by Joe Bollig
OVERLAND PARK — When Joann Weger handed her son’s chalice to Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at the offertory procession of this year’s ordination Mass, these words welled up from her heart.
“You need to take care of Daniel for me now,” she told him.
“I will,” he promised.
That pledge applies not only to her son, but to all six of the men ordained to the priesthood on May 26, at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.
Archbishop Naumann now has responsibility for six new spiritual sons and the archdiocese gains six shepherds: Father Nicholas Steven Ashmore, Father Colin Adian Haganey, Father Mark David Ostrowski, Father Kenneth David Clem, Father Daniel Edward Weger and Father Joel Andrew Haug, AVI.
Every ordination Mass is special, but this one was particularly notable for its size.
As best as can be determined, the six men ordained to priesthood for the archdiocese was the largest class since at least 1981.
Archbishop Naumann celebrated the ordination Mass and served as the homilist and the ordaining minister. Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher was also in attendance.
In his homily, the archbishop expressed his gratitude to the ordinands’ parents.
“Thank you, dear parents, for introducing your sons to Jesus,” he said, “for being the first teachers of the faith, and all that you’ve done to help them develop the desire to follow the Lord and to serve his people.”
“The church is grateful for the goodness of your families,” he continued, “and I hope it brings you great joy today to witness your sons being called now by the church to follow Our Lord in this special path of the priesthood — to be servant leaders after the model of Jesus Christ.”
He then turned to the priests of the archdiocese and congratulated them, saying, “The fact we have six men soon to be ordained priests is in part a testimony to your fidelity and to your dedication in serving the church as priests.
“The witness of loving and joyful priests is important for the opening of the hearts of young men to hear the voice of Jesus beckoning them to follow him as priests.”
After the homily, each man knelt before the archbishop and promised his obedience to him and his successors.
This was followed by the litany of supplication and ordination by the ancient rite of the laying on of hands by the archbishop. Each of the 70 concelebrating priests then, in turn, laid their hands on the heads of the six and prayed over them.
Archbishop Naumann then recited the prayer of ordination over them, and the six returned to the pews where their families sat, and where they were vested with their stoles and chasubles by their brother priests. They returned, then, to kneel before the archbishop for the anointing of their hands.
Now priests forever in the order of Melchizedek, they joined their brother priests and the archbishop at the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Later, at the luncheon, the parents of the newly ordained priests shared their thoughts.
The Haganeys, for example, now think about their son in a whole new light.
“For me, I thought about how everything changes and how you never know what is ahead of you,” said Charlie Haganey, Colin’s father. “For Colin, that’s not something we ever saw when he was a small child. And it’s really only been in the last 12 years that it even came on the radar, that this was possible.”
For Father Haganey’s mother, ordination meant a role reversal.
“I’ve always been [Colin’s] primary spiritual teacher,” said his mother Jennifer. “Now our roles are flipped . . . and he’s my spiritual leader and adviser.”
The whole process of discernment and ordination of their son has changed their whole family, said the Clems.
“It’s brought us all closer together,” said Audrey Clem, Kenn’s mother. “We’ve definitely learned a lot. It’s not a small undertaking. It requires a lot of discernment and prayer, and everyone partakes of that — our parish, our family, all of us together.”
“It has definitely deepened our spiritual development,” agreed his father Kyle. “Getting [into our faith] in depth, he has really helped with our religious knowledge and theology. He’s helped us grow and learn right along with him.”
The Wegers have come to realize that their son must make sacrifices for his spiritual fatherhood — and so must they.
“[It’s] . . . rather the end of him being just my son,” said Joann Weger. “I now have to share him with everyone in the church. He is now becoming married to the church and God. . . . As a mother, it’s very tough.”
“I was thinking of him becoming a father to all the souls in his parish, and the change in his relationship going forward in his new life,” said Matthew Weger. “What it means to him and to us.”
John and Kathy Ostrowski received a foretaste of their son’s future through his service in the transitional diaconate.
“We’ve been looking forward to this and working it into our lives,” said Kathy Ostrowski. “It’s been a natural part of it. He’s a godfather and does a lot of baptisms [in our family]. It’s kind of a normal part of our Catholic life to have a [cleric] in the family — baptisms and holy Communions, and everything else.”
“I’m just very proud and happy for him,” said John Ostrowski. “I know he’s excited and looking forward to serving. It’s a thrilling culmination of a lot of hard work on his part, and it makes me very proud.”
Willard Ashmore saw it, too, as the culmination of a lot of hard work by Father Ashmore so he could “be the priest he was always meant to be.”
“What I find so amusing now is that I used to teach him theology, and now he teaches me,” said Willard. “He surpassed the teacher and didn’t even slow down.”
His mother, Katrina Gavala, thought of how far her son had come.
“The thing that went through my mind was how it used to be when he was younger: ‘Look what I can do!’” she said. “Now, it’s: ‘Look at what God can do through me.’”
Aleda Haug spoke of her son’s pastoral qualities and her hopes for Father Haug’s happiness.
“He’s going to be very good at what he’s going to do,” she said. “He has a very natural pastoral attitude. He loves the people he’s ministering to, and all a parent can ask for is happiness for their children.
“And he is very happy. He has a generous spirit and a very big heart for everyone, especially for children, teenagers and college-age students.”
For their first assignments as associate pastors, Father Ashmore will serve at Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee; Father Clem will serve at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe; Father Haganey will serve at Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood; Father Haug will serve at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas, and live the charism of the Apostles of the Interior Life; Father Ostrowski will serve at Holy Trinity Parish and as chaplain at St. James Academy, both in Lenexa; and Father Weger will serve at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood and as chaplain at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park.