Capuchin friars (from left) Nathan Linton, O.F.M. Cap., Truong Dinh, O.F.M. Cap., Provincial Minister Mark Joseph Costello, O.F.M. Cap., Bishop Jeffrey R. Haines, and Francisco Javier Rodriguez, O.F.M. Cap. at the June 24 ordination of Frs. Linton, Dinh and Rodriguez. (Submitted photo)
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has been blessed with larger and larger classes of diocesan priests in recent years, but these graduates of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary are not the only newly ordained clergy serving the faithful of southeastern Wisconsin.
On June 24, the Midwest Capuchin Franciscans saw three men ordained to the priesthood, all of whom minister within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. This happy event followed the June 10 ordination of six Jesuits to the priesthood, one of whom, Fr. Aaron Pierre, S.J., will be serving as Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Patrick parishes in Milwaukee.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is served by members of more than two dozen communities of religious men. Some, like the Jesuits and the Alexians, house groups of priests living in community and operating large centers of ministry, while others, like the Missionary Fraternity of Mary and the Institute of Christ the King, are based overseas and have just one or two members in ministry in this archdiocese.
The men who are drawn to serve the people of God as priests of these orders say they are attracted by the prayerful fraternity of religious life and the variety of ministries open to its members.
Fr. Javier Rodriguez, O.F.M. Cap., was one of the Franciscan friars ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Jeffrey R. Haines on June 24. The ordination took place at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Milwaukee, which has been served by the Capuchins for decades — and where Fr. Rodriguez first encountered the order when he moved to Milwaukee in 2014 to work as a bilingual elections coordinator.
“Two things captured me (about the Capuchins) — one was community,” said Fr. Rodriguez. “From the moment I stepped into the friary, they received me like they had known me forever. It felt like home because of the hospitality and the way that the brothers were with me. The other factor was their ministries.”
A native of Puerto Rico, Fr. Rodriguez has a law degree from New England School of Law and has previously worked in criminal defense and with Legal Action of Wisconsin. With so many Capuchin ministries centered on uplifting the poor and promoting social justice, the order seemed completely aligned with what his own life has been dedicated to thus far — but in a deeper, richer way.
“For me, how, it’s having that mindfulness that God is in all of this. Maybe before, it wasn’t the main focus. But now I understand that who I’m serving is the people of God. As a priest, that’s the main thing,” said Fr. Rodriguez. “All this work, all this service, all of this ministry, it isn’t me — it’s God, acting through me.”
“Without God, without God’s love, without prayer, without the attitude of helping out others, I don’t think I would be a Capuchin,” said Fr. Truong Dinh, O.F.M., Cap., who was ordained alongside Fr. Rodriguez in June. “So, with that in mind, that model of live your life one day at a time and continue to pray to God for his guidance has always been at the bottom of my heart.”
Fr. Dinh ministers at St. Lawrence Seminary High School in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin, where he serves as spiritual director and prefect of students. He also ministers at Our Lady of the Holy Land Parish.
Fr. Nathan Linton, O.F.M., Cap., also serves at St. Lawrence Seminary High School. He chose the Capuchins because of their dedication to “poverty, fraternity and prayer.”
“The vow of poverty became very attractive to me in my discernment. I wanted to be able to give myself completely to God with nothing holding me back or tying me down. I wanted to be completely free to respond to his call and free to serve others,” said Fr. Linton, who grew up in a rural farming community in the Diocese of Superior.
The Capuchins’ life of fraternal prayer is “central to who we are,” he added.
“Our brotherhood — our relationships with one another — strengthen us and encourage us, not only in our ministry but as we strive for holiness,” he said. “Our life is meant to be balanced between active and contemplative. Having periods set aside throughout the day for silent mental prayer in community has become such an important part of my life of prayer.”
Fr. Aaron Pierre, S.J., grew up in Rhinelander and was first drawn to the Jesuits while working as an English-Spanish medical interpreter in Omaha, Nebraska, following his graduation from the University of Notre Dame. Fr. Pierre began serving the parishes of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Patrick on Milwaukee’s South Side at the end of June, following his ordination at the Church of the Gesu on June 10.
During his formation, Fr. Pierre has worked in a Jesuit high school, earned a master’s degree in social philosophy, lived among the Oglala Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and studied for a semester at Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya, where he volunteered with Jesuit Refugee Service.