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Today is a time for celebration for four Roman Catholic deacons who will be ordained priests in the Diocese of Toledo at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral.
But it will also be a time of some sadness, for there were to have been five ordinands kneeling before Bishop Leonard Blair for the 11 a.m. ceremony.
The fifth, Scott Carroll, was ordained as a deacon in the cathedral a year ago on March 30 alongside Nathan Bockrath, Christopher Mileski, Jeremy Miller, and Jeffery Walker, the four who will be called “Father” as of today. But Father Carroll was ordained 45 days ago at his father’s house, two days before cancer took his life on May 10. He was 46.
“It’s definitely, obviously, a bittersweet kind of moment,” said Mr. Mileski, who will be associate pastor at St. Wendelin in Fostoria. He started seminary with Mr. Carroll seven years ago at St. Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind.
“I think none of our classmates would have handled [terminal illness] as beautifully as Scott did.”
“There’s certainly going to be an empty space at that altar on Saturday,” said Mr. Walker, who will continue his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. “I think that Scott will be praying with us and for us.”
Going forward, Mr. Mileski said, “I’m very hopeful that I’ll have a powerful [heavenly] intercessor.” He envisions saying, “Scott, you’re in the presence of God. Can you help me out with what I’m supposed to be doing?”
What the four new priests, all of whom are between the ages of 26 and 28, will be doing might be affected by changes in the larger Church. They grew up when John Paul II was pope, studied for ministry in Benedict XVI’s papacy, and Pope Francis became head of the Roman Catholics when they were deacons.
“I’m really happy with what Pope Benedict was able to bring to the church, and happy with what Pope Francis intends to do,” said Mr. Bockrath, who will be associate pastor at St. Paul the Apostle in Norwalk.
“No one seems to be safe” from Pope Francis's challenges to their way of being, Mr. Mileski said. “There isn’t an ideologically more progressive or more conservative” group in the Church that is secure from his examination, he said, noting that the pope is “willing to call people out.”
The four men began their ministry studies when “calling out” was intense from the clergy sex abuse scandal. “My generation of priests have it as our responsibility to bring about that healing that the church needs so much,” Mr. Walker said.
Mr. Bockrath, who along with Mr. Miller attended Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West in Cincinnati, thinks the Church is “in a pretty good stance right now,” but that there is “a lot of sadness with different things that happened in the past.”
Mr. Miller, who will be associate pastor at St. Peter’s in Mansfield, Ohio, spoke of “an opportunity for myself and my own credibility as a priest to reverse that mentality in society, [to show] that not all priests do these kind of things.”
They are ministers in a Church that continues to recognize only men as Roman Catholic priests. They speak with praise of women in other positions of Catholic Church leadership, such as education, but say that Church history and theology limit the priesthood to men only. All four, have worked with women who are ministers in other Christian churches, especially when they had pastoral training in hospital ministry. For women clergy, Mr. Walker said, “When it comes to bringing Jesus to other people, I think we’re on the same team.”
“I personally get along with [women clergy] well and respect their denominational view on this,” Mr. Miller said.
The new priests will start work on July 8. The date would be July 1, but “ they gave us an extra week since our ordination is so late.”
Since Mr. Walker will return to Rome in the fall, during the summer “I’m going to be in residence at one of the parishes here in Toledo, and I’m going to be going around the diocese basically filling in in places, so I’m the favorite of the priests who want to go on vacation,” he said.
Though he’ll be finishing an advanced degree, “My heart is in the parish in northwest Ohio, and I’m looking very much forward to returning to parish ministry next spring.”