Nine men — one priest and eight permanent deacons — will be ordained into the Catholic Diocese of Belleville on Saturday at St. Peter Cathedral.
"I personally called these ordandi to Holy Orders in the chapel of my residence earlier in the month after prayer and hour-long, face-to-face, heart-to-heart conversations, with the Sacred Scripture in our hands," Bishop Edward K. Braxton said in a statement provided to the Belleville News-Democrat.
Braxton will ordain the Rev. Steve Pautler, of St. Boniface Church in Evansville, to the priesthood. Pautler pursued the priesthood later in life, after retiring from a corporate job at the Xerox Corp. where he worked for 34 years.
Pautler, 57, said he's feeling a range of emotions about his upcoming ordination, including "excitement," "anticipation," and "anxiety."
Pautler has served as a permanent deacon in the Belleville Diocese for the past 10 years. He graduated May 4 with a master's in divinity from Sacred Heart Seminary and the School of Theology in Milwaukee.
His family attended his graduation from seminary school and will also be involved in the ordination Mass on Saturday. His first Mass of Thanksgiving will be Sunday at St. Boniface.
Pautler has not yet been officially assigned to a church in the Diocese of Belleville. Braxton will make the assignment at a later date.
"Wherever God calls me to serve I'll be so happy to serve there," he said. "I want to bring my gifts and talents that God gave me to the people. God has given me certain things that I could give to others."
The last time a Catholic priest was ordained in the Diocese of Belleville was 2016. Braxton ordained the Rev. Brett A. Judkins. In November of last year, Braxton granted Judkins a leave of absence. A reason for his "indefinite" leave of absence was not provided by the diocese, and Judkins could not be reached for comment.
There are currently seven metro-east men attending seminary under the sponsorship of the Diocese of Belleville, which covers the southern 28 counties of Illinois. The Diocese of Belleville covers the cost for the seminarians to attend, and individuals can donate to the seminary education fund.
Presently, 47 Diocesan priests serve the 108 parishes in the Diocese of Belleville, according to spokesman the Rev. John Myler. In addition, 16 religious order priests and priests from other countries also serve the parishes, as well as retired priests.
Pautler suggested men thinking about joining the priesthood to pray. "There is no way you can go forward without prayer," he said. "Prayer is the foundation of any vocation. You have to really have a relationship with God and be able to ask God, 'What are you asking me to do?'"
"Prayer life for a priest or deacon is very important," Pautler said.
The eight men to be ordained as permanent deacons are:
- Daniel Cozzi of Holy Childhood in Mascoutah
- Steven Eischens of St. Theresa in Salem
- John Gomez of St. Clare in O'Fallon
- Mark Kabat of St. Mary in Mt. Vernon
- James Law of St. Augustine in Belleville
- John Mote of St. Mary in Trenton
- Randall Riesenberger of St. Mary in Belleville
- Kevin Templin of St. Bernard in Albers
Answering the call
Templin described becoming a permanent deacon as a "process," which started when his wife, Kristen, converted to Catholicism after they were married. "She had a lot of questions about the faith," said Templin, who learned more about his faith to answer her questions. "As I learned more about it, I came to love and appreciate the Catholic faith and tradition."
He became more involved at church, teaching Bible study and leading small groups. "I wanted to do more in the church and learn more about my faith," Templin said. "I felt God was kind of calling me to a formal ordination process within the church."
The process to become a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church takes five years.
"It's been an amazing process," said Templin, who had to spend at least one weekend a month away from his family the past several years to travel to St. Meinrad in Indiana. "It's been a long five years, but it's gone extraordinary fast."
Templin, 45, who was born and raised in Albers, said his family has been supportive throughout the process. He and his wife have three children.
Templin, a graduate of Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese, works as an orthopedic surgery assistant in Chesterfield, Missouri.
Templin and the seven other men will join the more than 30 permanent deacons serving in parishes throughout the Diocese of Belleville.
Templin said he appreciates "all the support and mentoring we have had from the current deacons. They have been instrumental in the permanent deacon process."
Like Templin, Gomez felt a calling from God to become a permanent deacon after reflecting on his life. He said he saw all the signs of God's love, including his three boys and the protection God provided during his time serving in the Air Force.
Gomez retired as a colonel in January 2010 after serving more than 27 years. He worked as chief of requirements for Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base.
Gomez, 57, has enjoyed his journey to become a permanent deacon the last five years. He said he has an entire bookcase filled with books he's read. "I have written more papers the past four years than I had in the previous 20," he said with a laugh.
Gomez, who lives in Shiloh with his wife, Mary, said he found the material "fascinating," whether about the church history or moral theology. "It really was not a lot of work," he said. "It's all been very interesting for me."
He's excited about the upcoming ordination and "the opportunity to work for the church and proclaim the good news. It's going to be a fantastic adventure and I'm really looking forward to it."
The public is invited to attend the ordination Mass on Saturday.
"I hope we will fill the Cathedral of St. Peter with members of the faithful praying in one voice not only for those to be ordained but also for urgently need for vocations to the priesthood of Jesus Christ in our diocese," Braxton said in the statement.
Want to go?
What: Ordination Mass for Catholic priest, permanent deacons
When: 10:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: St. Peter Cathedral, 200 W. Harrison St., Belleville