Written by LAURIE STEVENS BERTKE, Chronicle Writer
Thursday, 04 June 2009 16:42
TOLEDO—During a joyful celebration at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral May 30, Bishop Leonard P. Blair ordained the largest class of new priests the Diocese of Toledo has seen in more than a decade.
The five ordinands are Father Christopher G. Bohnsack, 40, Father Jason J. Kahle, 29, Father Kishore F. G. Kottana, 44, Father Eric L. Mueller, 32, and Father Anthony L. Recker, 32.
"Christopher, Jason, Kishore, Eric and Anthony," Bishop Blair said during his homily, "on this day of your priestly ordination, this very eve of Pentecost, our prayer for you is this: that filled with the Holy Spirit, you will, in the words of the ordination instruction, carry out the ministry of Christ, the priest, with constant joy and with genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ as you preach His Gospel, shepherd his people and celebrate the sacraments, especially absolving and consecrating in his name."
At the end of the liturgy, the bishop expressed gratitude for those who played a role in nurturing the vocations of the new priests, including their parents and families, their home parishes and internship parishes and the seminaries they attended.
"Our congratulations and best wishes go to all of those who have been ordained, and we want to assure them that we will follow them with our prayers and our support in the months and the years ahead, that they will be the good priests that they desire to be with the help of the living God and the power of the Holy Spirit," said Bishop Blair.
To their priestly ministry, these men bring diverse backgrounds in upbringing, education and employment.
Fr. Christopher Bohnsack The first time Fr. Bohnsack thought about the priesthood was in second grade, when he played Jesus in a class play. As he grew older, he says the idea kept resurfacing about every five years "to the point where I just said, I need to know.
"I didn’t enter the seminary until I was 34, so I was kind of resisting the call," adds Fr. Bohnsack, who at one time worried he was not outgoing enough to be a priest.
"Especially young, I was very shy and reserved," he explains.
But as he got more involved at his home parish, Toledo St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Bohnsack says his confidence grew and he also learned, "You don’t have to be a raging extrovert to be a priest."
He cites two particular experiences that influenced his decision to enter the seminary: his participation in a Christ Renews His Parish retreat and his completion of the diocesan lay ministry formation program.
In the year before he entered seminary, he sought spiritual direction and took a job with Sunshine Children’s Home, where he cared for men with developmental disabilities who lived in a group home.
"That was a very positive experience to go into the seminary with — because I was Christ to them, because I was taking care of them, providing," Fr. Bohnsack explains.
Fr. Bohnsack, the son of Charles and Marcia Bohnsack, attended Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West and served at New Riegel All Saints for his pastoral internship year. He completed his Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo.
Fr. Jason Kahle Fr. Kahle, whose home parish is Kalida St. Michael, traces his first thoughts of priesthood to his involvement in youth ministry during high school. He recalls a few people told him then they thought he would be a good priest, including his parents, Lucy and Michael Kahle.
"At the time they told me, I kind of dismissed it," he says. "I thought I wanted a wife and kids, a family, a ‘normal life.’ So I pursued that, dated through high school and college."
He went on to study science and industrial design at The Ohio State University, but during his last year of college he says he began to realize he no longer felt called to be a designer.
"So I started thinking, what am I called to do? What gives me life, what makes me happy?" he recalls. "And that’s when I started remembering my time in the youth group and in the church activities and those people who told me I’d be a good priest, including my parents."
After receiving guidance from the vocation director and some other priest friends, Fr. Kahle decided to apply for seminary during his final year of college.
He attended Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West and served at Sandusky St. Mary during his pastoral internship year. Fr. Kahle also completed summer internships at Fort Jennings St. Joseph, Ottoville Immaculate Conception, Defiance St. Mary, Upper Sandusky Transfiguration of the Lord and the Children’s Hospital in Columbus.
Fr. Kishore Kottana Fr. Kottana, a native of India, has served as a deacon at Fostoria St. Wendelin and Sandusky St. Mary since his arrival in the Diocese of Toledo at the end of 2007.
Born in Visakhaptnam, India, his family moved to Mumbai, formerly Bombay, when he was a child. Growing up there, he was strongly influenced by both the extreme poverty he witnessed and the example of charity he saw from his grandparents and his parents, Johnes Kottana and Santha Kumari Kottana.
When he was just 4 or 5 years old, he says, people who were very poor — "especially people with leprosy" — would knock at their door and his grandmother would give them rice. She also had him help hand out the rice "in my two little palms," relates Fr. Kottana.
His grandparents were Catholic converts from Hinduism who practiced the faith devoutly. "Their own prayer was that they should have a priest in the family," says Fr. Kottana, who notes he has an uncle who is a priest, and an aunt and two cousins who are religious sisters.
All of these influences contributed to his vocation to the priesthood, he says. "I felt the call throughout my life — early childhood, teenager years, working years and during my seminary studies — the call continued to serve God."
As a young adult, Fr. Kottana joined a Catholic lay community in India through which he served the poor, including children in an orphanage. At the same time he spent 18 years working at a naval base, where he eventually became a supervisor of submarine repairs.
His involvement in the lay community ultimately took him to Rome to study for the priesthood at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. After he met another seminarian and a priest from the Diocese of Toledo in Rome, he applied here and was incardinated last June.
Fr. Kottana says he has experienced much love, friendship and affection from the Catholic community here. "I have this sense of belonging, this sense of happiness that I’m accepted."
Fr. Eric Mueller Fr. Mueller, who holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering, was progressing down a very different career path when he began to discern a call to priestly ministry.
He says he never considered becoming a priest until his junior year at the University of Findlay, when he became friends with Father Michael Dandurand through a running group at the YMCA.
"After awhile he asked me if I’d thought about the priesthood," says Fr. Mueller. He was surprised by the question at the time, but now sees it as God’s way of planting the seed.
"It wasn’t something that I wanted to do right away," Fr. Mueller admits, but he says he kept thinking about it and began to pray everyday, " ‘God, please let me know what it is that you want me to do with my life.’
"I think I was expecting more the lightening bolt experience or the very clear answer, which, of course, never came," adds Fr. Mueller.
He finished his undergraduate studies and went on to earn a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Toledo, but thoughts of the priesthood persisted as he began his first engineering job. Finding himself feeling unhappy and unfulfilled, he left the job after about six or seven months. Still feeling called to something more, he entered St. Meinrad School of Theology about a year later.
"I’ve grown to really love my vocation and want to give of myself as a priest," says Fr. Mueller.
His pastoral internship year at Findlay St. Michael the Archangel was a particularly affirming experience for him.
"I felt during my pastoral year that God showed me that he has given me the gifts I need," says Fr. Mueller. "And the people at Findlay St. Michael were just tremendous."
Fr. Mueller, whose home parish is Landeck St. John the Baptist, is the son of Ralph and Geraldine Mueller. In addition to his pastoral internship, he did summer internships at Sandusky St. Mary and Wauseon St. Caspar, studied Spanish in Guatemala and completed his Clinical Pastoral Education in Indianapolis.
Fr. Anthony Recker In the case of Fr. Recker, the ìinklings of a callî to the priesthood grew stronger soon after he began medical school at what is now the University of Toledo College of Medicine.
"That’s when it really started to hit me, that God was pulling me in a different direction," relates Fr. Recker, whose home parish is Napoleon St. Augustine. "I still liked the studies, but I felt like God was leading me somewhere else."
Fr. Recker says he met with the diocesan director of vocations and prayed about it until he ultimately determined toward the end of medical school that priesthood was something "I needed to pursue." He completed his Doctor of Medicine degree in 2002 and entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West in Cincinnati that fall.
Fr. Recker spent his pastoral internship year at Toledo St. Thomas Aquinas and Good Shepherd parishes, and completed summer internships at Bellevue Immaculate Conception, Toledo St. Patrick Historic, Defiance St. Mary and in Honduras.
The son of Jane and the late Deacon Louis Recker, he credits the foundation of his vocation to his strong Catholic upbringing.
"My parents had us pray together as a family every day, usually in the evening, and as I got older my mom wanted us to pray in the morning, too," relates Fr. Recker, who comes from a family of five children. "And, of course, Sunday Mass was always a normal part of our lives."