Salina — For the first time in nearly 50 years, three men will be ordained priests on the same date in the same location for the Diocese of Salina: 10 a.m. June 3 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. All are invited to attend.
Deacon Leo Blasi, Deacon Ryan McCandless and Deacon Justin Palmer have been studying at separate seminaries. Blasi, 53, is at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in suburban Milwaukee; the school focuses on second-career seminarians. Ryan McCandless, 35, is a student at St. Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind. Justin Palmer, 32, studies at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.
Deacon Blasi, an Abilene native, entered the seminary in January 2013 after a career in the U.S. Army. Previously married, he has six children and seven grandchildren and is a member of St. Andrew Parish in Abilene. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College and a master’s through Catholic Distance University. His parents, Frank and Jeanette Blasi, live near Wichita.
He said he is looking forward to settling into parish life, starting July 1 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Hays.
“I am most looking forward to is being able to confer the Sacraments, to be able to serve the people,” Deacon Blasi said. “That is what these last five years has been all about.”
The support of those throughout the diocese during his seminary journey has been inspiring.
“I would just like to reiterate how very grateful I am to the people of this great diocese, who placed their trust in me as I entered formation and covered me in prayers the entire time I have been in it,” Deacon Blasi said. “It is because of them that I am preparing to receive this honor and the privilege to serve them in the priesthood.”
Deacon McCandless said he is also looking forward to putting his years of seminary study into practice.
“One of the things that I believe has prepared me the most is the opportunity to preach,” he said of the last year. “I have learned so much in my first year of being in the pulpit, and I’m ready to engage the people of God.”
Deacon McCandless will start July 1 as the parochial vicar/asst. chaplain of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish-St. Isidore Catholic Student Center in Manhattan.
Deacon Palmer said he has enjoyed his final year of studies and preparation for the priesthood.
“This last year has helped me to grow in my practical experience of parish ministry,” he said. “Here at seminary we are assigned to a local parish for the weekends. This year I was assigned to St. Charles Borromeo Parish, where I gained much experience in preaching and baptizing.”
Deacon Palmer will be the parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina and St. Joseph Parish in Brookville starting July 1.
First Mass of Thanksgiving:
Salina — Two priests will celebrate 25 years of ordained service this month: Father Kevin Weber is pastor of St. Mary, Queen of the Universe in Salina. Father Damian Richards is pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Beloit, St. Theresa Parish in Mankato, St. Mary Parish in Smith Center, Sacred Heart Parish in Esbon and St. Mary Parish in Glasco.
Father Weber was ordained a priest May 30, 1992 by Bishop Fitzsimons at Sacred Heart Church in Park.
He said he finds parish work immensely rewarding.
“I love it when I truly feel like I have helped someone, whether that was through prayers during sickness or death, marriage preparation or spiritual direction,” Father Weber said, “but I think I would have to say that preaching has been the most enjoyable aspect.”
Sometimes dubbed “the singing priest,” Father Weber said the idea of integrating singing into his homilies was introduced during the seminary.
“My instructors encouraged us to use different mediums to ‘draw the people in,’ ” Father Weber said. “Even though (singing) was not one of the mediums they suggested, I do enjoy music, I find meaning in it.”
He said his mother and siblings say he was singing commercial jingles and songs once he learned to talk.
“So when I read a scripture passage and a song pops into my head, I do not ignore it,” Father Weber said. “I begin to play around with it and see if it can develop into a foundation to build a homily idea around.”
A farm boy at heart, he grew up on a farm near in Park.
“If I were not a priest I would still be on the farm,” Father Weber said, adding he makes regular visits to the family farm to assist his mother. “I enjoy the outdoors so much, planting and seeing the rewards, working with the animals, even though it can all drive me crazy when it doesn’t work right or come together.”
Story & photos by Karen Bonar
Salina — The soft whir of the Pfaff sewing machine creates the soundtrack of Lee Hartman’s days.
It softly hums on a quiet January morning as she sews the stole and chasuble for the priestly ordination of Deacon Leo Blasi, Deacon Ryan McCandless and Deacon Justin Palmer. She didn’t set out to become the diocese’s official — or unofficial — vestment maker. It just happened. Initially, Hartman said she began making vestments for the newly-ordained Father Frank Coady in the mid-1970’s. At the time, Father Coady said women in parishes across the diocese would sew the garments for the parish. “They were making polyester double knit vestments,” Father Coady said. “I got into (helping with vestments) because I realized I could buy good fabrics and pay Lee to sew them and still sell them for less than the catalogues. And they were better quality than the (vestments priests could buy) from the catalogues.” The duo worked on three rounds of vestments for the Salina Diocese. They also made and sold vestments to priests in the Dodge City Diocese.
As a girl, Hartman said she was sewing her own clothing in grade school. She said she and her first husband, Don Hamilton (who died in 1993), were goofing around one day. “We went into a pawn shop and bought (a sewing machine) for $5 and I’m still using it,” she said of the Phaff sewing machine she started — and still sews all of the vestments with. “I’ve replaced parts over and over and over, but not the main motor. The motor is still going strong.” She won’t sew with any other machine. She deftly sews the stole, irons it, pokes it with a yard stick to turn it right-side out and hand-stitches the small opening to close it. It’s a process she has repeated many times since she began making vestments for the Diocese of Salina in the 1970s. “When I started the vestments, we took the whole basement and made a big sewing room down there,” she said. In all, she has collaborated with Father Frank Coady to make three rounds of vestments for all priests in the diocese. Each vestment takes about six yards of material. But for taller clergy — like Bishop Edward Weisenburger — Hartman said about seven yards of fabric are used. She uses her trusty Phaff to sew the bulk of the garment. Each garment must be hemmed by hand, which takes about eight hours. In all, a vestment takes about 48 hours to make. “A lot of times, when I’m having a little problem with something, I start to say the Our Father or my prayers to work me through it,” Hartman said.
St. Louis — More than 30 teachers and administrators from across the diocese attended the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Convention in St. Louis from April 18-20.
“The last time the convention was held that close to the Salina Diocese was 14 years ago,” said Dr. Nick Compagnone, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the diocese. “We started planning for the trip last year and opened the opportunity to all schools in the Salina Diocese.”
Every year the National Catholic Education Association holds a convention for Catholic School Educators. The convention is held during Easter week in a selected city. This year the convention site was held in St Louis.
The purpose of the convention was to celebrate the strengths of Catholic schools, acknowledge challenges as new opportunities and network with others who serve in the educational ministry.
“If anything, participants attending an NCEA convention are inspired by the fact that they are not alone, but part of a larger mission of the Catholic Church,” said Dr. Compagnone.
Attendees from Catholic schools in Ellis, Hays, Salina, Abilene and Manhattan traveled together to the national conference. They were among more than 8,000 other Catholic educators from around the country. The group, traveling by bus to St. Louis, received a prayer blessing from Bishop Edward Weisenburger before departing.
The convention provided opportunities to worship and share in faith, make connections and network with fellow educators and grow in knowledge through professional development. Sessions included: 21st Century Learners, Assessments, Catholic School Governance and Leadership, Curriculum Instruction, Catholic Identity and Marketing and Development.
The Salina Diocese was represented by a professional development session presented by Dr. Nick and Cindy Compagnone on the practices of Kindergarten Readiness. More than 300 attended this session.
Special to The Register
Munjor — A child receiving her First Holy Communion along with her cousin is not an unusual occurrence, particularly in northwest Kansas where many families can trace their history in the area back for several generations. What is slightly more unusual — perhaps slightly more special — is a child having her cousin beside her and each of them celebrating the reception of this sacrament in the presence of their great-grandmothers, who received the Eucharist for the first time in the same church nearly 80 years ago.
Such was the case on April 30 for Luca Albers and Logan Leiker, cousins and two of the three First Communicants from Munjor’s St. Francis Church.
Logan’s great-grandmother, Mary Jo (Rohr) Braun, celebrated her First Communion at St. Francis Church in May 1938. Luca’s great-grandmother and Mary Jo’s younger sister, Betty (Rohr) Pfannenstiel, received the sacrament there in May 1940. Now, three generations later, the sisters reveled in the experience of seeing the seeds of faith, planted decades ago, bloom again on a snowy morning as their great-grandchildren received the sacrament.
“It is a continuity of my religion that she is being involved in,” Betty said of Luca’s first reception of Holy Communion. “And I hope that religion will mean as much to her as it does to me.”
While the sacrament itself has not changed in four generations, certain notable elements have. For example, physically approaching the sacrament is quite different in 2017 than in past decades
Mary Jo’s daughter and Logan’s grandmother, Sue Leiker, reflected on the differences between her 1967 First Communion and Logan’s.
“We would walk up to the front and kneel on the kneelers,” Sue recalled. “There would be a long row in front facing the altar. The priest and altar boy would start at one end and continue down the line. The priest gave us the host and the altar boy would hold a plate under it so the host would not fall to the ground and touch the floor. The priests always placed the host on our tongue as we were not allowed to touch it.”
The method of spiritual preparation has also undergone significant cultural changes.
“I remember going to confession on Saturday before my First Communion and we couldn’t go out and play on Saturday or early Sunday before Mass because we could have sinned,” said Mary Jo.
Perhaps the most obvious change over the four generations has been the number of communicants from St. Francis parish that has ebbed and flowed over the years. Betty and Mary Jo had First Communion classes of between 25 and 40 students. Sue was part of a much larger class – 77 students.
Sue’s son and Logan’s father, Landon Leiker, believes that the class of three students that Logan participated in has its advantages.
“I think the smaller class size is a true virtue of the smaller community church we belong to as every child has a chance to be called upon with prayer and questions during their education versus the larger class sizes I grew up with.”
Karen Mondero, Betty’s daughter and Luca’s grandmother, acknowledges the declining numbers but believes it should lead to an outpouring of evangelization.
Salina — While the April 22 ordination of Andrew Hammeke was to the transitional diaconate, Bishop Edward Weisenburger cautioned against thinking of it as a small step. “Ordaining men to the transitional diaconate is no mere humble stepping stone to what that matters,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “For you, Andy, it’s more a step on the way to something we pray and we hope will be your fuller calling — ordained priesthood. But it by no means lessens its significance for you or for our Church. ”
In front of a crowd of friends and family at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bishop Weisenburger ordained Hammeke, 27, to the transitional diaconate. The ordination to the transitional diaconate is the final step before being ordained a priest. “As you enter holy orders today, recognize this diakonia as the permanent foundation of your ministry,” Bishop Weisenburger said during the homily.
In attendance were priests of the Diocese of Salina, along with Father Tobias Colgan, OSB. Father Colgan is the vice rector of St. Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind., where Deacon Hammeke will complete his final year of studies. The rite of ordination consisted of five parts: the promise of the elect, the litany of saints, laying on of hands and prayer of ordination, investiture with the stole and dalmatic and receiving the book of Gospels.
Deacon Hammeke said the litany of saints was a powerful moment for him. “While I was on the ground, hearing everyone invoke so many great saints who have gone before us, I felt like I was entering into something huge,” he said. “I had a broad picture of the universal Church.”
Salina — The fourth annual “An Evening with Our Seminarians” will take place June 1 at St. Mary Queen of the Universe Parish.
All of the diocese’s seminarians, several priests and Bishop Edward Weisenburger will be on hand to meet with guests.
The evening begins with Vespers (evening prayer) at 6:30 p.m., followed by a catered meal and a short program. The event is open to the public, but reservations are required. The cost is $50 per person, with reservations required by May 22.
“This event was started in 2014 as a way for me and those in the diocese to recognize and share the stories of the men studying for the priesthood in our diocese,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “Many parishioners across the diocese have been supporting and praying for these men as they continue their formation. This event is a way for these people to meet and visit with each seminarian and find out how called has called them to their discernment. The funds raised from the event are used exclusively for seminarian education. ”
On April 22, seminarian Andrew Hammeke was ordained as a transitional deacon. On June 3, three transitional deacons will be ordained to the priesthood: Deacon Leo Blasi, Deacon Ryan McCandless and Deacon Justin Palmer.
Katie Platten, the volunteer event coordinator, said that supporters many buy a table and fill it with family and friends. However, individual tickets are also available. It is a great way to meet not just the seminarians but also others from throughout the diocese.
“The diocese is blessed to have so many men who are faithfully inspired to heed and follow their calling,” Platten said. “We also celebrate the many people who support our seminarians, and to see them coming together to honor each other is amazing. This event is an opportunity to meet our seminarians and offer our support and recognition of their gift of stewardship to our diocese.”
The Diocese of Salina currently has 12 seminarians in formation, with continued inquiries about the seminary from others, Weisenburger said.
“We have a great group of men, each with their unique story to share,” he said.