Diocese looks forward to ordination of 6 new priests
By Mary P. Walker
Bishop Joe Vásquez will ordain Deacons Alberto Carbajal Madera, Darrell Kostiha, Hai Dong Nguyen, Sang Ky Quan, Tom Reitmeyer and Francisco Rodriguez III to the priesthood on June 6 at 10:30 a.m. at St. William Parish in Round Rock. They all began seminary studies after time in the workforce.
Deacon Alberto Carbajal Madera, 36, was born in Mexico and came to Austin when he was 12. The sixth of nine children, he is the son of Alberto Carbajal Moreno and Rosalina Madera Escalante. An older brother is a diocesan priest, and an older sister is a religious sister, both in Mexico. St. Julia Parish in Austin is his home parish.
“I am very excited. My family is very excited,” he said regarding adding another priest to the family.
After graduating from McCallum High School in Austin in 1996, Deacon Carbajal worked at various jobs, and was then employed by a nursing home. He loved talking to the patients and listening to their stories.
“The interaction with the patients helped me find my vocation in life,” Deacon Carbajal said.
During the same period, he also volunteered in youth ministry at Cristo Rey and Sacred Heart parishes, where Father César Guzmán and Salesian Sister Guadalupe Medina encouraged him to consider the priesthood.
After being accepted at St. Joseph Seminary College, Deacon Carbajal found the spirituality and hospitality of the Benedictine monks a tremendous help in his discernment. He also learned to admire and appreciate their monastic life. Because English is not his native language, he said he found challenges in his studies, especially in philosophy classes.
As a priest, Deacon Carbajal looks forward to being part of the parish community and accompanying the people he will serve along their spiritual journey. He also hopes to get to know and learn from the other diocesan priests. He welcomes the opportunity to talk to young men and women who may be wondering if God is calling them to the priesthood or religious life.
“I have received so much encouragement. I want to pass this on,” he said.
Deacon Darrell Kostiha, 46, also hails from a large family; he is the youngest of nine children, and the son of Gladys and the late Albert Kostiha. Growing up in Westphalia, he belonged to Visitation Parish. After high school, he worked for a distribution center in Temple, on the swing shift at a manufacturing plant and raised cattle on the side.
Off and on, since high school, Deacon Kostiha had thought about the priesthood, but pushed the idea away. Holding priests in high regard, he did not think God could be calling him.
However, his cattle caused him to reconsider! While looking for a job that would be more compatible with raising them, the idea of becoming a priest resurfaced.
After attending Project Andrew, a vocations event, he approached the diocesan vocations director, Father (now Bishop) Mike Sis. While encouraging, he suggested that Deacon Kostiha continue attending meetings and retreats, and brush up on his study skills by taking college classes. Shortly afterward, he began classes at Temple College and ended his cattle operation.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond, then bishop of Austin, encouraged him to apply to the seminary, and he began studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in 2008.
“It was quite an adjustment going from the agricultural, peaceful setting in Westphalia to Houston!” Deacon Kostiha admitted.
At the seminary, he grew in confidence and in his relationship with God. Expressing appreciation for caring professors, Deacon Kostiha reported that he learned to love the study of philosophy, which at first he found to be “a different kind of language.”
As a priest, he looks forward to making the love of God present to the people he will serve. In addition, he is happy to add a new chapter to the vocation history of his home parish, which claims 14 priests and 38 sisters.
“It’s humbling and encouraging to see those who walked before me,” Deacon Kostiha said.
Deacon Hai Dong Nguyen is the son of Dong Van Nguyen and Phong Thi Truong. Age 41, he is the youngest of four children. He grew up in Vietnam, where his father was a political prisoner and his mother went from town to town to earn a living for the family. His grandmother helped him attend church, and Deacon Nguyen credits his family with nurturing his faith.
In 1991, at age 17, he moved to Washington, D.C., with his parents and sister. While working, he received undergraduate degrees in chemistry from the University of the District of Columbia and computer science from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. In 2005, he got a programming job in Austin. St. William Parish in Round Rock is his home parish.
Deacon Nguyen explained that while he had continued to attend Mass, his faith was not yet central to his life. In 2006, he attended a retreat, where he “experienced the initial sense of the mercy of God and the sense of being called to share that through the priesthood,” he said.
For three years, he continued his discernment. Under the spiritual direction of Father Alberto Borruel, he prayed, was active in the Legion of Mary, a parish prayer group, and visited patients in a nursing home.
“Through my service to others, the call to become a priest became even clearer,” Deacon Nguyen said. Yet, he was in a serious relationship, which he believes helped him grow in faith. Through prayer, he realized that he had to end the relationship to prepare to enter the seminary. In 2009, he began his seminary studies.
“There I continued to experience the love and mercy of God, and his conversion in my life. As a priest, I have a great desire to share that mercy with others,” Deacon Nguyen said.
Deacon Sang Ky Quan is also originally from Vietnam; he is the son of Giau Minh Quan and the late Hong Chang Quan. Age 58, he is the oldest of six children, and Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Austin is his home parish. He came to the U.S. in 1975, received an associate degree from St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Okla., and a bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He worked in the semiconductor testing and design industry.
For some years, he had stopped going to Mass, and during his last year in college, he attended a nondenominational evangelical church. Friends and colleagues invited him to join the choir at Holy Vietnamese Martyrs and to participate in a prayer group that focused on Ignatian spirituality. That was the beginning of his discernment to the priesthood.
At a summer retreat, his Jesuit spiritual director invited him to apply to the order. However, his mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he lived with his parents until she died four years later. Encouraged by his family to consider marriage, he realized that was not God’s will for him. By then, he was older than those whom the Jesuits typically admit to the novitiate, and his vocations director was denied an exception to this policy.
In 2007, Deacon Quan retired and joined his family in Arizona. A job as a contract engineer brought him back to Austin, where his spiritual director encouraged him to consider the diocesan priesthood. At age 52, he was again older than those typically accepted, but his Ignatian training gave him the peace he needed to proceed.
“I am very grateful to the people of God. They have given me a lot of love and affirmation to help me stay on this path,” Deacon Quan said. As a priest, he wants to reflect that love and gratitude in his ministry.
Deacon Tom Reitmeyer is the son of the late David Reitmeyer and Phyllis Steiger. He is 36, and one of four children. His family belonged to Santa Cruz Parish in Buda. An older brother was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D.
When Deacon Reitmeyer was 8, his father suffered a massive stroke, and died four years later. As a result, he struggled with his relationship with God. He graduated from St. Michael’s Catholic Academy in Austin, and Texas A&M University, double majoring in biochemistry and genetics. While at A&M, he made the Awakening retreat, which Deacon Reitmeyer believes helped foster his own vocation.
After college, he joined the police force in College Station and advanced to detective. Although he loved his job and understood it as a call to service, something was missing from his life, he said. In 2005, he prepared to receive the sacrament of confirmation so that he could be the godfather of a friend’s son. He also volunteered extensively at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.
“The more my heart grew closer to God, the more it grew away from the material aspects of my life,” Deacon Reitmeyer said.
He believes the grace and gifts of confirmation opened him to wonder whether God was calling him to the priesthood. The first person he told was his brother, Father Todd Reitmeyer, who suggested that they go together on a camping trip with friends in a “good Catholic family.” If Deacon Reitmeyer still wanted to be a priest after witnessing this happy family, they would talk.
Less than two weeks later, Father Todd was killed in a watercraft accident.
“We’ve never had that conversation face-to-face, but we’ve had it since through prayer,” Deacon Reitmeyer said.
To make sure God was truly calling him and that he was not following his brother’s footsteps through grief, Deacon Reitmeyer continued with spiritual direction and resigned from the police force to become the resource manager for his parish. Since he entered the seminary, he has never doubted his call.
Deacon Reitmeyer hopes to follow his brother’s example of sharing in the lives of his parishioners.
“The greatest happiness comes from living the will of God,” he said.
Deacon Francisco Rodriguez, 42, was born in Lockhart, son of Frank Rodriguez Jr. and Isabel Gamez, and has an older sister. He has lived in San Marcos, and in 2004 moved to Georgetown. St. Helen Parish is his home parish. Enlisting in the Marines after high school, he served in the reserves and active duty from 1991 to 1997. While attending Texas State University, he worked in a distribution center, then did drafting work for an engineering firm, and later was an estimator for heavy construction companies.
While in the Marines and afterward, he did not regularly practice his faith. He credits a former girlfriend with getting him back to church. When they broke up, he knew his life had to change. In 2003, he attended a retreat at St. John the Evangelist Parish in San Marcos.
“It was there that I really encountered Christ in a different way,” Deacon Rodriguez said. He made the decision to live for Christ, and participated in parish door-to-door evangelization.
After attending a vocation retreat in 2004, he believed that he was called to marriage. When he moved to Georgetown nine months later, Msgr. Louis Pavlicek, then pastor of St. Helen Parish, suggested that he belonged in the seminary –– although he had a girlfriend at the time. Parishioners also encouraged him to consider the priesthood.
On July 31, 2006, the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, he heard a coworker denigrate the Catholic Church. Angry, he went to Mass at lunchtime. The homily was about St. Ignatius’ conversion. He believes he heard a voice inside him say, “Let it all go, and come and see.” After Mass, he told the priest he was going to apply to the seminary.
“Only the total, complete self-giving to God and his church will give me the joy my heart desires,” Deacon Rodriguez said.
As a priest, he looks forward to celebrating Mass and hearing confessions. Because he has received much healing himself, especially during his seminary years, he wants to share God’s healing love with others.
For more information about vocations, visit www.austinvocations.com or contact the Vocations Office at (512) 949-2430.