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Bishop Ricken to ordain Deacon Altamirano and Deacon Rydell to the priesthood

Ordination Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 25, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral

By Jeff Kurowski | On Mission

Deacon Juan-Carlos Altamirano

ALLOUEZ — When Deacon Juan-Carlos Altamirano looks ahead to his ordination to the priesthood on May 25, he said he is anticipating two very powerful moments during the Mass.

The first moment will be when he is vested with the stole and chasuble.

“That moment will be one of saying, ‘I am now a priest,’” said Deacon Alamirano. “I’ve been longing for that. There have been a lot of turns on my journey… The desire has always been there and, in that moment, it will be fulfilled. That will be a tremendous gift.”

The second moment will be the anointing of hands by Bishop David Ricken and prostrating, which immediately follows his vesting.

“Having been ordained a deacon, prostrating is such a powerful moment (during that liturgy),” said Deacon Altamirano, the son of Roger Altamirano and Hilda Herrera. “As a priest, when those hands are anointed, consecrated with oil and the bishop wipes the hands with the maniturgium (cloth), which will be given to my mother (as a symbol of the mother’s role as the first protector), that will be powerful.”

His journey to the priesthood for the Diocese of Green Bay traces back to when he first arrived in northeast Wisconsin 11 years ago from his hometown of Llano Largo in Esteli, Nicaragua. Carol Lawrence of Appleton hosted Deacon Altamirano, who sought to further his education through a scholarship from the State Economic Engagement and Development Program. 

“God always has a plan. In 2013, when I first came to the U.S., when I got on the airplane from Nicaragua, I had this kind of feeling,” he said. “At the time, I wasn’t planning to go to seminary. I was coming to study, but I just had this feeling, ‘I think there is something more that’s going to come.’ It took a few years for that to develop. God calls and we allow ourselves to be formed.”

He said his involvement at St. Therese Parish in Appleton, his home parish in the diocese, and participation in a Marian conference in 2014 further fueled his desire to consider the priesthood.

In 2015, he  returned to Nicaragua to work for a year before moving back to Appleton to complete his degree at Fox Valley Technical College. His return trip was sponsored by Carol Lawrence, who hosted him during his initial term.

In the fall of 2017, Deacon Altamirano began his studies leading to the priesthood at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn., where he earned his philosophy degree. He then continued his formation and theology education at St. Francis de Sales Seminary near Milwaukee.

While at St. Francis de Sales, Deacon Altamirano has served at St. Robert Parish in Shorewood, Wis. Following his ordination as a transitional deacon on May 21, 2023, he was assigned as a deacon for the summer at Good Shepherd Parish in Chilton.

During the fall semester in 2023, he returned to St. Robert Parish to assist as a deacon.

This spring, he returned to Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton, as a deacon for three weekends a month where he has been able to preach at least once a month, including at the 2 p.m. Sunday Spanish Mass, under the guidance of Fr. Jon Thorsen, pastor.

“I like preaching with the Bible. I will use quotes from different verses and chapters to let the word of God speak,” he said. “Besides the Sunday readings, I find a Bible passage to clarify or give a little more to the message. I’ve been getting good feedback. People tell me they appreciate how I use the Bible, the word of God.”

Deacon Altamirano said he is grateful for those from Good Shepherd, St. Robert and St. Therese parishes, who will also be supporting him at the ordination.

Fr. Jeffrey Dobbs, who served as Deacon Altamirano’s spiritual director at Immaculate Heart of Mary, will vest him at the Mass.

“The first three years of seminary were very crucial for me. There was a lot of healing and learning. There was a lot I didn’t know. It was a whole new journey,” said Deacon Altamirano. “(Fr. Dobbs) really helped me. There was a time when I wasn’t sure I could become a priest. After three years of getting to know me very well, he really assured me of my vocation. I think if he had not given me so much encouragement, I don’t know if I would have moved on to theology.”

Photo Update: Fr. Juan-Carlos Altamirano, left, and Fr. Mark Rydell stand in front of the altar at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay following the May 25 ordination Mass.
(Sue Simoens | On Mission)

Deacon Altamirano’s first Mass of Thanksgiving will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 26, at St. Therese Church in Appleton (bilingual). Fr. Brad Krawczyk, his formator, who helped him navigate the formation process at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, will serve as the homilist.

The following Sunday, June 2, he will celebrate the 10 a.m. Mass and the 2 p.m. Spanish Mass at Good Shepherd Church in Chilton.

Deacon Altamirano’s first parish assignment will be announced at the ordination.

“Fr. Brad (Krawczyk) says that, ‘You guys are leaving seminary half-baked. You will be finished at the parish.’ I look forward to being formed by the pastor and by the people,” said Deacon Altamirano. “I can’t wait to be able to celebrate the Mass and all the sacraments, … to get to know the people and to allow whatever they have to share with me to make me the priest that God wants me to be.”  

Deacon Mark Rydell

ALLOUEZ — When Deacon Mark Rydell reflects on his journey to the priesthood, he said he realizes that everything has happened on “God’s time,” he said.

“A part of me is thinking, ‘Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s happening.’ It’s been such a long journey. At the same time, I trust in the Lord’s plan. I know it’s in his hands,” said Deacon Rydell, who will be ordained a priest on May 25.

Deacon Rydell was born in Milwaukee and grew up in La Crosse, later moving to Eden Prairie, Minn. 

He was a seminarian for the Diocese of La Crosse from 2010 to 2015, then took a leave of absence from seminary.

In 2018, he moved to the Diocese of Green Bay, accepting a position teaching theology and world history at Xavier High School in Appleton — all the while continuing to pray for a desire to return to seminary, he said.

“It definitely wasn’t easy leaving seminary,” said Deacon Rydell, the son of Edward and Joni Rydell. But, he continued, “There was so much growth experiencing life as a teacher. I’m grateful for that time.”

In the fall of 2022, he returned to formation at St. Francis de Sales Seminary near Milwaukee to pursue priesthood for the Diocese of Green Bay. On Nov. 25, 2023, he was ordained a transitional deacon.

Over the past five months, Deacon Rydell said he balanced his formation and education at seminary with ministry as a deacon in preparation for the priesthood.

“As a deacon, three weekends a month or so I’ve been up in New Holstein (Holy Rosary Parish), Kiel (SS. Peter and Paul Parish) and St. Anna (St. Ann Parish) with Fr. Alvan Amadi (pastor), helping out at the Masses,” he said. “I preach two out of the three weekends.”

At seminary, “In the house, I’ve been assigned to lead morning prayer and be deacon at Mass. … I preach the daily Mass homily for the seminary community,” he said. “I was assisting at different parishes in Milwaukee and places I visited. I’ve been heavily involved in liturgy.”

Deacon Rydell compares his homily preparation to Lectio Divina, a type of prayer that involves reading, meditating, praying and contemplating a passage of Scripture.

“I usually take a few days to pray with the readings for weekend Mass. I read them slowly and sit with them for a while,” he said. “I try to see if there’s a theme to be drawn out. I think of how it is applicable to life around us. I try to think of a story I can share to grab attention at the start of the homily.”

His teaching career has served him as a homilist, he added, including preaching on a question he was once asked in the classroom.

“‘What is the Catholic understanding of salvation?’ That homily was a little more catechetical. I go into teacher mode at times,” he said with a laugh. “There’s a homiletics instructor here (at seminary), who says that all life is homily prep, so you can take anything from life to be utilized in a homily.”

Deacon Rydell said his Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) has helped to prepare him for priestly ministry. Last summer, he completed his CPE training at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark.

“I’ve drawn on that experience a lot this year, the skills you use in pastoral care with various patient visits and visiting with people in various moments of crisis,” he said. “It’s not just about anointing people in the hospital, but also parishioners who seek support and just want to meet.”

He said his passion for parish ministry has been affirmed over the past two years at seminary.

“There’s been a few times where very powerful moments have happened in parish ministry that made me fall in love with it,” he said.

One weekend a month, seminarians are required to stay on campus.

“It’s a fraternity to be with the brother seminarians,” said Deacon Rydell, “but I always felt that weekend that I missed something at the parish. There was a yearning to be at the parish.”

Fr. Tom Long, pastor at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish, Oshkosh, and priest moderator and priest celebrant at St. Mary Parish, Winneconne, and St. Mary Parish, Omro, will vest Deacon Rydell at the ordination Mass.

“I would go down to Oshkosh for spiritual direction with him for a few years before coming to seminary for the Diocese of Green Bay,” said Deacon Rydell. “He was a big influence in helping me discern the call.”

Deacon Rydell will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 26, at St. Mary Church in Menasha, which became his home parish when he moved to the diocese. Jesuit Fr. Rob Kroll, his spiritual director at St. Francis de Sales, will serve as the homilist.

Deacon Rydell’s first priest assignment will be announced at the ordination Mass. 

“I found Fr. (Michael) Lightner (administrator at St. Mary Parish and St. John Parish, both in Menasha) and Deacon Don Schultz to be very supportive and encouraging even before I was applying to seminary,” he said. “I was getting back into altar serving. I was helping the young servers.”

Deacon Rydell added that he recognizes the formation that happened during his years away from seminary.

“All of that was part of God’s plan,” he said.

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