Bonnie Elberson
Freelance Writer
May 9, 2017 // Special

Five prepare for ordination to the diaconate

Bonnie Elberson
Freelance Writer

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will celebrate the Mass of ordination at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 20

Maskal brings willing spirit, positive attitude to diaconate

By Bonnie Elberson

Nathan Maskal

Nathan Maskal has been a parishioner at St. Charles Borromeo Church, Fort Wayne, since childhood. The oldest of three sons of Michael and Susan Maskal, he remembers attending daily Mass as a very young child and being asked by then-pastor Msgr. Edward Hession if he planned to become a priest. In later years, said Nathan, “that came back to me,” and set him on the path to discernment.

Nathan attended St. Charles School and then Bishop Dwenger High School, where he began to explore his faith in earnest. He participated in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., joined others in prayer outside a local abortion clinic and took leadership roles in the parish youth group as he became ever more involved in his faith. Finally, he said, “God called me.”

His parents first knew of his intentions after he met with vocation director Father Bernard Galic during his senior year. “Nathan came home and told us he was going to apply to the seminary,” said his mother, Susan. “Family and friends were all supportive and proud of his decision to discern a vocation to the priesthood,” she added. After high school graduation he began studies at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Wis., then continued his work at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., where he will earn a master’s degree.

Father Tom Shoemaker, pastor at St. Charles Borromeo, noted that Nathan was a great help to him in setting up and organizing Holy Week liturgies during his time on vacation from the seminary. “He has a good, positive attitude and is willing to help whenever he can,” he said.

Nathan also spent a pastoral year at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Decatur. Former pastor Father David Voors said of that assignment, “I was impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of Nathan, and this enthusiasm wasn’t just focused on ‘churchy’ things that center around the Mass or liturgy, but also with parishioners, sports, friendships and the needs of others.” Father Voors pointed out that his protégé was at the door of the parish school each morning to greet students and to visit their classrooms. He quickly became involved in all aspects of parish life, and had a great influence on many parishioners. “As his ordination draws near, I am thankful to have worked with Nathan at St. Mary of the Assumption in Decatur, and was truly blessed by his presence,” he added.

As he nears ordination to the diaconate, Nathan reflected on his journey. “God presents many challenges along the way,” but with the prayer and the support of family and friends he is ready for this next step on the path to the priesthood. Along with four others, Nathan will be ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacon by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Saturday morning, May 20, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Fort Wayne; then he will proclaim the Gospel and preach the homily at all Masses that weekend at St. Charles Borromeo Church. He has already looked at that week’s Gospel and said he has “lots of ideas to share.” People need to take something away from a homily, he pointed out, and he hopes his message will be inspirational.

Joyful priests influenced Zehr’s discernment

By Bonnie Elberson

Thomas Zehr

Thomas Zehr, one of five seminarians preparing for ordination to the Sacred Order of Deacon, plans to go on retreat and spend time in prayer, then enjoy the company of family and friends after his May 5 graduation from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and before his ordination.

Zehr is the second oldest of eight children of David and Denice Zehr, and a long-time parishioner of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish in Fort Wayne. He was home-schooled during his elementary years and then attended Bishop Dwenger High School to round out his education. He admits he wasn’t really sure about a vocation until his junior year, though he was open to the idea. Along the way, “I’ve been fortunate to be influenced by many joyful priests,” he said, so when classmates began making college plans, “I decided to pull the trigger.”

“We have spoken to all of our children about their vocation and asked them to be open to what the Lord has planned for them,” his father said. “Thomas has always been kind, respectful and obedient: Being one of eight children has naturally taught him to be selfless and help others. All of these are great qualities to have for any vocation, especially the priesthood!

“The family has been very supportive of Thomas’ discernment of the priesthood,” David added. “We were particularly moved when he informed us he was finished discerning and was certain God has called him to be a priest. We all pray for him daily.”

Father Mark Gurtner, pastor at Our Lady of Good Hope, said he first became aware that Thomas was discerning a vocation during his high school years. He encouraged him to pray and listen for God’s voice in his heart and also to listen to his own desires because “God speaks to us through our own desire to do what is good and true.” He added, “It is a blessing for our parish to have a son of the parish ordained to the diaconate and, God willing, to the priesthood.”

As a newly ordained deacon, Thomas will proclaim the Gospel and preach the homily at each of the weekend Masses at Our Lady of Good Hope on May 20 and 21. Right now, “I’m more excited than nervous,” he said. “But I will be more so when the day comes.”

David reflected on his and his wife’s emotions. “It is no easy task to describe the joy we have, knowing the lives which will be touched by our son, through the sacraments.” Speaking of his son’s ordination class, he said: “It is staggering to think of the difference these young men will make to so many of God’s children throughout their priestly lives!”

Huneck has faith in God’s plan

By Rachel Batdorff

David Huneck

“I was born and raised in Fort Wayne,” said David Huneck, who is currently living in Emmitsburg, Md., while finishing his schooling at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. On Saturday, May 20, Huneck will be one of five ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacon in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

“When I initially entered seminary, it was because of the witness of many joyous priests — especially Father Jason Freiburger and Msgr. John Kuzmich.”

Huneck has been a parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul in Fort Wayne his entire life.

“I went to grade school at St. Vincent’s, attending high school at Bishop Dwenger High School and graduating in 2009,” Huneck said. “Then I went to Ball State for two years, initially studying broadcast journalism.”

He then transferred into seminary at Mount St. Mary’s, finishing his bachelor of arts degree in philosophy in 2013. He stayed to continue his theological studies, and plans to graduate with his master’s in divinity in 2018.

“The seminary education process has been challenging, because I am over 500 miles away from home,” Huneck stated. “I have stayed committed by praying every day and keeping in touch with my family and friends back in Indiana.”

One key precept Huneck has learned is to never doubt God’s plan.

“There will be difficulties, but He will give you the grace to persevere,” he said. “I have grown in my love for Christ and his church. Also, I have grown in brotherhood with the great seminarians of our diocese.”

After being ordained as a deacon, Huneck will preach his first homily that evening during Mass. “I will also baptize my nephew, Henry,” he said. This summer, Huneck will assist a parish to which he will soon be assigned.

“I would encourage any man who thinks they are being called to priesthood to talk to their local parish priest,” Huneck said in reference to those seeking future ordination. “Be not afraid, God will provide.”

Huneck, the son of John and Becky Huneck, has an older sister Amanda, brother-in-law Robert, and a nephew, Henry. He also has a younger brother, Phillip, and sister-in-law Stacey.

Staying close to sacraments and prayer fortifies Horning

By Rachel Batdorff

Jay Horning

Jay Horning grew up in South Bend: but when he is home from seminary, he currently attends at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Fort Wayne.

“I have been at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for seven years,” he said. “That’s where I was baptized after I went through RCIA in college.”

Horning attended Swanson Elementary and Clay Middle and High School in South Bend. “I then attended the University of Saint Francis and have a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in theology.”

He didn’t think about ordination, seminar, or the priesthood until a year after becoming Catholic.

“When I first started thinking about it, I was a youth director at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on a mission trip with the high school students,” he said. “My encounters with those students prompted me to start praying and discerning if this was something I should do for God and my life.”

Horning said he feels as though the ordination process is both long and short.

“There are times when it feels like some things will go on forever, but then, looking back, those times have flown by.”

He stated that there are difficulties becoming adjusted to a new environment and new way of life — however, these experiences are extremely worthwhile. “Struggles are real, and if a man doesn’t struggle then that would be more concerning.”

He attributes his commitment to the Lord to staying close to the sacraments and prayer, relying on brother seminarians and recognizing that trials and tribulations are survivable if one follows God’s desires.

“There are some things that you have no control over; there are some things you have to let go of,” Horning said. He acknowledged that for most people, “there are some things that you want to hold on to, some that are good and some that are bad.”

In the end, he added, if you are truly giving yourself to the Lord and sacrificing in order to grow more in love with him, that’s the most important thing to learn.

“I think that I have grown to become a man that loves the Lord first and desires to share that love with all the people I will have opportunities to encounter through my ministry.” He seeks to continue to grow in his love for Jesus Christ and care of His people.

“As a deacon, my responsibilities are to the bishop and to the diocese, to proclaim the Gospel, preach and baptize,” he said. “I hope to do all these things.”

For those feeling called to ordination, Horning encourages, above all, prayer.

Horning’s mother currently resides in Plymouth, along with a set of grandparents. He also has a grandmother living in South Bend.

God qualifies the called, believes Hake

By Claire Kenney

Patrick Hake

Patrick “Pat” Hake initially became interested in discerning the priesthood in high school. His first distinct encounter with the idea occurred to him while in eucharistic adoration on a retreat.

But, wanting to be a “normal” high school student, he suppressed the thought of a vocation to the priesthood until college.

“I quickly ignored the call that I felt at that retreat,” Hake recounted. “There was not much discernment in my high school days — I just sort of concentrated on other aspects of life.”

Hake started college as a chemistry major at Butler University, but the sense of a calling reintroduced itself not long after.

“While at Butler, I made lots of friends and enjoyed myself, but I didn’t feel fulfilled. I felt like I was spinning my wheels,” Hake explained. “I looked back to that moment during adoration on that Lifeteen retreat, and I decided to finally go to seminary.”

After two years, Hake transitioned to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland to enter the school’s seminary and study theology. Since doing so, he has earned a deep sense of peace.

Despite discovering his calling and finding true fulfillment, Hake realizes that there are still obstacles to overcome to gain capability and confidence in one’s vocation. When faced with challenges related to pursuing his calling, he remembers that through God he can do what seems impossible. He emphasized “really trusting in God, because he wants the best for me” and relying on the Holy Spirit as keys to his ability to totally fulfill his vocation.

“God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called,” Hake said.

The fourth in a family of six, two members of Hake’s extended family are priests. He grew up in the Fort Wayne area and attended St. Vincent de Paul School and Bishop Dwenger High School.

Hake’s parents were influential in Hake’s discernment, he said. However, they ultimately give the credit to God.

“People ask me how to raise a son to become a priest, and I say, ‘I gave him a lot of oatmeal;” meaning that it’s all in God’s hands, that everyone’s journey is unique,” Hake’s dad, Tim, said.

Of his fellow seminarians at Mount St. Mary’s, Hake said that they have taught him what true holiness means.

“Before coming out to the Mount, my idea of holiness was abstract; but after meeting a ton of great guys, I see how it is obtainable for all walks of life,” he commented.

Hake said that his vocational journey — and anyone’s vocational journey — starts with recognizing God’s presence and work. This acknowledgement is what launches pursuit of the calling.

“Encountering God. That’s where it all starts,” he said.

Hake will deliver the homily at the 5 p.m. Mass at St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne, on May 20. That Mass occurs just hours after his ordination to the diaconate, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. His ordination to the priesthood is currently scheduled for June 2018.

















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