Detroit — Seven men — the most in a single year since 2004 — will be ordained priests this year for the Archdiocese of Detroit. To help our readers become familiar with them, The Michigan Catholic asked each to respond to questions about their own unique background and calling in advance of their ordinations.
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron will ordain six of the men during a 10 a.m. Mass June 7 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, while Fr. Joseph Kirkconnell, a native of the Cayman Islands (which is under the pastoral care of the archbishop of Detroit), was ordained there by Auxiliary Bishop Francis Reiss on May 24.
Two of this year’s new priests, soon-to-be Frs. Gregory Piatt and Joe Tuskiewicz, came to the priesthood later in life, studying at the Boston-based Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary. Another, soon-to-be Fr. Bryan Shackett, studied for the priesthood at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The other four studied at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
Read their profiles below.
Deacon Ryan Justin Adams
Parents: Rick and Susan Adams of St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church (Dad) and National Shrine of the Little Flower Parish (Mom)
Home Parish: Holy Redeemer, Detroit
Education: St. Peter Lutheran Church (Macomb); Berkley High School; Oakland Community College (Royal Oak); University of Detroit Mercy; Franciscan University of Steubenville
Masses of thanksgiving: St. Anne de Detroit, 11 a.m. June 8
Secular career before seminary: Studying mainly, jobs here and there
Route to the priesthood: I converted to the Catholic faith; my story has been a long and circuitous journey, but in a nutshell it comes down to God making me feel that everything in this world is empty without Him. When this happened I hungered for God, but I was surrounded by clouds and darkness; yet His light gradually dawned upon me. As I hungered for God, seeking Him, I became more and more attracted to the priesthood. When a holy priest brought my grandfather back to the Catholic Church and anointed him before he died, I was very moved by the beauty I witnessed in that priest and very grateful. Beauty drew me toward the priesthood.
Greatest challenge facing the Church: I think the Holy Father says it best: “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience” (“Evangelii Gaudium”). I think many people in our local Church of Detroit have not invited Jesus into their hearts because they experience an emptiness that stems from a heart divided — a false ease with the way things are, yet a burning desire to fill the emptiness with all sorts of things. The only answer to such emptiness is the peace found in a personal encounter with the living Jesus. This may be why the Holy Father in that same exhortation recommended that we as a Church pray for a personal encounter or a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ. Our hearts are made for Jesus, and when Jesus is not the end of our hearts, we make idols of the things of this world. It is at the point of death that our hands are empty, and we realize that only Jesus brings us true life, joy, and peace.
Jesus is our greatest hope! Not only did He rise from the dead, but everything in the entire cosmos has a new direction, a recreation, oriented back to the Father through Christ. The whole cosmos is being drawn back to the Father. I personally like to meditate on the passage from Song of Songs 2:10:13 to ponder the good news of Jesus Christ.
As for the Church today, I see a new zeal in the people of God for Jesus and His Church. It seems we may be getting smaller yet stronger in what we believe. As one who has been studying for the priesthood, I kept having to ask myself why I am doing this at all; my answer over and over again was because of Jesus Christ and His Divine Love. I think we Catholic Christians living in a culture moving more and more against Jesus and His Church have to ask ourselves, “why should I be Christian?” I pray the answer is because of Jesus Christ.
Hopes for priestly ministry: To be a holy servant of God in His priesthood; basically to die a saint because I know if I die a saint I will bring many others with me into heaven. One image a priest gave me was an image of a chain; the more we come close to Jesus, the more the people who have been associated with us are pulled to Christ. It’s like a chain in the mud: you pull up one part out of the mud, then you pull out the rest.
Aspect of ministry likely to be most rewarding: I would imagine confession. The fact that the Lord will use the voice of a sinner, the priest, to forgive a sinner is remarkable and moves me with wonder with the fact that when one is absolved they are restored or renewed in a loving and abiding relationship with God is truly remarkable. Confession is a real great grace — please tell people about it.
Deacon Jeffrey D. Allan
Parents: James and Louise Allan of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, Redford
Education: St. Robert Bellarmine School (Redford); Divine Child High School (Dearborn); Adrian College (B.A. in business administration, minor in criminal justice); Sacred Heart Major Seminary (B.Phil., M.Div., S.T.B.)
Home parish: St. Colette, Livonia
Masses of thanksgiving: St. Robert Bellarmine, Redford, 10:30 a.m. June 8; St. Priscilla, Livonia, 4:30 p.m. June 14; Holy Family, Novi, 10:30 a.m. June 15; SS. Cyril and Methodius, Sterling Heights, 4 p.m. June 21; St. Colette, Livonia, 12:30 p.m. June 22
Secular career before seminary: Pharmaceutical sales
Route to the priesthood: After college, I found myself led to want to know more about my faith and get involved. Three activities I participated in were attending a parish Bible study, joining the Knights of Columbus and joining the pro-life movement by praying and counseling in front of an abortion clinic in Detroit. In addition, I went on two discernment weekends at the seminary that afford you the opportunity to attend Friday classes, interview with priests, meet seminarians and ultimately, get a “taste” of seminary life as well as pray and think about a potential vocation to priesthood. Though I didn’t feel compelled to apply after the first one, I went back out into the work world until five years later, when I felt another “stirring” or “tugging” of my heart. This prompted the desire to attend another discernment weekend, approved by the director of vocations, Fr. Jim Bilot. The second visit was accompanied by a sense of peace. What followed was an application and acceptance. But there were seeds of faith sown earlier in my life. My parents prayed with my sister and me. I was an altar server, and my confirmation sponsor (now Fr. Jim Lopez) became a priest.
Greatest challenge facing the Church: The greatest challenge is to inspire others to use their God-given talents in the midst of a selfish culture to serve. We see this in the example of Pope Francis, who has reached out to the poor. Our greatest hope is the Resurrection, upon which our faith hinges.
Hopes for priestly ministry: My hope is to learn from my pastor and the people I will serve at Holy Trinity Parish in Port Huron. In return, I hope to lead people to a greater sense and reverence of the “holy,” bring Jesus to the people and bring people to deeper relationship with Jesus.
Aspect of ministry likely to be most rewarding: To see people nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, and to be in the person of Christ by forgiving sins in the confessional is an awesome, humbling and I believe rewarding task that can only be carried out by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Joseph Kirkconnell
Parents: Gerald (Gerry) and Deborah Kirkconnell of St. Ignatius Parish, Cayman Islands
Education: St Ignatius Primary School, St Ignatius High School (in the Cayman Islands); University of Notre Dame (B.A. and M.A. in theology); Sacred Heart Major Seminary (B. Phil., M.Div., and STB)
Home parish: St. Ignatius Parish, Cayman Islands
Masses of thanksgiving: St. Ignatius Parish, Cayman Islands, May 25; Guardian Angels Parish, Clawson; University of Notre Dame; St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, Newark, Del., June 22.
Secular career before seminary: Parish work through ECHO program at Notre Dame
Route to the priesthood: From a young age, I was blessed with the gift of faith, a love for God, and a desire to do His will. I did not know that I was going to be a priest when I was a kid but, at some point, my mom told my brothers and I to be open to the priesthood because if it was God’s will, that is what would make us happiest in life. As a result, I was always open to the idea and willing to become a priest if that was God’s plan for my life. Some important influences for my vocation were the Eucharistic adoration chapel at our parish and our parish priest. Eucharistic adoration has always been one of my favorite forms of prayer. It was a place where I could just go to pray and be with Jesus, even if just for 5-10 minutes at recess or lunch.
In addition, our parish priest, Msgr. John Meaney, who was close to our family, passed away during my last year of high school. I remember altar-serving at his funeral, seeing the packed church, and thinking that if I were half as holy as he was, I would be in good shape. I began to take the possibility of being a priest even more seriously at this point. It still took time before I entered seminary, but gradually with prayer the Lord revealed His will for me.
Greatest challenge facing the Church: I think the greatest challenge facing the Church today is helping others to recognize that the Gospel and, therefore, the Church’s teaching, really is Good News. In other words, it is the Truth, Jesus Christ, who sets us free and not anything or anyone else no matter how much the media and culture say otherwise. The Church’s greatest hope is and always will be Jesus Christ.
Hopes for priestly ministry: I hope to be an instrument of the Lord’s grace, love and truth. I ask for prayers to be a humble and holy priest.
Aspect of ministry likely to be most rewarding: Simply being with the people and helping them to know and love the Lord.
Deacon John Daniel Kopson
Parents: Fred and Theresa Kopson of St. Mary Queen of Creation Parish, New Baltimore
Education: Sugarbush Elementary (Chesterfield); Anchor Bay Jr. High School (New Baltimore); Anchor Bay High School (New Baltimore); Macomb Community College; Sacred Heart Major Seminary (B.Phil., M.Div., S.T.B)
Home parish: St. Mary Queen of Creation, New Baltimore
Masses of thanksgiving: St. Mary Queen of Creation Parish, New Baltimore, 3 p.m. June 8; St. Augustine Parish, Richmond, 6 p.m. June 14; Holy Family Parish, Memphis, 10:30 a.m. June 15
Route to the priesthood: I first seriously thought about the priesthood in 2004 (four years after I graduated high school). During this time I spoke with several priests about the priesthood. I realized that these priests were just down-to-earth “normal guys.” This realization made me believe the priesthood really could be an option for me (if indeed God was calling me to this vocation). I remember on one occasion, virtually out of nowhere, a priest said to me, “John, you would make a good priest. Have you ever thought about it?” I cannot emphasize enough how these simple words impacted my life. Finally, the support that I received from my family and friends throughout my discernment journey was absolutely vital to my vocation. Thank you!
Greatest challenge facing the Church: I recently heard that approximately 18 percent of Catholics attend Mass regularly. I see this as the biggest challenge facing the Church today. In one sense, however, this dire statistic also serves as what I view as the greatest hope. Week after week I have the honor of meeting courageous Catholic brothers and sisters who are living out the faith even in the midst of today’s de-Christianized culture. Their heroic witness is a great hope and a great sign in the world today.
Hopes for priestly ministry: Through preaching, teaching, and evangelizing I hope to do my part in reaching and connecting with my Catholic brothers and sisters who are no longer practicing the faith. I also hope to encourage vocations to the priesthood throughout our archdiocese. We certainly need more brave men to answer God’s call to join His priesthood.
Aspect of ministry likely to be most rewarding: I envision that ministering to the youth and celebrating the sacraments will both be rewarding aspects of my ministry.
Deacon Gregory Piatt
Parents: Arthur and Gloria Piatt of St. Sylvester Parish (both deceased)
Education: St. Sylvester School; Hartsig Junior High School; St. Lawrence Seminary (High School); Cousino Senior High School; Macomb Community College; Wayne State University (B.A. English); Jagiellonian University Krakow, Poland (diploma for Polish Language and Culture and Media Studies); Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, Weston, Mass. (M.Div.)
Home parish: St. Faustina, Warren
Masses of thanksgiving: St. Faustina, Warren, 11 a.m. June 8; Divine Savior, Westland, 6 p.m. June 14
Secular career before seminary: Journalist (for 25 years in Michigan and as an award-winning foreign, war and military correspondent for newspapers and a news agency in Europe and in Florida) and deputy public affairs officer for the Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit.
Route to the priesthood: I received my calling as a second-grader in 1966, and later, I attended a high school seminary. However, I became enamored with journalism in the mid-1970s because of Watergate. But even as a journalist, I would tell people, “one day I would become a priest.” This went on for decades even though my journalism career took me to foreign lands and into war zones. I lived in Poland in the 1990s, but returned to Krakow and visited St. Faustina’s grave on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001. I made a promise to her, and soon after every time I saw the consecrated host at Mass or in adoration I heard Jesus in my heart say, “How long are you going make me wait?” Furthermore, the last years of Pope St. John Paul II’s life, when he suffered with Parkinson’s, also really moved me in my priesthood calling, despite having encountered him as a journalist. Some time after he died, I quit my job to take care of my father for the last nine months of his life. I finally surrendered my stubborn will before a picture of the Divine Mercy and ask the Lord to lead me. He eventually led me to the seminary.
Greatest challenge facing the Church: I think secular society in the United States poses many challenges for Catholics and to Church teachings. The challenge for the Church is not to confront people in a judgmental way on these issues, but to be merciful when addressing people and their problems stemming from these secular challenges.
Hopes for priestly ministry: Firstly, I hope to be a priest who helps people discover God’s divine attribute, His mercy. Secondly, I hope to help people grow in knowing the Holy Trinity. Thirdly, I hope and ask God for the grace to evangelize. Lastly, I hope to be a priest “who smells like his sheep.”
Aspect of ministry likely to be most rewarding: For priests, confecting the Eucharist is rewarding; however, besides that I think I will find being a conduit for God’s mercy in the confessional extremely rewarding.
Deacon Bryan N. Shackett
Parents: Lawrence and Mary Shackett of Our Lady on the River Parish, Marine City
Education: Washington Elementary (Marine City); Marine City Middle School; Marine City High School; St. Clair County Community College; Sacred Heart Major Seminary (B.Phil.); Pontifical North American College, Rom; STB in theology from Pontifical Gregorian University; currently working on STL in Church history from Pontifical Lateran University
Home parish: Our Lady on the River Parish, Marine City
Masses of thanksgiving: Holy Cross Church, Marine City, 9:30 a.m. June 8; St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, Algonac, 9 a.m. June 10; Divine Child, Dearborn, 9:30 a.m. June 15
Secular career before seminary: Student
Route to the priesthood: I first began to think seriously that I might have a vocation to the priesthood during my first year in college. I realized pretty quickly that I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. It was then that Our Lord started to guide me into the direction of the priesthood. One of the biggest ways in which He did this was through the influence of my pastor. He was preparing to take a group to World Youth Day, and when I went to pick up the information about the trip, he also gave me a pamphlet about a discernment weekend at the seminary. He suggested to me that I would make a good priest, and this was the first time I took the suggestion seriously. I was a little surprised, but I went on the weekend and had an amazing experience of God and His love. Afterward, I began to talk about this with my pastor, attend daily Mass when I could, and attend some Eucharistic adoration. Through all of this, I really began to hear Our Lord calling me to give myself as His priest.
Greatest challenge facing the Church: We face a world that ignores and is antagonistic toward Christ. I think that there is great hope in the many young people giving themselves to Christ, especially the many young men answering His call to the priesthood.
Hopes for priestly ministry: My hope is to bring Our Lord Jesus Christ and His love to His people in all that I say, do, and am. I hope to be a worthy minister of Christ and His Gospel.
Aspect of ministry likely to be most rewarding: I think the most rewarding aspect will be the celebration of the sacraments, especially Mass and confession. To have Christ work through me in this way will be a great and amazing grace.
Deacon Joe Tuskiewicz
Parents: Walter (deceased) and Virginia of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, Detroit
Education: Our Lady Queen of Heaven (Detroit); De La Salle Collegiate (Detroit); Wayne State University (B.S. in business administration); Sacred Heart Major Seminary (one year as commuter student); Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, Boston (M.Div.)
Home parish: Mother of Divine Mercy, Detroit
Masses of thanksgiving: St. Josaphat Church, Detroit (tentative), 9:30 a.m. June 8; Sweetest Heart of Mary Church, Detroit, 4 p.m. June 14; SS. Cyril & Methodius Parish, Sterling Heights, 9:30 a.m. June 15; St. Lawrence Parish, Utica, 12 p.m. June 15.
Secular career before seminary: Marketing/advertising
Route to the priesthood: I first sensed a call to the priesthood in grade school, influenced by the faith of my parents, my grandmother, the sisters who taught at Our Lady Queen of Heaven School, and particularly my service as an altar boy at the parish. As I got into the more rebellious teenage years amid the cultural turmoil of the late 60s, I began to resist God’s call in order to chase the temptations and false promises of the world. As time went on, the whisper of God’s call to priesthood never left completely, but my busy life pursuing career and good times kept it muffled deep enough in my subconscious, I suppose, that I could for the most part ignore it. Only in more recent years when I began to contemplate more seriously God’s will for my life did the faint voice return with ever-increasing volume and clarity. While there were a number of holy priests who affected my more recent discernment process, the most influential people were my married friends who faithfully live out their own vocations to marriage and family.
Greatest challenge facing the Church: The greatest challenge is a culture which has completely lost any sense of the transcendent. God is either non-existent, unimportant, or compartmentalized in people’s lives. The greatest hope is that the Church, in fact, has what people are searching for, whether they realize it yet or not, because “our hearts are restless until they rest with the Lord.”
Hopes for priestly ministry: My hope is that I will be the priest that the Lord has called me to be.
Aspect of ministry likely to be most rewarding: I anticipate that the most rewarding aspect will be serving the people of God in the celebration of Holy Mass and the Sacraments.