April 21, 2010 // Uncategorized
Coonan brothers formed by Christ
Ordination to transitional diaconate is April 25 at Pontifical College Josephinum
By Kay Cozad
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The two young men who will be ordained into the transitional diaconate this month at the Pontifical College Josephinum are not only brothers in Christ but blood brothers as well. Seminarians Matthew Coonan and Terrence Coonan Jr. are the middle brothers of Terry and Terri Coonan’s family of eight children.
The brothers are natives of Fort Wayne and along with their entire family have been lifelong parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, where they attended elementary school. Both men are graduates of Bishop Dwenger High School. And just as they recall a close-knit childhood relationship, they have also found a common calling to the priesthood.
But the callings came to each man in very different ways. As youngsters the boys participated in sports with the neighborhood kids as well as in school — basketball, soccer and cross country.
Their faith formation began in the home, they say, with their parents’ devotion to their life of faith and involvement in parish community life. “The biggest thing they gave us kids is their witness of true Christian love. They teach us what love is with everyone they encounter. They are caring, kind people,” says Matt.
The strong Catholic education they received had a positive impact on the brothers as well as their involvement in their parish. Both boys were altar servers and were involved in the parish youth group. Matt says his participation in the Antioch and Life Teen programs helped develop a deeper understanding of the importance of the sacraments as well as the faith community as support. “My faith flourished during those years,” he says.
Terrence Jr., or “Tink” as he is better known, adds that the brothers were blessed to have good priests at the parish as well. “Our parents had the priests to dinner,” says Tink. “They were happy and seemed fulfilled. … I saw joyful priests serve with their own unique gifts.”
Following graduation from high school Matt began his college career at Indiana University-Purdue University (IPFW) culminating in a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2003. He continued to volunteer as an adult youth leader in his parish’s active youth ministry even though he had no discernment for the priesthood.
“I knew I wanted to serve the Church. But I thought it would be in youth ministry and that I would be married. I didn’t consider the priesthood,” says Matt.
Following graduation from college, while he worked in sales at a printing company, Matt finally heard the call.
During a youth retreat he became cognizant of the role of the priest in the success of the youth retreat. “I saw the importance of the role of the priest in preaching, catechizing and administering the sacraments,” he says, adding that he was in awe of the role. And though he confesses that he didn’t spend much time prior to this in prayer for his vocation, during the Easter season that year, he “realized the priesthood was a real option.”
“On Holy Thursday, I knew it! It just clicked — game over!” Matt says of his calling.
The calling was so clear and certain Matt quit his job, began the interviewing process of entering the seminary and worked for a year at Our Lady of Good Hope establishing a youth group there.
Tink recalls the time his faith formation began in earnest.
“I started taking my faith seriously in eighth grade,” he says. Attending retreats, joining friends in the faith community and receiving the sacrament of Confirmation with his brother Matt as sponsor were powerful events for him.
“I had a strong community of peers to pray and grow in faith with. That was extremely important,” he says.
Matt attended University of Dayton for two years following his graduation from Bishop Dwenger, where he also was involved in several peer ministry venues. The opportunity to be more involved in leadership roles where he “brought peers to the faith,” led him to discernment and prayer for his vocation.
“I was unsettled in my major of computer engineering. I devoted all my free time to the ministry. Computers didn’t fit,” Tink says. But prayer and quiet discernment gave Tink the grace to be open to God’s will for him. So at 20 years of age, the young man met with the diocesan vocations director.
And as Divine Providence would have it both brothers were accepted to enter the seminary in 2005.
For Tink being in the seminary is “awesome.” It is a time, he says, of being away with Jesus before being sent out. Matt agrees saying it is a “time of immense growth spiritually, intellectually and relationally, especially with the Lord.” He speaks of the fraternity at the seminary and the “amazing quality of men” there as well as the support they both have been given in their acceptance of their vocation call.
Both brothers have studied and will earn degrees in philosophy and theology in the six year seminary program. They each are finishing their fifth year. Tink was able to transfer credits from University of Dayton and feels it was important that he not have to start over with his studies. Currently each has opportunities to serve in parishes, schools, prisons and hospitals in the Boston area.
And as the brothers grow stronger in prayer, formation and service, they also find time to recreate with their fellow seminarians, enjoying activities they love — playing basketball, cards, football and attending movies. Tink continues to play his guitar, while Matt uses his culinary talents and even roasts his own coffee.
When asked for a response to an inquiry on vocations, Tink says, “Talk to a priest about it. He’s someone they can trust.”
Matt adds,” I would put prayer first. And don’t be afraid to talk to seminarians about it.”
As for their shared ordination to the diaconate this month and subsequent ordination into the priesthood in 2011, they say it is a humbling experience and being brothers makes the ordination more exciting. But they both stress that a call to a vocation is a uniquely individual experience. As they credit their family faith life and service experience, Catholic education, parishes involvement and good priestly role models, they also know that God calls each individual to share his or her own unique gifts and talents in extraordinary ways.
The two seminarian brothers will be ordained into the diaconate by Bishop John M. D’Arcy in St. Turibius Chapel at Pontifical College Josephinum on Sunday, April 25.
Matthew Coonan and Terrence Coonan, Jr., are shown at the Fort Wayne Chrism Mass on March 30. The Fort Wayne brothers will be ordained by Bishop John M. D’Arcy to the transitional diaconate on Sunday, April 25, at St. Turibius Chapel, Pontifical College Josephinum, in Columbus, Ohio.
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