Sometimes, timing is everything.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda made this observation as he ordained Frs. John Utecht, Connor McGinnis, Mike Selenski and Joseph Nguyen to the priesthood Saturday at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
“I’m thrilled to be ordaining men who are prepared for mission,” Hebda said during his homily. “It’s [fitting] that they will be celebrating their first Masses of Thanksgiving as the Church, at least in our province, celebrates the great Feast of the Ascension [on Sunday], recalling not only His returning to the Father, but also his great commission as he sent out his apostles to go make disciples of all nations.”
The quartet of Saint Paul Seminary alumni was part of eight men who joined the presbyterate Saturday in Minnesota. Frs. Tanner Thooft, Josh Bot and Nathan Hansen were ordained in the Diocese of New Ulm, and Fr. Samuel Gilbertson — who began his major seminary studies at The Saint Paul Seminary and wrapped them up in Rome — joined Utecht McGinnis, Selenski and Nguyen on the Cathedral of St. Paul altar.
“Looking forward to a lot of different things,” Utecht said, “but celebrating the sacraments is obviously a big one, getting to celebrate mass and hear confessions especially. It’s just such a such a privilege and such a cool place to bring the Lord to people.”
Said McGinnis: “In a lot of ways, just something simple but a little bit difficult to articulate is [the prospect of] just having a people I can call my own, that I can care for, that I can just really invest in.”
The Diocese of New Ulm’s newest priests shared similar sentiments in recent days before receiving their stoles and chasubles at the Church of St. Mary in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. Thooft and Bot grew up together in a farming community and soon bonded with Hansen during seminary.
Bot grew up on a pig farm. Thooft and Hansen’s favorite hobby is working on cars.
“It’s kind of a ragtag group,” Thooft said with a smile. “We’re all very excited, looking forward to getting ordained priests and seeing what God has for us in the future.”
The newest Twin Cities and New Ulm priests are part of an 18-man ordination class of 2022. The Diocese of Sioux Falls celebrated the ordination of Frs. Zachary Schaefbauer, Mitchell McLaughlin and Nicholas Haiar on Friday.
The Saint Paul Seminary began the year with 90 men enrolled and projects a similar number during the next school year. The current enrollment represents the largest one-year jump in potential future priests at the seminary since 1975.