic Vahling and I have been working here at the Cathedral parish with Father Brian Alford as our pastor. We also work full-time as co-Chaplains at the Sacred Heart-Griffin High School here in town.
Looking back to my first year as a priest in our diocese, working as a parochial vicar here at the Cathedral and as a Chaplain at the SHG, I have had many amazing experiences. I have also encountered people whose lives and faith inspire, encourage, and strengthens me. Some of these people include our Cathedral parishioners and the staff and students at the Sacred Heart-Griffin High School. While space will not permit me to mention some of these beautiful people, I will briefly summarize some of the highlights of my ministry this past year.
Here at the Cathedral, we live as a community with the four of us (Fathers Alford, Rankin, Vahling, and I) and the Bishop. Although we live on a separate floor from the Bishop, we do many things in common. These include community prayers, Masses, meals, movies, and some outdoor exercises. This community life as a priest with these holy men of God is a rare privilege. In most cases, diocesan priests live alone in their parish rectories and sometimes in pairs for those who have parochial vicars. Our community life here in the Cathedral rectory has helped me to know these three of my brother-priests and our Bishop better than I could have known them. Living with them since after my ordination has also made my transition from seminary life to priesthood smoother and more enjoyable.
As a parochial vicar in our Cathedral parish, I have enjoyed the opportunities to celebrate the sacraments and do many other ministries. Celebrating the Eucharist, preaching at Masses, visiting the nursing homes, baptizing new babies, hearing Confessions, attending dinner/lunch invitations, visiting the sick, and our home-bound parishioners are among my favorite ministries this past year. I hardly let go of any opportunity to do these ministries because I find so much joy and life in them.
Another experience that has made my first year of priesthood awesome is my chaplaincy ministry at the Sacred Heart-Griffin High School here in town. It has been an incredible experience getting to know some of these students and their teachers as a Chaplain. I have had many fantastic opportunities to hear Confessions, celebrate Masses, and preach homilies for these young students. Getting to know them and accompanying them in their faith journey have been among the highlights of my ministry this first year in the priesthood of Christ.