Frs. Robert Malucha (front, from left), Michael Lawinger and Timothy Schmumaker were ordained to the priesthood Saturday, May 15. Also pictured are (back, from left) Bishop Jeffrey R. Haines, Bishop Richard J. Sklba, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, Bishop James T. Schuerman and Fr. John Hemsing. (Photo by David Bernacchi)

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee welcomed three new priests on Saturday, May 15, when Deacons Michael Lawinger, Michael Malucha and Timothy Schumaker were ordained at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee.

With their ordination, Frs. Lawinger, Malucha and Schumaker now share in Christ’s ministerial priesthood. “In outward appearance, you will look the same, but spiritually, ontologically, you will be different,” Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki told the three men in his homily. “The sacrament will transform your being, reflecting the sacred action that has been bestowed upon you. It will mark you.”

Reflecting the Archbishop’s sentiments, Fr. Lawinger told the Catholic Herald prior to the ordination, “We carry so many normal things into the priesthood: ourselves, our humanity. Everything about our lives is shockingly normal.”

“And something absolutely super-normal — something extraordinary — happens, and we are ordained by the grace of God,” he said.

An especially poignant moment in the rite of ordination comes when the new priest is vested with a stole and chasuble by a priest he has selected for the honor.

Fr. Lawinger was vested by Fr. Dennis Wieland, his former pastor. “He has been very supportive of my vocation from day one,” said Fr. Lawinger. “He always used to joke that I was his ‘retirement package’ in high school, and as it turns out, Fr. Dennis will be retiring from active ministry this year, the same year of my ordination. Jokes are sometimes very real.”

Fr. Schumacher was vested by Fr. David Windsor. “He was my seminary formator for my first two years of major seminary. During that time, he became a father figure to me,” said Fr. Schumacher. “He helped me during difficult times as I transitioned to major seminary, and he gave me an example of priesthood that was real, authentic and personal.”

Fr. Malucha chose Fr. Tim Kitzke to be his vesting priest. “I first met Fr. Kitzke when I was 17, as he was my first of three priest interviewers during my application process to the college seminary,” said Fr. Malucha. “Since then, he has become a faithful supporter of my priestly vocation. Not only did he allow me to spend a summer in college as a seminarian intern at his many parishes, but he also interviewed me a second time as I moved from college seminary to the major seminary.”

Saturday’s ordination also marked the end of the new priests’ spiritual and intellectual formation — a graduation of sorts for the three men, who have been together since their days in college seminary.

“Going through seminary together for seven years definitely creates a special bond,” said Fr. Schumacher, who added that “to be getting ordained together is a true gift.”

“Witnessing the growth each of us has gone through in the past seven years is a privileged position. There is a trust that goes deeper than having similar interests or experiences because the goal has been the same: to become the man God desires us to be.”

In his homily, Archbishop Listecki mentioned the crucial role priests have played in bringing hope and consolation to Catholics throughout the pandemic, and acknowledged that Frs. Lawinger, Malucha and Schumaker “may feel inadequate” to the task at hand.

“Realize that God has chosen you and will strengthen you with his grace for you to meet the challenges,” he said. “You, my brothers, will help people to encounter the mysteries of this world and direct them to see God’s hand in all things, the good and the bad. You will remind them to trust in God and his work. You will remind them to trust in God and his word … (and) you have a friend who offers the path to approach the mystery which in and of itself is the mystery, and that is the person of Jesus Christ, who sacrificed on the cross so that we might have life through him.”

Reflecting on the tumultuous period of history in which these three particular men are ordained, Fr. Malucha said, “It just seems like the anointed time the Lord has for our class to be priests.”

During the class’ canonical retreat earlier this spring, said Fr. Malucha, retreat director Bishop Donald J. Hying told them “saints would have prayed to live in a time like this, to give a bold witness to our Lord and to the Church.”

“So, even though I’m certainly discouraged by many things, I’m encouraged by Bishop Hying’s words,” said Fr. Malucha. “I see this time as one that’s full of possibilities and full of hope for the Church, and especially to be a priest in the midst of this, to remind people that the Lord is risen and there’s no need to fear.”