By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published October 9, 2009
Two Atlanta seminarians were among 30 Americans ordained as transitional deacons Oct. 8 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Llane Briese, 23, and Michael Silloway, 26, are studying at pontifical universities in Rome while living and receiving formation at the Pontifical North American College there.
The two young men are expected to be ordained as priests for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in June 2010. The study and formation process has been inspirational and grueling for them both, but they said they sense God’s plan for them unfolding right before their eyes.
“It has been a goal of mine ever since I was a high school freshman in the Life Teen program at my home parish to give my life to the Lord in whatever way he desired,” wrote Rev. Mr. Briese by e-mail.
The alumnus of Life Teen at St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn said the rite of ordination to the diaconate was “a bit overwhelming, but thoroughly joyful.”
The son of Forrest and Deborah Briese, he is finishing his final year of theological studies before ordination to the priesthood. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and a bachelor’s in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He has begun a new program to receive a licentiate, or graduate degree, in biblical theology at the pontifical university.
Rev. Mr. Briese has felt strong confirmation of his call to the priesthood since he entered the seminary. In fact, he said, the most difficult part was making the decision to begin his study a few years ago.
“It has all been one big movement of grace in my life. The most difficult part for me was making the decision to enter six years ago,” said the deacon. “Ever since then, I have felt nothing but confirmation in my call to the priesthood. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s always been easy; there have been some difficult moments where I was being called to a deeper conversion. But, in the end, I know I’m where God wants me.”
Rev. Mr. Silloway, a native of New Jersey who moved to Atlanta in 1993, is also in his final year of theological studies, looking toward priestly ordination next year.
“I’m sure that there will be challenges, but at this point I find it best to just take them as they come and not worry so much about them or what they might be,” he wrote by e-mail. “God will provide. This has been, and will continue to be, a major theme and grace for me.”
After attending the University of Georgia in Athens, Silloway transferred to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, to finish his undergraduate degree and meet the prerequisites for entering the seminary.
He then journeyed to Rome where he recently received a bachelor’s in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He is now beginning to study for a licentiate in sacred theology at the Pontifical Lateran University’s John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and the Family.
The two new deacons, who will continue their graduate studies in Rome before their 2010 ordination, described their experience of transition from seminarian to ordained deacon.
“I definitely felt a little adrenaline,” Rev. Mr. Briese wrote. “It was a momentous occasion, one for which I had been waiting for at least six years.”
“However, it all melted away into a sublime joy as the consecratory prayer ended (at which point the Sacrament of Holy Orders had been celebrated, and I was a deacon). I was told by one of my long-time best friends who was seated in the congregation that I was beaming uncontrollably. He’s probably right.”
The sacrament was conferred by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, Mo., at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“It hasn’t sunk in fully yet,” Rev. Mr. Silloway wrote. “The dominant strand in prayer and in daily encounters with others is one of wonderment and thanksgiving. Our God is so incredibly faithful and generous, giving gifts and graces that no one is ‘worthy’ of receiving; yet he gives them nonetheless. It is truly amazing.”
Rev. Mr. Silloway said the ordination experience was overwhelming but also peaceful. His grandfather, who is a permanent deacon, assisted with his investiture, a moment that the new deacon described as “powerful.”
The Rite of Ordination of Deacons exhorts the candidates to “receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
A total of seven transitional deacons, five of whom were ordained at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta in May, are to be ordained archdiocesan priests here next June.
The Vocations Office of the Archdiocese of Atlanta is subsidized by the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.