Bishop Ricken ordains 5 to priesthood

LEDGEVIEW — The Fourth of July weekend kicked off with the ordination of five new priests for the Diocese of Green Bay. Bishop David Ricken ordained Deacons Adam Bradley, Mark Mleziva, Matthew Rappl, Jon Thorsen and Zachary Weber to the priesthood on July 1.

Priests of the Diocese of Green Bay place their hands on the heads of five men ordained to the priesthood July 1 at St. Mary Church in Ledgeview. In the foreground is a chalice and paten, which were used during the ordination rite. It was the first time five priests have been ordained at one time in the diocese since 1991. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Due to the number of men being ordained, the ordination liturgy was held at St. Mary Church in Ledgeview, which has more seating capacity than St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, where ordinations are typically held. The high turnout packed both the parking lot and the church. With over 1,200 guests and 110 priests in attendance, every pew was taken, causing many to stand along the walls and even spill into the entrance space outside the church.

In his homily, Bishop Ricken said the group of five new priests was the largest class of ordinandi since 1991. “We are blessed to have a growing number of seminarians and new priests to serve. I’m excited to see how they will go out to our parishes and draw people closer to God,” he added.

Bishop Ricken was not the only one excited about the growing number of seminarians and priests in the Diocese of Green Bay.

“It’s been so long since we’ve had that many (priests ordained),” said McKenna Rohan, a member of St. Clare Parish in Greenleaf. “I think that’s such an awesome testament as to where our diocese, and hopefully the world, is going. We just need to keep getting that number up every year. I’m just going to keep praying for all these seminarians and everyone who is pursuing their vocation. It’s so beautiful.”

“It’s the most they’ve ordained since 1991. It’s tremendous,” said Steve Vrotz, whose wife, Debbie, works at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. Both Fr. Bradley and Fr. Rappl studied at the seminary. “Hopefully, they’ll get five more often. We need it.”

“Joyful” was the word Fr. Thorsen used to describe his ordination. “I’ve just been given a great gift. I want to share this gift that I’ve been given,” he said. “That’s what the priesthood is all about. That’s what it’s meant for.”

Filled with joy and gratitude, he talked about the ceremony and the impact it had on him. “There were certain words (in the ordination rite) that kind of stuck out,” he said. “A point that really stuck out to me was during the Eucharistic Prayer when we’re up there concelebrating Mass with the bishop … actually being able to say the words along with the bishop at certain points. It’s very surreal.”

Fr. Rappl struggled for words when reflecting on his ordination. “I don’t know how to describe it. Just a lot of emotions,” he said. “A lot of gratitude. God’s goodness is front and center. Can’t really say it in words. It was just beautiful.”

He tried to absorb every moment of the two-hour ceremony. “My favorite part was the priests coming around individually and laying their hands on each of us and praying for us and entering into the brotherhood of the priesthood,” he said.

Much like Fr. Rappl, newly ordained Fr. Bradley was deeply moved by the 110 priests in attendance. “I started crying when all the priests were laying hands on us. I just really understood the brotherhood of the priests and that it’s rooted in Christ,” he said. “Everything my brother priests and I have gone through or will go through and the ministries we perform are really an extension of Jesus’ ministry. And that was a very powerful moment. Just having all those feelings of joy and thanksgiving welling up in me.”

Fr. Bradley also struggled for words to explain his emotions following his ordination. “I don’t know if I can fully describe it,” he said. “It’s like shock and awe. It’s an absolute gift. One that I think is going to take a lifetime to unpack.”

At the end of the ceremony, Bishop Ricken announced where the newly ordained priests would serve. Fr. Bradley will be assigned to St. Pius X Parish in Appleton. Fr. Mleziva was assigned to St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc. Fr. Rappl will serve primarily at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Oshkosh, but will also help at St. Mary Parish in Omro and at St. Mary in Winneconne. Fr. Thorsen was placed at Sacred Heart Parish and St. Bernadette Parish, both in Appleton. Fr. Weber has been assigned to St. John and SS. Mary and Hyacinth, both in Antigo.

“Ordination is a pure gift,” said Bishop Ricken. “It is a pure gift from God. And God knows what he’s doing.”