From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Priest, deacon to be ordained for Spokane Diocese May 24 at Cathedral

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the May 23, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

On May 24, Bishop Skylstad will ordain two men for ministry in the Diocese of Spokane.

Deacon José Jaime Maldonado will be ordained to the priesthood; Joseph Sullivan will be ordained a deacon during the 7 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, 1115 W. Riverside Ave. in Spokane.

Sullivan is a student at Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Ore., and has been assigned to St. Charles Parish in Spokane for the summer. He previously spent a year of pastoral ministry at that parish. His ordination is one more step on his road to priesthood.

Sullivan, 51, came to his vocation in a rather round-about fashion. He was born in Syracuse, N.Y., on May 14, 1951. In the mid-1960s his family moved to Atlanta, Ga. He attended Catholic schools and then earned a degree in geology from what was then Western Georgia College.

Sullivan worked as a geologist for the next 20 years, primarily on the East Coast. A job in Utah brought him to Spokane, where, he said, “I just fell in love with the place. I even bought property in the Northport area, I liked it so much.” Employment took him back to the East, he sold his Washington state property, and thoughts of Spokane were put aside.

Eventually Sullivan became aware that God was calling him to the priesthood. “Since I was older, I spent a lot of time in discernment and investigation,” he said, trying to make sure that his call was genuine.

At that point, Sullivan was living in Alabama. One day while perusing the want ads in Our Sunday Visitor, he came across a message that read, “Want to be a priest? Under age 55?” The ad with its toll-free phone number caught his eye. Sullivan called the number to find Jesuit Father Armand Nigro of Spokane at the other end of the line. “It was just incredible,” he said. “I could hardly believe it.”

Father Nigro promoted a program for late vocations at Mater Dei in Spokane. Under the priest’s guidance, Sullivan’s vocation began to take root. Sullivan stayed at Mater Dei “for a year or so,” he said, and then he was accepted at Bishop White Seminary as a seminarian for the Spokane Diocese.

His round-about journey is nearly finished. He studied philosophy at Gonzaga University before going to Mount Angel. The work he did during his summer breaks has been varied: RCIA preparation, Chaplain Pastoral Education, visiting the sick and taking Communion to shut-ins.

Sullivan was born a Catholic and trained as an altar boy, “in the days of Latin,” he said. His mother, Stella, is a member of the Byzantine Catholic rite and makes her home in Atlanta. Sullivan has two brothers.

A mother’s influence is felt another way in Sullivan’s life: “Our Lady played a big part in my vocation, too,” he said.

Deacon Jose Jaime Maldonado of Monterrey, Mexico, is a happy man. The 30-year-old seminarian will be ordained a priest for the Spokane Diocese Friday, May 24.

The ordination is the culmination of Deacon Maldonado’s life-long dream and a fulfillment of one part of a long journey that has taken him from childhood to manhood and from one country to another.

The next stage of his journey begins after priestly ordination, when then-Father Maldonado will start his ministry at St. Patrick Parish in Pasco. He has been assigned as a parochial vicar and said he is looking forward to being there.

“As I reflect on my experience, I can see that it’s been full of blessings,” he said. “There were good times and tough times, but all through it, God is asking me to be a priest. And I am saying ‘yes, yes, yes.’”

The question of becoming a priest arose early in Maldonado’s life. He has wanted to be a priest since he was a little boy, since the age of “about five or six.” A part of the reflection on his “14 or 15 years” of formation includes the people who have supported and helped him along the way to becoming a priest.

Two of those people are priests in the Diocese of Yakima, Fathers Francisco Hernandez and Arturo Rodriguez, whom Deacon Maldonado met in the seminary in Monterrey, Mexico. Another is Father Heliodoro Lucatero, a priest of the Spokane Diocese. Father Lucatero is a friend of the two Yakima priests and is the man Deacon Maldonado credits with encouraging him to come to the United States.

Another influence is Father Dan Wetzler, pastor of St. Paschal Parish in Spokane and diocesan liaison to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. “He’s been a good friend and great support,” said the deacon. There are many others, and Deacon Maldonado said he saw in each one “God’s presence, his answer and his support.”

On his arrival in Spokane, Deacon Maldonado went to Bishop White Seminary while he studied English at Gonzaga University. He already had a philosophy degree from Seminario de Monterrey in Mexico. From Gonzaga he went to Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, where he graduated May 11 with a master’s degree in divinity.

Deacon Maldonado’s father, Sotero Maldonado, and his three sisters, from Lake Okeechobee, Fla., will be at his ordination. His mother, Gabriella, died when he was 26. Father Lucatero will be the vesting priest. Deacon Maldonado will celebrate his first Mass at St. Mary Parish in the Spokane Valley on Saturday, May 25, at 5:30 p.m.

Deacon Maldonado served in St. Mary Parish last summer, helping Father Tom Connolly and Deacon Cary Heth. “It was a great experience,” he said. Some of his pastoral experience there included a wedding and a funeral. He also preached one Sunday a month, which he confessed made him nervous.

A special love, though, is taking Communion to shut-ins and visiting people in nursing homes, which he did at St. Mary and other places he was assigned to in the summer months.

Deacon Maldonado admitted that coming to this country, living far from his home, “has been a challenge that hasn’t been easy.” He occasionally misses the Mexican culture and the food. But a missionary spirit manifests itself. “I’ve heard God say ‘I want you here.’ If this is God’s plan, I accept. I have good expectations and I’m excited,” he said.

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