Ordination 2014 | Diocese of Lansing

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Ordination 2014

The Diocese of Lansing was blessed with five new priests on June 14. Bishop Earl Boyea ordained Daniel Westermann. James Rolph, Gary Koenigsknecht, Todd Koenigsknecht and Vince Richardson to the priesthood at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in East Lansing. Meet the five newest priests for the Diocese of Lansing, here, and as they celebrate the Diocese of Lansing televised Outreach Mass .

Father Daniel Westermann

One of five deacons to be ordained June 14, Daniel Westermann, 25, joined the seminary at 18. The Pinckney native was a parishioner at Christ the King in Ann Arbor.  

Q: What was the process that led you to pursue the priesthood? 

A: I thought about becoming a priest when I was much younger, somewhere around the second grade. However, through high school, I didn't want to think about it. It was not until my senior year "Kairos" retreat that I started to experience the call again.

During a time of prayer at the retreat, I sensed the Lord inviting me to give everything. Then, out of nowhere, “priesthood” popped into my mind. Initially, I rejected the thought, saying, “No, Lord, not that!” However, after taking some more time to pray, I made an act of surrender and said, “Yes” to what the Lord was offering. In that moment, I experienced a great sense of peace and joy, which I had really been searching for.

After the retreat, I was quite nervous about telling my men's group. However, the next time we met, one of the other guys, Jim Rolph, said, “Well, I think Jesus is calling me to be a priest.” So I just had to say, “Me, too.” We went to visit the seminary in St. Paul together, and it just seemed right. Here I am eight years later on the brink of ordination with Deacon Jim. 

Q: What has this journey been like the last few years as you've prepared to be ordained?

A: As much as I was impressed with all the ways that the Lord was working in my life those months leading up to seminary, the last eight years have provided one opportunity after another for him to break any limitations I try to put on him. He continues to amaze me.

It really has been an adventure, and my “job” now is to help others grow in their relationship with Jesus, especially in the sacraments.

Q: What message would you pass along to those who want to serve God but do not know how?

A: I would encourage anyone that wants to serve God more to take time to pray and read the Scriptures. Just as we spend time with friends to get to know them better, so we need to spend time with the Lord, in order to get to know him better and come to know his will for us.”

Q: What has it been like preparing for priesthood while studying in Rome?

A: I have been in Rome the last four years for my seminary formation at the Pontifical North American College. It's been a great blessing to be formed for the priesthood in the heart of the Church. However, while my time here has been a gift, I greatly look forward to serving the people of the Diocese of Lansing.

Father James Rolph

One of five deacons to be ordained June 14, James Rolph, 25, is an Ann Arbor native who attended Christ the King during his formative years.

Q: What was the process that led you to pursue the priesthood? 

A: When I first began thinking about the priesthood, I had no idea what the process was like. Thankfully, I was able to get in touch with our vocation director, who helps men thinking about the priesthood go through the process of joining the seminary and supports us as we go through. 

I visited St. John Vianney during my senior year of high school, and during that visit knew that this was where the Lord wanted me.

The next fall, I began seminary as a true college freshman and embarked on the journey that has led me to the priesthood.

Q: Was there a single person who greatly influenced your decision to become a priest? 

 A: I’ve been blessed throughout my life to know many holy priests who have helped show me who a priest is and what the priesthood is all about. These men, more than anything else, have made me want to be a priest because of the witness of their lives. They live a happy and fulfilled life as a priest, and I see their witness and think, “I can do that, too.”

They have shown me that priests aren’t perfect (no one is!), but that they’re men who strive each day to grow closer to Jesus and to lead others to him through their ministry.

Q: What has this journey been like the last few years as you've prepared to be ordained? 

A: The past few years have been such a blessing in order to prepare my own heart to serve as a priest. It has been a time to fall more deeply in love with Jesus and become more conformed to him. I know that I cannot give what I don’t have, so it’s so important for me to have a relationship with the Lord so that I can bring him to others and them to him. 

Q: What message would you pass along to those who want to serve God but do not know how? 

A: Do not be afraid! I never thought that God would call me to the priesthood, and when I began to feel called I was scared and thought I could never be happy as a priest. But I have found that following God’s plan for my life and doing his will has made me happier than I could have ever imagined. 

Ask God what his plan is for you and listen with an open heart. This means spending time in prayer every day, talking to God and learning to hear his voice. Then when you hear his voice and his call, respond with a generous heart.

Father Gary Koenigsknecht

One of five deacons who will be ordained June 14, Gary Koenigsknecht, 26, is from Most Holy Trinity in Fowler. He will become a priest alongside his brother, Todd, who is being ordained the same day.

Q: What was the process that led you to pursue the priesthood? 

A: I felt called at a young age, and the process then was choosing to respond as I got older. The idea was always in the back of my mind, even if I did not always want to think about it!

When I was in high school and taking the ACT plan test, I filled out the “clergy” bubble because the thought was on my radar. Eventually, my parents pulled me aside, as they did with all of my siblings, and asked if I had ever considered a religious vocation. Their encouragement helped me enter the seminary and begin formal discernment to see if God was indeed calling me to be a priest.

Q: How did your brother impact your decision to become a priest and what has this experience been like sharing it together?

A: People are always surprised to hear Todd and I never talked to each other about the priesthood. Only after our parents had spoken with both of us separately did we talk to each other. 

Having my twin brother also prepare for the priesthood has been a great experience. We helped keep each other honest and faithful to our seminary commitments, especially to a life of prayer during vacation times. He has helped me to develop the habits that have already served me well as a deacon, and soon as a priest.

Q: You will be ordained this summer; what are your emotions as that day draws nearer?

A: I am very excited! I am eager to serve as a priest, and to jump into ministry. People from my home parish and my internship parish have been very encouraging, and their excitement only adds to my anticipation for ordination.

Q: What message would you pass along to those who want to serve God but do not know how?

A: I would advise people to look at where God has already called them, and then to live out that vocation well. If someone is married, then Jesus wants them to serve by loving their spouse and family well. 

We usually do not have to look far in order to serve God. We can ask, “Am I serving God through my work? Am I intentionally inviting Christ into my daily activities so that I do them for him, rather than just myself? Do I speak about Christ to my family, coworkers, and friends?” 

When we bring God into what we are already doing, we can be amazed about how he transforms our lives, simply by living out well the vocation God has given to us. 

Father Todd Koenigsknecht

One of five deacons to be ordained June 14, Todd Koenigsknecht, 26, is a former parishioner of Most Holy Trinity in Fowler. He will become a priest alongside his brother, Gary, who is being ordained the same day.

Q: What was the process that led you to pursue the priesthood? 

A: Between my parents and the example of my uncle, Father Bill Koenigsknecht, and my parish priest, Father Ray Rademacher, I had great examples of both married life and the priesthood. I saw how both were ways God called one to give one’s self away and in doing so, find joy.

Over time, I found myself more and more attracted to the priesthood and their particular calling to help others encounter Jesus. When I was in seventh or eighth grade, my mom asked me if I had ever considered being a priest, and that really helped put into words what God was saying in my mind and heart. 

Q: How did your brother impact your decision to become a priest and what has this experience been like sharing it together?

A: His calling did not initially impact [my decision] because we never talked to each other about the call we were feeling from the Lord. We were talking to our parents about it separately, but not to each other.

After a while my parents were the ones that called us into the room together and that is how I found out Gary was feeling called.

That being said, though, it has been a joy to share this calling with my twin brother. We have always been close, but this has only deepened that. He has been a great source of encouragement and strength for me in growing in my relationship with Jesus and being faithful to the Lord in prayer. 

It has been very helpful to be able to talk with him about the ups and downs of seminary formation and what the Lord has been doing these past eight years. I think we help spur each other on, which is also aided by a healthy dose of brotherly competition.

Q: How has being a deacon and serving the Church the last few years influenced the type of priest you will be?

A: The Diocese of Lansing has many tremendous priests and I have been blessed to get to know many of them and see how they live their priesthood. A couple of things that come to mind is their joyful service. First of all, these men are joyful and it impacts all they do. 

Secondly, they pour themselves out for their people and they do so joyfully. Both characteristics are rooted in their relationship with the Lord and flow from it. That is the kind of priest I want to be.

Father Vince Richardson

One of five deacons to be ordained June 14, Vince Richardson, 26, joined the seminary at age 19. The Lansing native was a parishioner at Church of the Resurrection.  

Q: What was the process that led you to pursue the priesthood? 

A: I had a good foundation in my Christian faith growing up, going to church every Sunday with the family, along with being involved with a charismatic, ecumenical Christian community called the Work of Christ. There, I developed a personal relationship with Jesus, a greater knowledge of the Scriptures and a desire to follow the Father's will for my life.

While I desired God's will, priesthood was not on my mind until my senior year of high school. On winter break of that year, a good friend introduced the idea of seminary and the priesthood to me, and, by this time, I had a good enough foundation to seriously discern this vocation.

This discernment continued throughout my first year of college, where I took the basic requirements for an engineering degree, and it culminated in a clear sign from God on Holy Thursday 2007.

Q: What took place that Holy Thursday that made it clear to you?

A: I found great clarity in praying before the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in East Lansing. After the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, I was asking God for clarity. At that moment, I felt a deep drawing in my heart toward the Eucharist and these words: “Vince, I want you to be formed as a man and a father in seminary. I want you to take this step with me and let me lead you along the way.”

Q: How has being a deacon and serving the Church the last few years influenced the type of priest you will be?

A: My first year of internship helped me realize the importance of Christian ministry to the sick and suffering. I spent a good amount of time visiting parishioners in the hospital and assisted at many different funerals. Through this experience, I realized the importance of the priest in bringing the hope of Christ to rather dark moments in people's lives.

This past year, assisting at the vibrant student parish in Ann Arbor, I've come to understand the importance of addressing people's experience of the Catholic faith. When preparing homilies and talking with parishioners, I've found personal testimonies to be an important starting point to draw others into a deeper commitment to Christ and his Church. Most people are at different points in their spiritual journey and it's important to understand when ministering in the parish.