Published June 9, 2022
ATLANTA—On May 28, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., ordained four new priests to serve in the Archdiocese of Atlanta:
Father Avery Daniel
Hometown: I grew up in Stone Mountain and at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Decatur.
Family: Parents Phyllis Edwards-Daniel and Edward Lorenzo Daniel.
What brought you to the seminary? Was there an event or person who convinced you to follow this path? In a word, it was the Word of God, the call of Jesus Christ, which I heard my freshman year of college at Virginia Tech. I had a powerful experience in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament after a football game, where I felt the Lord asking me, clearly, to become a priest.
I was also greatly influenced by my parish pastor at the time, Father Eric Hill, who told me at 10 years old that I was going to be a priest (I laughed in his face); by Msgr. Richard Lopez, my high school chaplain, whose joy in the classroom and deep reverence in celebrated Mass opened my heart to actually believing I could be happy as a priest, and by then-Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who was often present in my parish who asked me if I would ever consider being a priest at my confirmation. When he became the archbishop, it made the idea of being a priest personally concrete, because he was the first African American priest and bishop that I had ever seen with my own eyes.
What is a Bible verse that has touched your heart? “No one has ever seen God; but the only-begotten Son, who is from the Father’s heart, has made Him knowable.” (Jn 1:17)
Parish assignment: Parochial vicar at St. Joseph Church, Athens.
Father Ben Thomsen
Hometown: Born in Decatur and grew up in Georgia, Japan and Australia.
Family: Parents are Gordon and Neitcha Thomsen. His sister, Elizabeth Naik lives with her husband Ravi in Anderson, South Carolina.
What brought you to the seminary? Was there an event or person who convinced you to follow this path? My conversion to the faith, largely from reading Scripture and studying philosophy. This and a continued prayer life. There were people along the way after I started including a great Anglican philosophy professor, Dr. Frank Harrison and Franciscan Father Dave Hyman. However, the initial work was God’s initiative and study.
What is a Bible verse that has touched your heart? “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (Jn 1:9) and “God replied to Moses: I am who I am. Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” (Ex 3:14) No verses stand out quite as much as these for me.
Parish assignment: Parochial vicar at St. Benedict Church, Johns Creek.
Father Juan Carlos Villota Viteri
Hometown: Born and raised in San Juan de Pasto, Nariño, Colombia.
Family: Parents Carlos Alberto Villota and Filomena del Carmen Viteri Ramos. One sister, Helen Patricia Villota Viteri and a brother, Paola Andrea Villota Viteri.
What brought you to the seminary? Was there an event or person who convinced you to follow this path? What led me to follow Jesus as a priest were the missions that I was able to participate in my country. Sharing with the people, praying with the community, and trying to sow hope for the Kingdom of Christ motivated me to follow him on the path of the priesthood.
What is a Bible verse that has touched your heart? “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:15-16).
Parish assignment: Parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta.
Father Joe Wagner
Hometown and parish: Woodstock and St. Michael the Archangel Church.
Family: Parents are Ed and Cathi Wagner and sisters Catie Ely of Marietta and Alise Hausler of Canton.
What brought you to the seminary? Was there an event or person who convinced you to follow this path? I received a very tangible and powerful calling in prayer to discern the priesthood in August of 2012. Several priests and friends helped me through the discernment process until I finally said ‘yes’ to the calling and entered seminary in 2015.
What is a Bible verse that has touched your heart? “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. (Jn 15:5)
Parish: Parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta.