Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


‘Brought To Fulfillment’ Archbishop Ordains Eight New Priests

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published June 19, 2008

The eight new priests stood in horseshoe fashion in the sanctuary of Christ the King Cathedral. In the middle of them was Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, kneeling.

His voice cracked with emotion. “Sons, may I have your blessing.”

The powerful moment concluded the three-hour ornate ceremony of ordination on May 31 as the new priests walked down the aisle of the Cathedral and into the arms of a mob of well-wishers and the singing voices of the Association of Catholic Women of Cameroon.

Earlier during the morning ceremony, it was the new priests time to kneel.

Archbishop Gregory sat on the cathedra, the chair reserved for the archbishop that gives the cathedral its name. The “ordinandi” knelt on the two marble steps in front of him. Rev. Mr. Daniel Ketter was first.

The archbishop wrapped his hands around Ketter’s. The 37-year-old former medical software salesman promised respect and obedience to the archbishop and his successors. The archbishop gently tapped the hands of the future priest as he told him, “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”

Each of the following seven men did the same as the Catholic Church marked the ordination in a celebration filled with sweet-smelling incense, Latin hymns, Spanish prayers and a standing-room-only crowd in the mother church of Catholics in North Georgia.

Later, the archbishop would lay his hands on the heads of the men, following scriptural tradition to confer the Holy Spirit to men to serve as priests.

The new priests are Father Juan Anzora Rodas, Father Juan Areiza Rios, Father Henry Atem, Father Neil Dhabliwala, Father Gilbert Exumé, Father James Flanagan Jr., Father Roberto Herrera Castañeda and Father Daniel Ketter. They join the 185 diocesan priests serving Catholics in Atlanta and the 69 counties of North Georgia.

The crowded church was filled with color. Africans celebrating the ordination of Father Atem, a native of Cameroon, dressed in special white T-shirts to mark the occasion. The mother of one priest-to-be adorned her lapel with a corsage of orange and red roses. The red-robed music director led the faithful in song. Some 100 priests walked down the center aisle in cream and white vestments.

The elaborate ceremony would have been recognizable to any Catholic, but the promises of obedience and respect and the prayers make the ceremony unique in the church calendar.

Archbishop Gregory told the audience: “Our priests—as deeply beloved as they are—are very much ordinary men—average individuals—coming from backgrounds that are well known to all of us.”

Who are these new priests?

Their average age is 31 years old. The oldest is 37 and the youngest 27.

Before seminary, one was a salesman for a medical software company. Another is a U.S. Air Force veteran. One worked in the information technology industry. Another plays guitar.

Six of the men are foreign-born, representing Colombia, Canada, Cameroon, El Salvador, Mexico and Haiti.

Father Atem, a native of Cameroon, said, “The diversity of the class of 2008 is an expression of the diversity of the archdiocese.”

Atlanta’s new priests are a few years younger, but otherwise they mirror the national trend. The national average for priests ordained in 2008 is 36. Also, across the country about one-third of the priests are foreign born, which is nearly the same as the figure from 2007, according to a study prepared for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life & Vocations.

Archbishop Gregory told the audience, “To the families of these eight men, I offer a heartfelt word of thanks for the love, support and encouragement that you have given to these men.”

Family members of the priests talked about their sons growing up, exploring careers and entering the seminary.

Said John Ketter, of Norcross: “We didn’t pray that he’d be a priest. We prayed that he’d discern whether or not he was being called to the priesthood.”

John and his wife, Mary Ann, said their son sprung the news on them about seminary. He told them two weeks before he left for Mount St. Mary Seminary. Before that, especially once he bought a condo in Buckhead, they presumed he would settle down and get married, they said.

But Mary Ann Ketter said her son’s grandmother, who has since died, remarked that he had the makings of a priest.

“I want to tell everyone. We’re just so proud,” she said.

Carole Flanagan, of Florida, sat in a pew with brothers and sisters from Maryland, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Connecticut. To them, Father James Flanagan is just “Jimmy.”

“He loves to help people. He will take a person into his care,” the new priest’s mother said.

She said her son was influenced in his desire to be a priest by his former pastor in Florida. Father John McGrath made the trip to the ordination and assisted Father Flanagan as he put on the vestments worn by a priest.

Father Atem said members of the Cameroonian community from across the country, from Seattle to Florida and from Africa, celebrated the event. In fact, he estimated as many as 1,200 people attended his first Mass at St. Michael Church, Gainesville.

“When they heard a Cameroonian was going to get ordained, they were excited to come,” he said. An event like this in his native country draws all the Catholics together and is a big celebration, he said.

He said life has been so hectic since ordination that he needs to watch a video to remember the day. A highlight of the service was the singing of the litany of the saints as the community prayed and the new priests lay face down.

“The calling of the saints really shows how weak we are and can’t do it on our own,” he said.

Archbishop Gregory told the churchgoers that what started on Saturday morning would be an “extraordinary journey of faith and service” for the men.

“The priesthood of Jesus Christ is the motivation of our joy and the very reason for our celebration today,” he said.

Priests and archbishops, like everyone, are imperfect, said Archbishop Gregory, but the grace of God sustains them in their work.

“If you surrender your life to the Spirit of God, he will fashion you into the priest that Jesus Christ wishes you to become,” he said.

“These priests are taken from ordinary people in order to accomplish extraordinary—even divine responsibilities. They are chosen by the Holy Spirit to continue the ministry of the one high priest who rightfully and eternally claims true divine origins,” he said.

“It is because of that intimate dialogue that you hold with the Father and through the power of the Holy Spirit that you can speak in the very name of Christ the words that sanctify God’s people. You speak in Christ’s name, and the Father always listens. You will utter words over bread and wine—and the Father hears. You will whisper words of absolution, and the Spirit will remove the burden of sin from the hearts and shoulders of your brothers and sisters. You will anoint the sick and suffering, and they will be touched and comforted by Jesus himself,” the archbishop said.

Father Juan Francisco Anzora Rodas

Age: 31
Birth Date: Aug. 4, 1976
Place of Birth: El Salvador
Parents: Juan Francisco Anzora Sandoval and Sonia Aregentina Rodas
Siblings: Six brothers and three sisters

Education: Jesuit University Universidad Rafael Landivar, Guatemala; St. Joseph Seminary and College, Covington, La., 2004; master of divinity from St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, Pa., 2008.

Primary Hobbies and Interests: “I love to travel.”

Pastoral Internships: St. Anthony of Padua Church, Atlanta, and St. Joseph Church, Dalton, 2002; St. Francis of Assisi Church, Cartersville, 2003; Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atlanta, 2005; St. Joseph Church, Marietta, 2006; St. Mark Church, Clarkesville, 2007.

Additional Languages: Spanish.

Particular Ministries of Interest: Catechesis.

Favorite Quote: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Tertullian)

Most Admired Person: “Besides Jesus, I admire the late Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero.”

Father Juan Areiza Rios

Age: 27
Birth Date: Jan. 21, 1981
Place of Birth: Medellín City, Colombia
Parents: Clara Rios and Anibal Areiza
Siblings: Three brothers and one sister

Education: Bachillerato canonico (canonical bachelor’s degree) from Pontifical University Bolivariana, Colombia; master of divinity from Mount St. Mary’s University and Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.

Primary Hobbies and Interests: Tennis.

Languages: Spanish, English.

Particular Ministries of Interest: All.

Favorite Quote: “Do not be afraid.”

Most Admired Person: “Anyone who never forgets that God is our source and end.”

Father Henry Amingwa Atem

Age: 29
Birth Date: Sept. 27, 1978
Place of Birth: Buea, Cameroon, Africa
Parents: George and Josephine Atem
Siblings: Two brothers, two sisters; one brother deceased.

Education: Bachelor of arts in philosophy and accounting, University of Georgia and Mount St. Mary’s University, Emmitsburg, Md.; master of arts in theology and master of divinity, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.

Work Experience: Store manager, Kangaroo Pantry, four years.

Primary Hobbies and Interests: Reading, playing tennis and soccer, writing.

Pastoral Internships: Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City, summer of 2004; Mary Our Queen Church, Norcross, summer of 2005; Sacred Heart Church, Atlanta, summer of 2006; St. Monica Church, Duluth, summer of 2007; Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Ellicott City, Md., 2007 and 2008.

Additional Languages: French, Pidgin, Nweh.

Particular Ministries of Interest: Parish life, youth ministry, teaching.

Favorite Quotes: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) “Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

Most Admired Person: Pope John Paul II

Father Neil Michael Dhabliwala

Age: 28
Date of Birth: July 9, 1979
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Parents: Bhavesh and Hermie Dhabliwala
Siblings: Two brothers

Education: St. Pius X High School, 1997; bachelor of science in management from Georgia Tech, 2001; master of divinity and master of arts in moral theology from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., 2008.

Work Experience: Worked in information technology as an IT analyst during college and afterward from 2000-2002.

Primary Hobbies and Interests: Reading, music and movies.

Pastoral Internships: Christ our Hope Church, Lithonia, in 2003; St. Jude Church, Sandy Springs, in 2004; Spanish immersion program, Mexico City, in 2005; St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, in 2006; Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, in 2007.

Additional Languages: Reading level proficiency in Spanish and French.

Particular Ministries of Interest: Youth and young adult ministries, general catechesis, ministry to families.

Favorite Quote: “God does not call us to be successful but to be faithful.” (Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

Most Admired Person: Pope Benedict, mothers and fathers.

Father Gilbert Exumé

Age: 35
Birth Date: October 1972
Place of Birth: Jacmel, Haiti
Parents: Cadina Africot and Joseph Aubert Exumé
Siblings: Five sisters

Education: Studied at the Grande Seminaire Notre Dame in Turgeau, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 1999-2000; received bachelor of arts from St. Joseph Seminary College, Covington, La., 2003; master of arts from St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, Pa., 2007; master of divinity from St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, Pa., 2008, where he received the Sacred Scripture Award given to the graduating student who has demonstrated excellence in the study of sacred Scripture.

Work Experience: Teaching.

Primary Hobbies and Interests: Riding horses, reading.

Pastoral Internships: Diaconate internship at St. Sebastian Church, Belle Vernon, Pa., 2007-2008.

Languages: French, Creole, Spanish and English.

Favorite Quote: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Most Admired Person: Very Reverend Père Théodul Domond

Father James R. Flanagan Jr.

Age: 34
Date of Birth: Oct. 10, 1973
Place of Birth: Miami, Fla.
Parents: James Flanagan of Miami, Fla.; Carole Flanagan of Key Largo, Fla.

Education: Bachelor of arts in humanities and Catholic culture from Franciscan University, 2001; master of divinity and master of arts in theology with a concentration in church history from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., 2008.

Work Experience: Worked as a welder/structural specialist in the U.S. Air Force, 1991-1996; property manager, 2001-2002; RCIA/adult education coordinator, 2002-2003.

Primary Hobbies and Interests: Reading, exercising, hiking, classical music.

Pastoral Internships: St. Francis Xavier Church, Gettysburg, Pa., 2003-2004 (CCD teacher); St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw, summer of 2004; Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., 2004-2005 (guide/server); Seminario Hispano de Santa Maria de Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico, summer of 2005; Maryland Correctional Training Center, Hagerstown, Md., 2005-2006 (adult education); Spanish Institute, Puebla, Mexico, summer of 2006; “Mount 2007” Youth Retreat, chairman, Emmitsburg, Md., 2006-2007; St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, summer of 2007; St. Bernard Church, New Bloomfield, Pa., 2007-2008, (parish diaconate assignment).

Additional Languages: Intermediate Spanish.

Particular Ministries of Interest: Adult education, hospital/nursing home visits, young adult work.

Favorite Quote: “If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze.” (St. Catherine of Siena)

Most Admired Person: Jesus Christ

Father Roberto Herrera Castañeda

Age: 29
Birth Date: July 21, 1978
Place of Birth: Pastor Ortiz, Michoacán, Mexico
Parents: Roberto Herrera and Alicia Castañeda
Siblings: Two sisters and one brother

Education: Seminary of Morelia, Mexico; Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.

Work Experience: Since he began seminary formation in high school, he has worked in pastoral areas exclusively. This is his 11th year of seminary formation.

Primary Hobbies and Interests: Playing guitar, watching movies and reading, especially in the area of morals and canon law.

Pastoral Internships: Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City, summer of 2005; St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, summer of 2006; St. James Church, McDonough, summer of 2007.

Languages: Spanish and English. Can also read Latin and Greek.

Particular Ministries of Interest: “Any ministry is wonderful for me. I see every ministry as an opportunity to love God more through the service of His people.”

Favorite Quote: “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.” (St. Teresa of Avila)

Most Admired Person: “Father John Dietrich and St. John Vianney because they remind me with their example that ‘a priest is above all … a man of prayer.’”

Father Daniel Ketter

Age: 37
Birth Date: Dec. 4, 1970
Place of Birth: Federal Way, Washington
Parents: John and Mary Ann Ketter
Siblings: One sister, one brother

Education: Bachelor of arts in English from Wake Forest University, 1992; master of divinity from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.

Work Experience: One year as teacher and coach at a college preparatory school in Indiana; nine years in sales and marketing for a medical software firm.

Primary Hobbies and Interests: Running, tennis, reading, traveling, spending time with friends, eating ice cream!

Pastoral Internships: St. Brigid Church, Alpharetta, summer of 2003; St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, summer of 2004; Mexico City, Mexico, summer of 2005; Puebla, Mexico, summer of 2006; St. Luke Church, Dahlonega, summer of 2007.

Additional Languages: Intermediate Spanish.

Particular Ministries of Interest: All.

Favorite Quote: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

Most Admired Person: “Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict.”