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Deacon Hammeke to be ordained June 2

The Register

Salina — As his June 2 ordination nears, Deacon Andy Hammeke said he is looking forward to beginning his service to the Salina Diocese.  “I’m really excited for priesthood and am ready to get going,” he said. “I love my time at St. Meinrad. I’ve made a lot of good friends., but I’m preparing to say goodbye to all that and begin what I’m called to do.”  He will be ordained at 10 a.m. June 2 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina. All are welcome. A light reception will follow in the Hall of Bishops.

The focus of his last year of seminary at St. Meinrad in St. Meinrad, Ind., has shifted from academics to the practical side of the priesthood, Deacon Hammeke said.  “More classes are practicums,” he said. “Baptism practicums and Mass practicums. I’ve enjoyed the academics, but I’ve enjoyed practicing things you will do as a priest.”  He spent last summer immersed at St. Thomas More Parish in Manhattan, learning about parish life within the diocese.  “I learned a ton from Father Frank (Coady),” Deacon Hammeke said. “He showed me the ropes. I did a lot of baptisms and preached every weekend and several times every week. I also helped with funerals and weddings. That was a great start to my diaconate.”  During his seminary studies, he was also assigned to assist at local parishes.  “I would go to parish events and help with RCIA, parish formation and Knights of Columbus,” he said. “I learned a lot from my experience in those parishes as well.”

Deacon Hammeke said he is looking forward to the fraternal aspect of the priesthood. During the ordination, he said he is looking forward to what is called the “kiss of peace,” which is when every priest hugs the newly ordained.  “I’m excited about the brotherhood that comes with the priesthood, knowing we are all on the same team with the same mission, leading people to Christ,” he said. “I look forward to hugging all those guys I love and look up to. I’ve come to know and love and respect a lot of priests in our diocese. I look forward to being the newest member of (the presbyterate).”

Bishop Carl Kemme, from the Diocese of Wichita, will preside at the ordination. Deacon Hammeke said he has met Bishop Kemme several times because he has friends from the seminary who are from the Wichita Diocese.  “As much as you come to know and love the bishop you have, bishops move on,” Deacon Hammeke said of the fall assignment of Bishop Edward Weisenburger to Tucson, Ariz. “As long as it’s a bishop (who ordains me), a descendant of one of the apostles, I’m joining a presbyterate that will stay. I’m getting ordained for our diocese.”

Deacon Hammeke, 29, is a native of Hays and grew up in Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.  He is the son of Curtis and Annette Hammeke, and the grandson of Dennis and Arlene Stastny, of Dwight, Neb., and the late Norman and Joleene Hammeke of Great Bend.  He has a brother, Nick, and sister Alicia Knight and husband Kegan, who have two daughters, Emery and Kollins.


Two priests celebrate 25th anniversary

The Register

Two priests for the Salina Diocese will celebrate silver anniversaries: Father Fred Gatschet and Father Mark Wesley.  Father Gatschet, 56, attended Kansas State University, earning degrees in Spanish and Milling Science. He then attended at St. Meinrad Seminary in Meinrad, Ind., and was ordained May 22, 1993, at Seven Dolors Church in Manhattan by Bishop George Fitzsimons.  Because he’s fluent in Spanish, Father Gatschet said he often assisted with translation during his seven-year tenure at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina.  “There would be days when I’d say 6:30 a.m. Mass (in English), and then the phone and doorbell would ring and I would got o bed at night and think ‘I don’t think I spoke English all day,’ ” he said, adding he spent much of his time working with the Hispanic community.

The connection with the Hispanic community is something he strives to maintain as the parochial administrator of St. Joseph in Hays. He said he works to find Bible studies and other ways to catechize the Spanish-speaking population, in addition to those who speak English.  One of his primary — and unexpected — roles was that of a teacher at Thomas More Prep-Marian Jr./Sr. High School. He describes the 12 years he spent in the classroom as “a blessing.”  “Due to the breakdown of catechesis over the last 50 years, people know nothing about their faith,” he said. “Being able to go in and provide classes and instruction … watching people have that ‘aha’ experience is very satisfying.”

As a child, his family often invited the clergy over for meals, and he would help around Seven Dolors parish where he grew up in Manhattan. So not much of the daily life of the priest was a surprise to Father Gatschet. He said Father Damian Richards summarized the most surprising aspect of the priesthood the best.  At the priest gathering to commemorate his 25th anniversary in 2017, he said: “ ‘When I look at my life as a priest, how interesting and rewarding it is, I cannot understand why we don’t have guys banging down the door to become a priest.’ ” Father Gatschet quoted.

He then expanded on Father Richards’ statement.  “People complain about their jobs, that it’s a dead end or not rewarding,” he said. “The priesthood, when you talk to any of us, is the antithesis of all that. It’s a career with never the same thing twice. When i get up every morning, I never know what I’m going to encounter. You have to learn how to think on your feet and be creative. It’s not boring or the same old, same old.”  Father Gatschet said he doesn’t have any formal plans for his anniversary.

His assignments have been:

  • June 1993: Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina.
  • June 1999: Comeau Catholic Campus Center in Hays.
  • 2001 - 2012: Add reaching religion class at Thomas More Prep-Marian Jr./Sr. High School.
  • July 2013: add Parochial administrator at St. Joseph Parish in Hays, while continuing at CCCC.
  •

Deacon Mike ordained

The Register

Salina — While a white dusting of snow lightly covered the exterior of Sacred Heart Cathedral April 7, inside, Mike Leiker knelt in front of the altar, amidst the white Easter lilies, and was ordained a transitional deacon.  “Do you promise respect and obedience to your ordinary?” asked Bishop Carl Kemme, from the Diocese of Wichita.  “I do,” Deacon Leiker affirmed.

Typically during an ordination, the deacon pledges “obedience and respect to me and my successors” to the bishop of the diocese. Because Salina has no bishop, the pledge Deacon Leiker made to Bishop Kemme from Wichita was one to the “ordinary” (a fancy term for a diocese’s bishop).  “(The vow to the ordinary) was something I was prepared for because at my retreat, that was one of the things I talked about with my retreat director,” Deacon Leiker said. “(The director) said ‘You’re not attached to a bishop your vow is to the whole Church.’  “So in a way, it made it a much larger scale. It doesn’t matter who my bishop is, I’ll still have that promise of obedience.”



During the homily, Diocesan Administrator Father Frank Coady told Deacon Leiker the diaconate is a ministry of word, altar and charity.  He said the early apostles acted on behalf of Christ “… to put themselves at the service of the Gospel. At the service of humanity. Then they get out of the way of Christ. They reveal Christ, not themselves.”

Father Coady said the ministry of the word is an important one.  “You’re going to preach (the Gospel), you’re going to evangelize,” he said. “You’re going to introduce people to Christ through the word. Then you’re going to get out of the way. You’re going to disappear, because it isn’t about you. It’s about Christ. It’s about  the way they’re going to experience that themselves.”


Featured Events

Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Marie Mischel, Intermountain CatholicBy Marie MischelOGDEN, Utah (CNS) -- Each year for the past decade, a group of Boy Scouts in Ogden have spent a day walking from house of worship to house of worship, learning how the Ten Commandments are put into practice in different faith traditions. "From the very beginning, the idea was to build an awareness of an ecumenical spirit," said Deacon Herschel Hester, one of the four original organizers of the Ten Commandments Walk. Because most of the Scouts have never been exposed to a faith outside their own, "the whole idea is for these young men to be introduced to a larger (faith) community than just theirs," he told the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the statewide Diocese of Salt Lake City. "It has nothing to do with a merit badge, but it all has to do with living out the 12th point of the Scout Law: A Scout is reverent," said Deacon Hester, who is a member of the diocese's Committee on Scouting and a member of the executive board of the Boy Scouts Trapper Trails Council. Scouts who belong to the council's member troops take part in the event, which took place this year May 12. The walk also helps emphasize the Scout oath, which promises duty to God, the deacon said. Ninety Scouts participated in the inaugural walk. This year more than 300 boys walked the 6.6-mile route that took them to Ogden's Second Baptist Church, Emmanuel Church of God in Christ, the Salvation Army, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Elim Lutheran Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Fourth Ward, Hope Resurrected Church, First Church of Christ, Scientist, First Presbyterian Church and Congregation Brith Sholem. At the final stop, Rabbi Ben Stern chanted the Ten Commandments in Hebrew from the synagogue's Torah scroll. "When someone reads Torah, the most important thing is to be accurate on their reading," he said, and explained that generally on the Jewish Sabbath the person reading or chanting from the Torah uses a book rather than the handwritten scroll because the book is easier to read. The book is held by a person other than the reader, and the person holding the book will correct the reader if there is a mispronunciation, Rabbi Stern said. "If you get something wrong, they have to stop you. It's required." Rabbi Stern also answered questions such as why yarmulkes are worn, how long the Jewish worship services are, and the concept of kosher. The night before the hike, the Scouts camped out at Marshall White Center Park. That evening, they heard from Charles W. Dahlquist II, the national commissioner of Boy Scouts of America and past Young Men general president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Scouting is a world organization of people who care about each other and who care about duty to God and faith in God, and who not only believe what they have learned but they practice what they preach and they practice what they believe," said Dahlquist. He urged those present to learn about the different faith practices they would hear about the next day "because understanding brings peace." Dahlquist was invited to speak to the gathering by Jacques Behar, a member of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting and president of the Ogden synagogue. Some of Dahlquist's closest friends are people of faiths different from his own, he said. "There is much more that joins us than separates us. We live in a time when we need to be joined more than ever before." Behar, who has been an adult Scout leader for 32 years, said in an interview that he is pleased young men of many faiths participate in the hike because afterward "it's interesting to have them walk away and say, 'Gee, I didn't realize how close we all are.'" "And I always tell them that if you would just concentrate on the 85 percent that we're all alike, and not so much on the 15 percent that we're not, the world would be a much better place," he said. Riley Crezee, an Eagle Scout from St. James the Just Parish's Troop 293 who served as the master of ceremonies for the evening, said the opportunity the Ten Commandments Walk gives for Scouts to learn about different people's faith is important, "especially today where everything is just very polarized. ... I think that makes us better people as a society." - - - Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. - - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler OrsburnBy Mark PattisonWASHINGTON (CNS) -- This year's National Catholic Prayer breakfast took on a decidedly Kansas flavor, as Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City and Sam Brownback, a former House and Senate member and governor of Kansas, addressed nearly 1,000 gathered at a Washington hotel May 24. Also speaking was outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who was a staffer for Brownback in the latter's early days in Congress. "We support the right to religious freedom," said Brownback, now the U.S. at-large ambassador for international religious freedom. It is not because that right appears in the Constitution or the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, he said, but "because it's a God-given right.""No government has the right to infringe upon a God-given right. No government has the right to do that," he added to applause. "It's important to us because it's important to God," Brownback said. The right to religious freedom is "not in our DNA, but it's in our souls," and all humans have that right "even if we disagree with their path or destination." Despite this, "more people are being persecuted for their faith right now than at any other time in human history," according to Brownback. "God knew before he made us that we would mess it up -- and he created us anyway." Brownback began his remarks by congratulating those in the audience who "fought and fought and fought" for the right to life. He said that during his six years as Kansas governor, which ended with his February confirmation to the ambassadorial post, he had "signed 19 pro-life bills, and we had 17,000 fewer abortions in Kansas in those six years than we had in the prior six years." Ryan, who is not running for re-election, thanked those in attendance "for what do you on this excellent journey." He lamented the political culture in Washington. "'Survival of the shrillest' is what some people call us these days," he said. It seems, he added, as if everything is viewed "always in survival mode" and people find intrigue in things "that frankly aren't all that intriguing." In Washington politics, Ryan said, "optics" is what counts. "That is a word I will not be missing," he said to laughter. He recommended Catholic social teaching, sometimes calling it "Catholic social doctrine," as "the perfect antidote to what ails our society." "As Catholics, there is nothing more fulfilling than fulfilling our mission with passion, with prayer and with joy," Ryan said. He lauded the twin principles of subsidiarity and solidarity as the best approach to dealing with issues, rather than relying on government to solve every problem. With those principles in hand, Ryan said, "people and problems are not treated as if they're distractions," In his remarks, Archbishop Naumann, who begins a three-year term in November as chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, warned that the nation's most serious crisis is "a God-crisis -- a crisis of faith." He looked askance at "the large number of millennials who profess atheism or, even more commonly, identify themselves as spiritual, but not religious. This nonreligious spiritualism is a new paganism, where God is not the God of revelation who makes himself known to us, but a god or gods that are fashioned in our own image to reinforce our own desires." Archbishop Naumann said, "It is this loss of a sense of God that also leaves us vulnerable to losing sight of the innate value of each and every human being." It promotes a culture in which "human life becomes just another thing in a world of things. Materialism reigns and breeds utilitarianism; our value is determined by our usefulness," he said. "We are called to renew our nation, not primarily by enacting laws, but by announcing the joy and hope of the Gospel of Jesus to individuals in desperate need of its good news. It is our task to reclaim our culture -- one mind, one heart, one soul at a time," Archbishop Naumann said. To do so, he added, we need Jesus. "Jesus defeats humanity's twin enemies, sin and death, by walking through death to eternal life. We believe in a God who died but is far from dead. The triumphant, risen Lord is still animating the lives of those who open their hearts to encounter his love. Thus for the Christian, we are never without hope," the archbishop said.- - -Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul HaringBy Paul HaringBERGAMO, Italy (CNS) -- Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo. The route taken for the trip north was kept secret for security reasons. When the procession reached Bergamo's central Vittorio Veneto Square, Bishop Beschi told thousands of people gathered there that it was "with great joy and emotion that I accompanied to our diocese, our city, the urn with the mortal remains -- now relics -- of John XXIII, which return for a few days to the land of his birth." St. John, who opened the Second Vatican Council, was born Nov. 25, 1881, in Sotto il Monte, a town near Bergamo. After his ordination as a priest and years of service in the Vatican diplomatic corps, he was appointed patriarch of Venice in 1953. He was elected pope Oct. 28, 1958, and died five years later. The pilgrimage with his remains was meant to mark the 60th anniversary of his election and the 55th anniversary of his death. Maria Calagari was in the square with her sister and some friends to welcome St. John's remains. "We are fortunate because we saw him when he was pope, we saw him die and we just saw him now -- 55 years later as a saint here in Bergamo," she said. "We are fortunate." In connection with the pilgrimage of St. John's relics, Pope Francis gave an interview to L'Eco di Bergamo, the area's main daily newspaper, which is owned by the Diocese of Bergamo. In the interview, Pope Francis described St. John as "a saint who did not know the word 'enemy,'" but "always sought what would unite people." For St. John, he said, "the church is called to serve human beings, not just Catholics, and to defend always and everywhere the rights of the human person and not just of the Catholic Church." Pope Francis said the pilgrimage was meant to be "a gift and an occasion" to renew one's faith and to remember the great pope. It is a special opportunity for the elderly, the sick and the poor, who have not been able to go to St. Peter's Basilica to pray at his tomb. The visit to the Diocese of Bergamo included a stop at the city's prison, where 180 prisoners -- including 35 Muslims -- asked permission to enter the internal courtyard where a truck carrying the remains was to stop. The prison yard was the first place in Bergamo where people were allowed to touch the glass coffin. The prisoners were given a square of either yellow or white fabric to touch to the glass; most of them touched the glass with their hands, then used the fabric to wipe the glass clean. Vincenza, one of the inmates, told the local television station that it was amazing to have the saintly pope's remains stop in the prison at the beginning of the pilgrimage "because usually, especially for important events, prisoners are the last ones people think about." From the prison, the relics were to be driven to the diocesan seminary named after Pope John XXIII. The priests of the diocese were to escort the remains to the cathedral later in the day. Teens and young adults of the diocese planned a prayer vigil in the cathedral May 25, and the remains were also to be present the next morning as new priests were ordained for the diocese. After a Mass with the poor May 27, the body was to be moved to the hospital named after the late pope, then transferred to the Shrine of St. John XXIII in Sotto il Monte. Pilgrims can pray before the saint's remains at the shrine until June 10, when Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, will celebrate Mass and the body will be returned to the Vatican. Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, told Vatican Media that "this is the first time -- it's never happened before -- that the remains of a pope make a return visit to his home, to his roots."- - -Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul HaringBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will meet with five priests who suffered abuse by Chilean Father Fernando Karadima or his followers, the Vatican said. The pope will meet June 1-3 with "five priests who were victims of abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse," the Vatican said in a statement May 22. Two priests who have accompanied the survivors "in their juridical and spiritual journey" and "two laypeople involved in this suffering" also were invited by Pope Francis, the statement said. They will all be guests at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where Pope Francis lives. The pope will celebrate a private Mass with the group June 2 and will meet with members of the group together and individually, the statement said. In late April, Pope Francis had hosted three laymen who were sexually abused by Father Karadima. "With this new meeting, planned a month ago, Pope Francis wants to show his closeness to abused priests, accompany them in their pain and listen to their valuable opinion to improve the current preventative measures and the fight against abuses in the church," the statement said. The day after the Vatican's announcement, three Chilean priests who will take part in the meeting read a statement on behalf of all nine, confirming their participation in the meetings with Pope Francis. At a May 23 news conference in Santiago, Chilean Fathers Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa, Alejandro Vial Amunategui and Eugenio de la Fuente Lora thanked the pope for his invitation, which they said they hope would "re-establish justice and communion, particularly within our Archdiocese of Santiago and its presbyteries." The statement was signed by the three priests, as well as Fathers Javier Barros Bascunan and Sergio Cobo Montalva. The four other members of the group, the statement said, wished to remain anonymous. They also expressed the "hope that our experience may give a voice to many others who have suffered abuses or have accompanied abused persons." The Chilean priests also asked journalists to respect the "confidentiality and the privacy" of the meetings and that there will be "no more public statements until our return to Santiago." The Vatican said the priests were abused by Father Karadima and his followers in the parish of Sagrado Corazon de Providencia, also known as the community of "El Bosque" ("The Forest"). Known as an influential and charismatic priest, Father Karadima founded a Catholic Action group in the wealthy Santiago parish and drew hundreds of young men to the priesthood. Four of Father Karadima's proteges went on to become bishops, including Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno.   However, several former seminarians of "El Bosque" revealed in 2010 that the Chilean priest sexually abused them and other members of the parish community for years. One year later, Father Karadima was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance after he was found guilty of sexual abuse. Chilean survivors have also alleged that Bishop Barros -- then a priest -- as well as other members of Father Karadima's inner circle had witnessed their abuse by his mentor. The pope, who initially defended his 2015 appointment of Bishop Barros as head of the Diocese of Osorno, apologized after receiving a 2,300-page report from Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta. In a letter released April 11, Pope Francis said he had been mistaken in his assessment of the situation in Chile, and he begged the forgiveness of the survivors and others he offended. He invited three survivors -- Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo -- to Rome in late April and called all of the Chilean bishops to the Vatican for meetings May 15-17. In a document leaked by Chilean news channel Tele 13 before the meeting with the bishops, Pope Francis said he was concerned by reports regarding "the attitude with which some of you bishops have reacted in the face of present and past events." The document's footnotes included several details from the investigation made by Archbishop Scicluna, which confirmed that, in some instances, the bishops deemed accusations of abuse as "implausible." But Pope Francis said he was "perplexed and ashamed" after he received confirmation that undue pressure by church officials was placed on "those who carry out criminal proceedings" and that church officials had destroyed compromising documents. Those actions, he said, "give evidence to an absolute lack of respect for the canonical procedure and, even more so, are reprehensible practices that must be avoided in the future." After the three-day meeting, most of the Chilean bishops offered their resignations to the pope. Back in Chile, bishops -- including Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, president of the Chilean bishops' commission for abuse prevention -- continue to face a backlash over their handling of cases of abuse. Bishop Goic suspended 14 of the diocese's 68 priests May 19 after an investigative report by Tele 13 alleged there was a sex-abuse ring made up of clergy and known as "La Cofradia" ("The Brotherhood"). According to the report, "La Cofradia" had its own hierarchical structure and carried out, as well as covered up, the sexual abuse of minors by members of the group. The report also alleged that although Bishop Goic was informed and presented with evidence of the group's existence by Elsa Fernandez, a local youth minister, he refused to act. Fernandez said she contacted the Chilean bishops' conference in January to inform them of the abuses committed by "La Cofradia." However, she said, she was informed in an email that the conference "does not formally receive complaints." In an interview published on the Tele 13 website May 22, Bishop Goic said he had thought people talking about "La Cofradia" were speaking "in jest" and said he "never received a formal complaint that seriously said this was happening." After the report's broadcast, Bishop Goic acknowledged that he had met with Fernandez, and he apologized for his failure to act "with the appropriate agility in the investigation" of the priests allegedly involved in the sex abuse ring. "I must admit that personally, as a Christian and a pastor, I find myself very affected by this difficult situation that hurts and embarrasses me," the bishop said. "I pray that the truth, the whole truth, may come to light in these cases and in any other situations that threaten the Gospel of Christ's love." - - -Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Natalie BattagliaBy Dennis SadowskiWASHINGTON (CNS) -- A year into his priesthood, Father Matt O'Donnell was named a pastor. Days before his 27th birthday in 2013, Father O'Donnell arrived at St. Columbanus Parish in Chicago's South Side Park Manor neighborhood and since then has embraced his ministry to the African-American community. It didn't take long for the young priest who grew up at St. Fabian Parish in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview to become a leading figure in the neighborhood. Father O'Donnell, now 31, went about getting to know residents and parishioners and learning what they thought the community needed. From that, Father O'Donnell recruited volunteers in spearheading the creation of a variety of services and ministries that has cemented St. Columbanus as an anchor in Park Manor. For starters, there's the parish food pantry that serves more than 500 people 49 of 52 Wednesdays a year, the building of a new playground that gives kids a safe space to be kids and an athletic center that gives older kids an alternative to gang life. The parish also is the site of Augustus Tolton Catholic Academy, an acclaimed elementary school focusing on science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math. The parish opens its doors to the wider community, hosting its popular "Pop Up Clergy" program from time to time in front of the church, complete with a grill for barbecuing. The event brings neighbors and police together to foster friendship and understanding. The most recent in early May attracted 150 people. "The people (at the parish) are very grateful that I'm young and have inexhaustible energy," he told Catholic News Service. For his efforts, Father O'Donnell was named the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the U.S. bishops' domestic anti-poverty and social justice program. The award is to be presented June 13 at a reception during the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich in a statement called Father O'Donnell's work of building a parish "a living example of Pope Francis's vision of a field hospital church that exists to serve humankind and spread the Gospel of a loving God." "By his caring presence, his limitless energy for good works and his compassionate ministry, he has made St. Columbanus a beacon of hope in its community and an example of faith in action far beyond its borders," he said. In nominating Father O'Donnell for the award, Olivia Silver said she wanted to call attention to the "good things that were happening at the parish and the good things that Father Matt was doing." Silver, a member of Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral and a St. Columbanus volunteer, called the priest an "innovative pastor who gives his entire heart to his parish, his community and his loved ones." "He is doing such great stuff there," she said. Father O'Donnell takes little credit for the parish's accomplishments, citing instead parish staff for the success of the many ministries. He said he strives to "empower the people in the parish to take the responsibility to run the different aspects of the ministry that we have." And he thanked parishioners for being "forgiving and patient with me." Father O'Donnell also credited the "good priests around me to give me on-the-job training" in the work of a pastor. The young priest has long held an interested in serving in the African-American community. His internships before ordination were in other South Side parishes where he "fell in love with the liturgy, the music, the preaching" and discovered that the hospitality of the neighborhoods was "very giving." A period spent at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans strengthened his desire for his chosen ministry. That interest convinced then-Cardinal Francis E. George to appoint Father O'Donnell as pastor. "Cardinal George said he would rather have me because I have the desire to serve the black community than to have somebody who had more experience but didn't have the desire," Father O'Donnell recalled. As for the future, Father O'Donnell has eyes on opening a community service center to help residents prepare for the GED test and apply for work. He has even thought of opening a coffee shop "to create some jobs in the area." The priest acknowledged Park Manor is going through changes, like many other Chicago neighborhoods: longtime residents have either moved away or died; violence has increased; locally owned businesses have closed; and poverty is growing. Such factors motivate Father O'Donnell to do his best while partnering with others interested in building an inclusive, welcoming community. "St. Columbanus has been here since 1909 and has been an anchor in in Park Manor," he said. "We're trying to figure out what more we can be doing to better the life of the neighborhood." - - - Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.