Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
December brings four ordinations of Spokane Diocese seminarians
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Dec. 15, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)
Bishop Skylstad ordained Alejandro Zepeda (center) to the diaconate earlier this month in Louvain. At left is The American College’s rector, Father Kevin Codd of the Spokane Diocese. (IR photo from Msgr. John Steiner)
By the end of this month, four seminarians studying for the Diocese of Spokane will have been ordained: two to the diaconate, as they continue their priestly formation programs, and two to the priesthood itself.
First was Alejandro Zepeda Labas-tida, ordained a deacon at the American College in Louvain, Belgium, Dec. 3, by Bishop Skylstad.
On Wednesday, Dec. 21, three more men will be ordained at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Spokane.
Gustavo Ruiz Juarez, studying for the priesthood for the Diocese of Spokane at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, will be ordained to the diaconate; Deacons Peter Amah and Vincent Van Dao will be ordained to the priesthood. Bishop Skylstad will ordain all three men.
The ordination Mass begins at 7 p.m.
Deacon Alejandro Zepeda Labastida was born in San Mateo Atenco, Mexico, in 1973. His parents are Gregoria Zepeda G. and Marcela Labastida G.
Deacon Zepeda is the youngest of 12 offspring; he has six sisters and five brothers, all of whom live in Mexico.
“I always had the idea of being a priest since I was six years old,” Deacon Zepeda said. “I believe that God is calling me to serve him as a priest and I always find strength in the Eucharist to be a better human being.” He remembers being especially impressed by the priest who presided at his first Communion Mass, and this same priest later encouraged him be consider the priesthood.
He began his seminary studies in Toluca, Mexico, then came to the United States in January, 2001, where he earned a degree in Religious Studies at Gonzaga University after he took an intense semester in English as a Second Language, also at Gonzaga. Once he finished his degree, Deacon Alejandro began graduate studies in theology at the American College in Louvain, Belgium.
The rector of the American College is Father Kevin Codd, a priest of the Spokane Diocese.
“I am looking forward to working full-time as a priest in the Diocese of Spokane, with the help of God,” said Deacon Zepeda. “I hope to use all the acquired knowledge I have received in Louvain – not only the academic knowledge, but also the cultural knowledge. The people I have encountered here in Louvain will be present, I hope, in my work as a priest in Spokane. I thank Father Darrin Connall (Director of Seminarians and Vocations Director for the diocese) and Bishop Skylstad for this opportunity to be a part of this diocese, and also I thank my family and friends who have supported me in this journey with their prayers and friendship.”
Gustavo Ruiz is completing his fourth year of theological studies this year at Mount Angel Seminary, St. Benedict, Ore. – about 45 minutes southeast of Portland. He spent last summer in the Supervised Hospital Ministry Program at Sacred Heart Medical Center, Spokane.
Miguel Angel Gustavo Ruiz Juárez was born in Mexico City on Nov. 24, 1978 and grew up in a small town, Carrizal, Veracruz. He has two brothers and is the oldest of the three.
“My parents are devoted Catholics and they were a big influence on me growing up,” Miguel said.
From the age of 14, Miguel says that he “felt attracted to the priesthood.” He entered the minor seminary in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, where he finished high school. He graduated from college in 2000 and taught math, physics, and philosophy in a high school in his hometown for one year. Along the way, he helped out with pastoral work in parishes, and he “worked in different pastoral offices in the chancery of the Diocese of Xalapa, including youth, vocations, and social work.”
In 2000, Miguel said that he received an invitation to come to the Diocese of Spokane. After a second year of theology at the Hispanic Seminary in Mexico City, he came to the United States for the first time in June 2003.
“I entered Bishop White Seminary.... Later, I worked with the Hispanic community in Walla Walla,” before attended Gonzaga University, Spokane, to study English.
Last year, Miguel enrolled at Mount Angel Seminary, in Oregon, to complete his theological studies. “Now, in my fourth year of theology, I am looking forward to being ordained first, deacon and, then, priest in the Diocese of Spokane.”
Miguel said that he “would like to help, with all my heart and passion, the people of Eastern Washington to encounter Christ. He has been my help in difficult times and has helped me to understand who I am and what my purpose in life is.... I am very happy for my experience at the seminary at Mount Angel and look forward to being ordained a priest for the Diocese of Spokane.”
Deacon Peter Amah is a native of Nigeria, from the state of Abia. His father is Kevin A. Oloeh. His mother, Lucy A. Oloeh, passed away last month.
Deacon Amah attended Immaculate Conception Seminary in Abia for the equivalent of American high school, although it is a six-year program. Following graduation, he attended another year of seminary in Nigeria – what is called “the Spiritual year” there – followed by a year of parish work. He then attended Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary, in Imo state, Nigeria, where he completed a degree in philosophy. He taught for one year at Immaculate Conception Seminary, then spent another year working in a parish.
Deacon Amah came to the United States in 2001. He attended Fordham University, in New York, and completed work on an M.A. in Religious Education. During that year, he decided that he did not want to stay in a large urban area, so he looked for a diocese that would provide a smaller city environment. Among the dioceses he applied to was Spokane, and following a visit, he decided to Spokane was the place for him. “It is a smaller city, like the one I come from in Nigeria,” he said.
Deacon Peter said that it was “a little bit difficult” to decide to stay in this country. “My family misses me, but they support my decision because they know I want to serve the People of God,” he said. “I have chosen a new home and family in Spokane, and they have been helping me in every way. I thank everyone for that, and I assure them of my prayers, and I look forward to serving the people of the Diocese of Spokane.”
Following ordination to the priesthood, Father Amah will return to Nigeria for one month, for his mother’s funeral. Then he will be assigned to St. Thomas More Parish, Spokane.
As of this writing, the government of Nigeria has refused to give any of his family members visas, so it is uncertain whether any of them will be able to attend the ordination.
Deacon Vincent Dao was born Aug. 28, 1962, in Phuoc Ly, Vietnam. He is the only son of the 10 children of Vincent Nguyen Van Dam and Monica Nguyen Thi My.
He graduated from high school in 1980 and attended “the university of education” until 1983, at which time he entered a Religious community called the Fraternity of the Virgin Mary of the Poor and taught high school physics for nine years.
During this time, Deacon Dao also studied at the “economic university,” and he received the “license of economy” in 1995. After this, he taught computer science at the Center of Formation for teachers in Bing Duong.
In 1998, his Fraternity sent him to France to study theology at the Bayonne Seminary for five years. In 2002, he graduated with the license in theology.
In the summer of 2002, Deacon Dao traveled to the United States on vacation and visited with relatives. Returning to France, in 2003 he decided to leave the Religious community to which he had belonged.
“God led me to the priesthood,” he said. “It was amazing. Friends introduced me to Spokane, and in August, 2003, I came to Bishop White Seminary. I did not speak English, except some greeting words, so I studied English at Gonzaga University for one year. After that, in fall 2004, I was sent to Mount Angel Seminary to study English and pastoral ministry.”
After living for two and-a-half years in this country, the future priest says that English is still “a big challenge” for him. Looking forward to ordination to the priesthood, he also feels “a little bit anxious, for I’m not able yet to speak English fluently. However, I think if God calls me, through our bishop, he will help me to complete the mission that he put on me. I need also the help and sympathy of the faithful.”