Meet our priest formators and staff

Rev. Jonathan Kelly
Rector, Saint John Vianney College Seminary

Very Reverend Jonathan Kelly is a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and a member of the priestly fraternity, the Companions of Christ. Ordained in 2011, he was the associate pastor at All Saints in Lakeville, Minnesota until 2014. Since then he has been a formator and spiritual director at the Saint John Vianney College Seminary and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas. He is also a spiritual director and adjunct faculty for the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska. In January 2021, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda appointed him to be the ninth Rector of SJV, effective June 1st 2021.

I am so grateful for your courage to make the choice to come to SJV! The first line of my job description as rector is to be the leader and spiritual father of the seminary. I am inspired by St. John Paul II’s words, ‘The formation of future priests…is considered one of the most demanding and important tasks for the evangelization of humanity.’ I look forward to creating the environment where you will be able to hear God’s call for your life. Do not be afraid to spend your life for Him…He is already one day ahead of us and simply invites us to trust in His sovereign providence!

Rev. Paul Gitter
Spiritual Director

Father Paul Gitter, the longest-serving priest currently on the formation staff at Saint John Vianney, is the Director of Spiritual Life, a role he took up in 2019.  Prior to that, he served for two years as the director of the SJV Rome Study Abroad Program, following a ten-year period as a full-time formator and 11 years of part-time ministry to the seminary before that.  Father Gitter was ordained in July 1993 after completing his theological studies and priestly formation at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake (Mundelein Seminary) in Chicago, after which he served in parish ministry before his transfer to full-time work at SJV.

When I was ordained in 1993, I never imagined that in 2021 I would be starting my twenty-fifth year associated in some way with SJV. It has been the greatest joy of my priesthood and, God willing, I will continue in this blessed work for many years to come. Seminary is a blessed time when young men can grow in holiness and discern their vocation within a community of brothers. But don’t worry – we know how to have fun too!”

Rev. Joseph Kuharski
Formator, Spiritual Director

Reverend Joseph Kuharski, who is a Companion of Christ, began his seminary formation at Saint John Vianney (Class of 2010), before going on to the North American College in Rome, where he studied at the Gregorian University and the John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family.  Father Kuharski was ordained as a priest in 2014 for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.  Presently, Father Kuharski serves as the formator, as well being a spiritual director and co-professor of the second-year seminarians’ Catechism course.

My experience at SJV has had the single greatest impact on who I am as a priest today. I feel humbled and truly grateful to be a part of cultivating that same vision for holiness that has inspired me in my priesthood. I love being a priest and especially the grace to be able to see how the Holy Spirit works in amazing ways to bring healing and hope in the sacrament of Reconciliation. I want to say to you all: Do not be afraid to come to seminary! To be honest, I did not want to come when I originally heard the call, and I was afraid, but I immediately grew to love the brotherhood of good men here. The Lord will bless you abundantly for being open to His will.”

Rev. Michael Kearney
Formator, Spiritual Director

Reverend Michael Kearney is a priest for the Diocese of Joliet-in-Illinois and an SJV / UST alumnus.  After ordination to the priesthood, he finished his first assignment at Visitation Catholic Church in Elmhurst, Illinois.  Prior to his ordination in May of 2016, Father Kearney was a college missionary for six years serving with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado; the University of Kansas City, Missouri; and the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado.   He also served in college ministry at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and received an Engineering degree from the University of Illinois.  In 2018, Father Kearney was assigned by Most Reverend R. Daniel Conlon (then-Bishop of Joliet) to serve as a formation staff and spiritual director to SJV.

I am excited to return to the SJV/UST campus to help men in their discernment process and one of my greatest joys is to share the faith through small group Scripture studies in-house at SJV and on campus.

Rev. Mathew Alexander
Formator, Spiritual Director

Reverend Matthew Alexander was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2015.  Before coming to SJV, Father Alexander served as the associate pastor of Saint Mary of the Annunciation Catholic Church in Mundelein, Illinois and then as a formator at Saint Joseph College Seminary in Chicago.  In 2010, Fr. Alexander received an undergraduate degree in Philosophy at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio and, in 2017, he completed his Licentiate in Sacred Theology at Mundelein Seminary. Father Alexander has served on the SJV formation staff since the fall of 2019, during which has has been both a formator and director, as well as the professor of the third-year seminarians’ inter-disciplinary pastoral ministry course.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to walk with these young men as a spiritual father and, with the grace of God the Father, to help form their hearts to be configured to the priestly heart of Jesus and the motherly heart of Mary.

Rev. Colin Jones
Formator, Spiritual Director

Reverend Colin Jones, another Saint John Vianney alumnus, is being welcomed this year as the newest priest to the formation staff! Father Jones, an SJV alumnus, was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis by Archbishop Hebda. He has been the associate pastor at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Wayzata since 2019, after completing his licentiate studies in Biblical Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome

I have such amazing memories of my four years at SJV, but the joys of that first year were particularly unique. I remember meeting my roommate, my fellow new men, the older seminarians, and the priests, and feeling such a sense of fraternity and prayer throughout the house. It is this same spirit of fraternity and prayer that you will enjoy when you make SJV your home in August! This will be my first year on faculty at SJV, so if you ever feel like there’s a lot to learn, know that I’m right there with you! I really love old languages, so one of my favorite hobbies is reading and analyzing the Scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew. I also love baseball, hiking, playing any sort of pick-up sport, and exploring new towns, churches, and restaurants. One of the greatest privileges of being a priest is that I get to bring Jesus Christ to people in the most intense moments of their life, whether it be their greatest joys to their deepest sorrows. I am excited to meet you and embark on this exciting new journey; until then, we remain united in prayer for each other!”

photo credit to Emily Abe, Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church

Staff Bios

Mike Roesch
Director of Business and Operations

Mike Roesch joined the SJV staff in Fall 2021 after several years working in campus ministry and administration for the Diocese of Evansville, Indiana, and in finance and operations at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC. He studied Theology and Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, and has a Master of Theological Studies degree from the DC session of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. A native of southern Illinois, he is excited to experience Minnesota winter for the first time after moving here with his wife and two-year-old son, and even more excited to work with the SJV men.

Alison Kaardal
Executive Assistant Office of the Rector

Alison Kaardal joined the staff of SJV in January of 2022, after serving most recently as the Executive Assistant to Bishop Andrew Cozzens.  She was raised in the Chicago area and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Finance, and the University of Chicago Law School.  Alison married her husband Erick in 1992, and they entered the Catholic Church together at the Easter Vigil three years later.  Today they live in the Merriam Park area of Saint Paul and have eight children.

Mary Frame
Administrative Assistant

“I am the Administrative Assistant for SJV and have been here for 14 years. I enjoy working with all the amazing seminarians that come to SJV and consider it a great blessing to follow them on their journey.”

Dede Leininger
Event Coordinator

“Welcome! My name is Dede Leininger and I lead Event Planning and am a part of our Administrative Support Team here at St. John Vianney. I have worked here for 13 years and have been blessed to have met many students from across the United States. My husband John and I have 6 children and are expecting our first grandchild. I look forward to meeting you in the Fall!”

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