Four young men from the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend are preparing for their ordination into the diaconate this year. William Meininger, Jonathan Norton and Matthew Soberalski will be ordained by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on May 24. Royce Gregorson will be ordained in Rome in October.
Matthew Soberalski brings a heart ready and willing to serve in the diaconate
FORT WAYNE — Matthew Robert Soberalski is working on turning everything over to God through prayer and spiritual direction as he prepares for his diaconate ordination on May 24 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. He is “allowing Him to form and transform me into a servant after His own heart,” he says.
A native of Michigan, and only son of three children born to Edward and Se Ann Soberalski, the young seminarian, who attended Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, currently attends Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., and is a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne.
The support and encouragement he has received from his family has been instrumental in his faith formation, he says, as he journeys toward ordination. “I think the greatest influences for my formation in the faith rests in my family. While my parents certainly played an important role, my grandparents were key figures,” he notes gratefully.
It was in high school that Soberalski first considered a vocation in the Priesthood. But he says, “…it was not until probably my second year in seminary that I really felt the call and began to personally respond to the call. Before seminary the call was a response to a longing in me for more and while in seminary it became a response to God the source of the call.”
The experience of seminary life has been richly fulfilling to the soon-to-be deacon. “It is a chance to grow and to be nourished spiritually, intellectually, humanly and pastorally. Seminary life provides a man an atmosphere to really meditate and listen for the voice of God speaking to him, a voice that is often very difficult to hear amidst the business and noise of society,” he says, adding, “…seminary life is also a place filled with much joy and a place where men learn how to be great fathers, regardless of whether they discover that call in the Priesthood or are led by God to the vocation to marriage.”
In seminary formation Soberalski has been assigned to several diocesan parishes, including St. Pius X, Granger, St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Fort Wayne, to learn under the competent tutelage of seasoned priests and minister to the faithful. Living out the service learned in the classroom was most beneficial, says Soberalski.
“It provides us a chance to encounter what we learn about from our professors and in books in an actual real life parish. The assignments give us the opportunity to learn at the feet of real men who have heard the call, responded to the call and who now assist us in doing likewise. In a very real way the assignments teach us more than we probably even realize and form is ways we can’t even comprehend,” he says.
As deacon of the Church, Soberalski looks forward to “getting to know and serving the people of God as a servant of Christ.” He hopes to bring to his ministry a “heart ready and willing to serve as Christ served and to follow wherever God leads.” And in his experience he has learned that God will provide “beyond anything I can think up.”
As Soberalski anticipates the rich and meaningful Mass of Ordination he is grateful for the love and encouragement of his family. “My mom, dad, sisters, brother-in-law and nieces have all been very supportive and have been getting very excited as I have been also. They have been a great blessing all the way through the process, from the time I entered seminary eight years ago to today.”
William Meininger to conform his life to Christ the Servant in diaconate
FORT WAYNE — Since entering the seminary in 2008, William Anthony Meininger has been preparing for May 24, his day of ordination into the diaconate at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, with prayer and study. His humility underscores his excitement of the event as he says, “Approaching this sacrament I feel so unworthy, though I trust in the Lord Jesus who chooses the weak to make them strong.”
Born to Bruce and Margaret Meininger in Canton, Ohio, this soon-to-be deacon first heard the call to a priestly vocation at the tender age of 13, much like his great uncle who entered seminary at that age. His father, who joined the Catholic Church in 1979, he says, has been “a major influence” in his discernment process. “While my sister and I were schooled in the teachings of the Church primarily from our mother, my father’s example of what it means to be a faith-filled and devout Catholic man had a great influence on me,” he says, adding that his family has always been supportive of his vocation.
While speaking with his parents about the Priesthood, they assured him that he had time to grow and pray about his vocation. “I did just that, and after finishing college, I entered into formation,” he says. Meininger earned a bachelor’s degree in music education at the College of Wooster in 2007.
His formation at Pontifical Josephinum, Athenaeum and Mount Saint Mary’s seminaries has been six years of joy, he says. “Having the opportunity to come together with men who are all seeking to grow in their relationship with Christ and discern their truest purpose in life has been such a blessing for me. Our daily routine of prayer, classes and fraternity have served me well in helping me begin the process of lifelong growth in the best version of the man God created me to be.”
Meininger feels his summer parish assignments at St. Pius X in Granger and Most Precious Blood in Fort Wayne, during his formation have prepared him in many ways for his diaconate. “I always anxiously await the opportunity to spend several months immersed in parish life with the people of God. Being able to work with parishioners, parish staff and pastors has really affirmed my sense of calling and the joy that comes from being exhausted after a long day in the vineyard is unlike anything I have ever experienced.”
Becoming a deacon of the Church has Meininger eager to serve the people of God. “I am always so humbled to be present in some of the most joyful and sorrowful moments in the lives of parishioners and be considered as a part of their families and lives. I hope to bring joy through service and excitement about the Gospel of Christ, which is so needed in our world,” he says, adding that he looks forward most to baptizing. “I have been blessed to be present for a great many number of Baptisms during my years in the seminary, but being able to regularly bestow this sacrament, opening the doors of grace to these newly born children, is most humbling and exciting.”
Meininger hopes to learn to live every day for Jesus and His people. “The process of formation is a continual dying to self, and a putting-on of the new self as St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:22-24. In ordination to the diaconate, a man is conformed to Christ the Servant. I pray that this special grace will teach me to be continually selfless and live at the service of the Church and Her members.”
Meininger, who is the third male in his family to be ordained into the Priesthood, encourages anyone seeking the truth of their vocation to investigate the call. “I encourage any man who is discerning a call to the Priesthood to take the chance, trust in God and pursue formation. Even for those who discern that they are not called while in the seminary, the experience is nonetheless worthwhile, as we are not only trained to be priests, but also simply strong Catholic men,” he offers.
Meininger’s home parish is St. Pius X in Granger.
Jonathan Norton hopes to give all of himself in diaconate
FORT WAYNE — Jonathan Blake Norton has been praying fervently in anticipation of his upcoming ordination into the diaconate on May 24 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. He not only prays for graces for himself and fellow seminarians but for the families of his next parish assignment. “I am praying that I will just rely on the strength of Jesus Christ and cooperate with the grace that will come from my ordination. … I know that there will be people and families who invite me into their lives, sharing their hopes, joys, fears and struggles. I have faith in the Lord that He will use me to provide them with grace,” he says.
Norton is the son of Grant and Nola Norton and has two siblings, one brother and one sister. The family attends Our Lady of Good Hope Parish in Fort Wayne. A graduate of Bishop Luers High School with the class of 2000 Norton began his higher education at Indiana Tech studying engineering, but says he “quickly realized that it was not for me.” After eight years of work experience, Norton went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in 2011 while in formation at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary.
Norton credits his supportive family, particularly his mother, who was instrumental in getting the Norton children to Mass each Sunday and educated in a Catholic high school and his deeply devoted grandparents for his faith formation.
After a rough start in his teen years, he found himself at Bishop Luers and is grateful to his parents who worked extra jobs to assure his place at the school.
“Those four years were very beneficial to me. I was given a real chance to excel and see my peers taking their faith seriously,” he says, adding, “I am grateful to my parents for making the sacrifice to send me to a Catholic high school.”
The young seminarian also gives credit to Redeemer Radio’s broadcasts of Church teachings. “The programing on Redeemer Radio in a way mentored me and helped me to appreciate the beauty of our Catholic faith, seeing that it was the answer to the true desires in my heart,” he notes.
The true desires of his heart came to fruition years after he first heard the call to a vocation when he was a boy. Serving at Mass on his father’s military base he became acquainted with the Marine chaplain there who invited him to consider the Priesthood. “Because he was a chaplain we often saw him in Marine uniform and so there was nothing more impressive to me as a kid than seeing a ‘Marine-priest.’ Thanks to the influence of Father (James) O’Kielty I have considered the Priesthood throughout my life, and now military chaplaincy,” says Norton.
During his teen years, Norton put his dream of the Priesthood “on the shelf” until 2005 when he realized “God was not going to stop calling me. So I finally took some time to really discern and then finally applied for seminary.”
Seminary has been a meaningful experience for this soon-to-be deacon. “It has been a great blessing to have this time to develop a close relationship with Jesus Christ. … I have developed friendships with my brother seminarians that will last for a lifetime. I have seen and experienced the love that the people have for their priests. I have learned that the Lord can never be out done in generosity. Every time I give of myself He rewards me with even more blessings,” he says.
On his path to the Priesthood Norton has experienced summer parish assignments at St. Pius X in Granger and St. Mary of the Annunciation in Bristol where he “learned a great deal about being a good shepherd.”
He says of the experiences, “Summer parish assignments have allowed me to see the highs and lows of parish life. I believe that it is a beautiful life. …”
In anticipation of his diaconate duties, Norton humbly expresses, “I hope that I can give all of myself as a deacon.”
As a deacon Norton says, “I expect that I will continue to learn that it is wise and more efficient to trust in Christ rather than myself! … I am excited about the entire experience. I have been told that deacon year is very special because it is the first time that a man experiences the grace of Holy Orders. I hope that it will help me grow in my identity as a spiritual father.”
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