Choosing a life less ordinary: Upcoming ordination brings five new priests to Archdiocese

May 27, 2015

HOUSTON — When the five candidates from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston are ordained as priests, they will make a promise to be “on call for Christ” for the rest of their lives. And getting to that point in their faith journey took many years of formation.

Deacons David Thomas Angelino, Jeffrey Lee Bame, Simon Daudet Kipiti, Elias Lopez and Richard Anthony McNeillie will be ordained into the priesthood at 10 a.m. on June 6 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1111 St. Joseph Parkway in Houston.

Father T.J. Dolce, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Vocations, said a man who comes to the seminary spends the first few years studying philosophy to have a foundation for the theological studies he does in his last four or five years of seminary. During the time in seminary, the man is formed in four areas of life: intellectually through classes and studies, spiritually through prayer and reflection, pastorally through ministry and service to the Church and human formation through coming to an understanding of who he is and who God created Him to be.
“In his last year of seminary, the man is ordained to the diaconate to learn how to be a minister of the Church,” Father Dolce said. “After he completes his master’s degree in theology, the man is ordained as a priest.”

He said having five deacons ordained as priests this year a testament to the Church in Galveston-Houston as priests and parishioners have prayed for and encouraged vocations to the priesthood.

“It shows the work of Father Dat (Hoang) and the vocations office over the last several years to encourage vocations,” Father Dolce said. “We have so many supportive people who help foster a culture of vocations in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston: priests and religious, parishioners, parents, Serra clubs, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters and others. We are so grateful!” 

Father Dolce said each of the men ordained on June 6 will bring their unique gifts and talents to the parishes they will serve. 

“God calls many men from various walks of life to be His priests, and these men will share what they have been given,” he said. “They will help to bring about the sanctification of the people of God by reverently celebrating the Sacraments and giving their lives as a witness to God’s love.”

Deacon Angelino, 26, was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., and he and his family moved several times before settling in Houston in 2001. He attended St. Martha Catholic School in Kingwood and, after attending the University of St. Thomas for a semester, entered the seminary. He has served at St. Jerome Catholic Church and Prince of Peace Catholic Church. He is currently studying in Rome and helps out at the University of Dallas while abroad.

“I thought about being a priest in grade school, but didn’t seriously consider it until near the end of high school,” he said. “At that time I was working as a lifeguard for a great company. We were very concerned about people’s physical health and would regularly slip life-like dolls into the pool, which the lifeguard on duty would have to see and retrieve within 30 seconds. Driving to and from work I remember thinking that I really wanted to keep people physically healthy, but even more, I wanted to make sure that they were spiritually healthy and knew Jesus Christ. It was at this time that I first really considered that God might be calling me to be a priest.”

Deacon Bame, 31, grew up in the Houston area before getting his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University and master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas before starting a corporate career. He began discerning in 1999 when he was a sophomore in high school, but it wasn’t until 2007 that he felt his call to a religious vocation awakened and confirmed.

He said he looks forward to celebrating the Sacraments, especially confessions, and also celebrating Mass.

“...but more than anything just reminding the people of God in everything of just how loved they are by their heavenly Father,” he said.

Deacon Kipiti, 40, was born and raised in The Democratic Republic of Congo. He received his call into the priesthood when he was 15 years old. After studying at several seminaries in Kinshasa, he moved to Houston. In 2011, he was accepted into St. Mary’s Seminary to begin his priestly formation as a second year theology student for the Archdiocese. In August 2013, he did his Clinical Pastoral Education at Integris Baptist Medical center in Oklahoma City, Okla., and then his pastoral year at Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church in The Woodlands.

Deacon Lopez, 46, is a native Houstonian. He received his calling in 2005 and entered St. Mary’s Seminary in 2007. He currently serves All Saints Catholic Church, and served St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church during his pastoral year and St. Helen Catholic Church in Pearland his diaconate year.

He said he looks forward to celebrating Mass, administering the Sacraments and journeying with others as they grow in their faith.

“Being a seminarian is discerning God’s will each day and growing closer to God through prayer and contemplation,” he said. “I am grateful for all that I have learned in seminary and I can’t wait to share it with the people of God.” 

Deacon McNeillie is also a native Houstonian, having gone to school at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School and graduated from Strake Jesuit College Preparatory. He served St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church during his pastoral year and considers St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church his home parish. His assignment at St. Pius V Catholic Church in Pasadena ended in April.

He said he doesn’t remember hearing the word “vocation” until college. At that time, he had some friends who were considering the priesthood. 

“They used to ask me if I was being called, but it was kind of a joke since I was dating someone at the time,” he said. “I had to take their question seriously a few years later when I went on a retreat. In one of the meditations I was asked to imagine myself sitting across from Jesus. Between us was a box with His plan for my life inside. I could try to imagine what my vocation was, the good and the bad that might have been inside, but I couldn’t open the box. Instead, the goal was to trust Jesus, and say ‘yes’ to whatever He had planned. I couldn’t do it. At that point in my life, I realized that His plans were probably different from mine.”

Deacon McNeillie said that months after that retreat, while in Houston for the Easter Triduum, the late Father John Weyer was reading out of the Diary of St. Faustina for the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. That was the moment he knew what he wanted.

“Listening to that dialogue between St. Faustina and Jesus, I heard for the first time God telling me that He loved me,” he said. “My life was never the same after that. I knew before that experience that God had something different in mind, but now I wanted that different something too.”

The ordination is open to the public. Father Dolce said he hopes everyone joins in the celebration.

“The rite of ordination is one of the most beautiful rites of the Catholic Church,” he said. “If someone has never been to a priestly ordination, I’d invite that person to attend. It is a marvelous celebration of God’s love and we get to see something extraordinary happen: a man lays down his life to serve as a priest of Jesus Christ.”