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.
His First Mass will be the 10 a.m. Mass June 3 at Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is a regularly scheduled weekend Mass. All are invited to attend. Father Gale Hammerschmidt will give the homily and Father Ryan McCandless will act as the master of ceremonies. Deacon Andy said some of the items he will use as a priest have sentimental value. His grandparents, Denis and Arlene Stastny, purchased his vestments.
Additionally, his chalice is from his father’s family. It belonged to Father Gerald Hammeke, who was the brother of his grandfather, and also a priest for the Diocese of Dodge City. Father Gerald Hammeke was ordained May 3, 1952, the first priest to be ordained for the Diocese of Dodge City, which established in 1951. Father Gerald Hammeke died Aug. 3, 2006 at the age of 78. “That’s meaningful and special to me to be able to use the same chalice he used his whole life as a priest,” Deacon Hammeke said. “I’m honored to be able to have it.” His parents had the chalice refurbished ahead of the upcoming ordination.
Following the ordination and First Mass festivities, Deacon Hammeke said he will attend an ordination of a friend from seminary, as well as spent some time road tripping with his brother. “We’ll probably hit up some baseball stadiums,” said Deacon Hammeke, who played baseball during college at Fort Hays State University in Hays.
He and Father McCandless will also take young men who are discerning the seminary to a retreat at St. Meinrad Seminary. But after all of the excitement and activities calm down, he said he’s looking forward to beginning his priestly ministry. Especially because many from across the diocese have been encouraging during his seminary years.
“I’m thankful for the support of people all the way through,” he said. “The diocese, all the letters people have sent, the financial support, the prayers. I’m thankful for the overwhelming support.”