By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 10, 2023
ATLANTA—Nine seminarians in the Archdiocese of Atlanta are preparing to be ordained in a few weeks with five men taking a step forward on their vocational journey by becoming transitional deacons, and a second group to become priests.
On May 20, the men will make their promises to serve as deacons, vowing to proclaim the Gospel and serve the faithful, especially the poor. A week later, four men will be ordained to the priesthood with the laying on of hands by bishops. The archbishop and three auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese are scheduled to attend both ordinations.
These ceremonies will add to the deacons and priests who serve in missions and parishes in the 69 counties of central and north Georgia.
In the United States, 419 men are expected to be ordained to the priesthood this spring, with an average age of 33.
Preparing for transitional diaconate ordination
Roswell’s St. Peter Chanel Church will host the ordination to the transitional diaconate. It is scheduled for May 20 at 10 a.m.
Transitional deacons will preach at Mass during the summer and the upcoming year, witness marriages, baptize children and offer funeral prayers. During the ceremony, the men will promise celibacy, prayer and obedience to the archbishop and his successors. Over the next few months, the men will serve in parishes in the Atlanta area and then return to seminary to finish their studies for priestly ordination.
Five men will become deacons.
Joseph Anh Tuan Nguyen, 30, grew up in Vietnam in a faith-filled family. He arrived in the United States in 2016. He was a nail technician in New Jersey before attending Notre Dame Seminary. From a young age, he felt the call to be a priest. Jesus called me from within my heart, he wrote in a survey.
Tuan credits his family and their nightly prayers together with being his “first school of faith.” As a new deacon, he hopes with “my humble heart” to serve a community.
After graduation from the University of Georgia in 2015, Arturo Merriman worked as a project manager for a home builder and developer. But it did not satisfy him.
“Spending a good amount of time debating the purpose of life in classes, praying with God about where that purpose was and seeing others ahead of me take the plunge into the commitment of the priest moved my heart to serve,” he wrote.
Sharing God’s word “will be an honor to speak to those in the pews and also a challenge I will enjoy,” he said.
David J. DesPres, 27, was baptized at St. Pius X Church, Conyers, and grew up in the rural parish of St. Augustine Church, Covington. He’ll be spending months after his ordination in another small community in Cedartown at St. Bernadette Church. He wrote the Scripture “Do not be afraid” has been crucial for him, especially during difficult moments discerning his vocation.
The others to be ordained are Jared J. Kleinwaechter and Colin F. Patrick.
New priests to serve the faithful
On May 27, four men are to be ordained as priests. It is taking place at Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church, Norcross.
The men are Deacon Pete A. Coppola, Deacon Evan M. Glowzinski, Deacon Matthew R. Howard and Deacon Nicholas M. Le.
Deacon Pete Coppola grew up at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna, where he later taught religion. It was there he came to admire the work of the parish priests and had a growing realization he felt drawn to the work. During a seminary year, he worked with the Spanish-speaking community at the Our Lady of the Americas Mission. He was ordained a deacon in December 2022 on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
In October, Deacon Nicholas Le, 32, was ordained a deacon at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He had been studying at the North American College in Rome. Atlanta Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., attended the ordination and remembered how the deacon served at his parish, St. Philip Benizi Church, as an altar server. The deacon worked as a corporate IT analyst after studying business administration at Georgia Tech.
“I’m excited to be more united to Jesus and to bring people to God and God to people,” he wrote in a survey.
Evan Glowzinski, 31, served in Georgia Army National Guard for six years and worked in cybersecurity at Kennesaw State University before seminary. As a priest, he is excited to administer the sacrament of reconciliation.
“(Confession) changed my life and I want people to have that same experience of God’s love and mercy,” he wrote.
Despite feeling called to the priesthood in high school, Deacon Matthew Howard, 32, described his vocation path as spending 10 years doing his best to avoid answering God’s call, he wrote in an essay for the archdiocesan office of vocations. He described his decision to enter seminary coming in a dream where “everything thing from my education, struggles, joys” were directing him to serve the church. “It has been quite an adventure,” he said.
He is inspired by seeing priests fully alive in serving the church and by the example of Blessed Bartolo Longo because “his life shows that no one is too far gone for the Lord to reach them.”
The journey begins
The journey for these men is just beginning, though they have completed years of schooling and gained parish experience, said the archdiocesan vocation director.
Vocation Director Father Ray Pineda wrote in an email, “It is truly just the beginning. What can be said is that discernment is over now, but perseverance begins. You will be in formation for the rest of your life!”
These men are being “invited to be part of the healing of the church,” said Father Pineda. Many have lost faith or trust in God and the institution of the church. Yet these men are stepping up to help heal those wounds, he added.
Father Pineda, who was ordained in 2014, said seminary training does not remove anxiety or challenges the new clergyman will face, but he advises them to trust what God has already revealed.
“God has been preparing and providing his grace all throughout our formation,” he said. “He knows who he calls, and he will provide what is necessary. Our main job is to trust and be faithful.”