Four transitional deacons are about to join the ranks of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s priests when they are ordained at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 812 N. Jackson St., Milwaukee. Here are profiles of the four soon-to-be priests.
Deacon Will Arnold
When he first realized that God might be calling him to the priesthood, Deacon Will Arnold was in his last year of college at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee — and the seminary was definitely not part of the plan.
At the time, Deacon Arnold — never a big fan of school, he says — was working toward finishing his criminal justice degree early, considering a career in law enforcement. He had been growing in faith during his college years, attending Mass at the Newman Center on campus and developing a very intentional prayer life. It was an ordinary night when he was sitting outside with a friend, discussing the concept of vocations.
“I said to him, ‘Young people like us don’t really discern their vocations anymore — they just sort of go through the motions,’” he said. “I can remember the following morning standing in my room — it was about 11 o’ clock — I had this kind of anxiety, a sick feeling in my gut — and there was this voice in my head that said, ‘I think I’m called to be a priest.’”
Born and raised on the northwest side of Milwaukee, Deacon Arnold’s parents, Dave and Jan, were always “very intentional” about instilling the faith in their six children. Deacon Arnold and his siblings attended independent schools, Mercy and Veritas Academy, and he later went on to high school at Brookfield Academy. “We very much had a domestic church,” he said of his childhood home. The family were parishioners at St. Bernard’s in Wauwatosa, later switching to St. Mary’s Visitation after his father’s retirement from the Milwaukee Police Department and their subsequent move to Elm Grove. A fan of historic architecture and Western movies — “Gunsmoke” and “This Old House” are favorites — Deacon Arnold seriously considered joining the Marine Corps, and was discerning “the next step” when he had that momentous conversation with his friend.
With the knowledge that God might wish his “next step” to be the priesthood, he enrolled in the seminary for further discernment.
For Deacon Arnold, the fulfillment that he has found in realizing his priestly vocation has not come because it has been an easy path — in fact, quite the opposite. Entering the seminary meant putting aside his previous plans for a career and family.
“It was a very deep struggle for me to accept that God had called me to something that wasn’t what I had initially wanted,” he said. Additionally, Deacon Arnold struggles with a speech impediment. “An important part of my story is that I do stutter,” he said. “I really had to face my speech impediment as I got deeper in the seminary. I’d always try to hide it and deny how serious an issue it was for me. There’s a lot of embarrassment and pain around that, and even anger toward God — why did you let me have this suffering, on top of all the other things I have to deal with?”
But these trials have taught him the transformative power of embracing one’s cross — an action that not only imitates Christ but ultimately brings a peace and joy that transcends any temporal gratifications.
Through his struggles with stuttering, “I’ve had a lot of powerful encounters with people,” he said. “It’s borne a lot of fruit in my life. One of the services of a deacon is to be a public servant, and I’ve put it out there as this is a very public part of myself. I can’t hide it. I need to be vulnerable with people and allow them to see I experience pain, too. I can relate to you and I know it’s not easy, but God is present to us.”
Jan Arnold calls her son a “dear, sweet, gentle soul” who “exudes peace and serenity and always brings joy into a room.”
“I can’t recall one time when he ever caused his father or me one moment of grief,” she said. “Much to the dismay of his siblings, who often complained that ‘William is your favorite.’”
And it seems he was “born to serve,” she added. “If I would so much as think to myself, ‘Ugh, I have to clean up the messy kitchen,’ I’d turn around and there he was, ready to wash dishes.”
And though his life as a priest will look different than what he expected many years ago, he knows it will be a life that brings not just pleasure, not just happiness, but “true joy.”
“I think joy is intentionally lived out in the midst of sacrifice for the sake of someone else or for God,” he said.
Deacon Andrew Infanger
When Deacon Andrew Infanger is ordained on May 19, it will be the answer to what he fittingly calls a “dangerous” prayer” — “God, I’ll do whatever you want if you give me the strength to do it.”
“If you pray that one and you mean it, you’ve got to watch out,” he said.
The first time Deacon Infanger said those words with true sincerity, it was 2012, and the then-25-year-old was working as a youth minister at St. Bruno Parish in Dousman. A native of Missouri, he had studied theology and studio art at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, and spent a year volunteering for the Catholic Youth Expeditions in Door County.
“I had an openness to God’s will that I hadn’t really had before,” he said. Previously, he had planned to take the “typical” path — one that included marriage and a secular career.
He hadn’t seriously considered the priesthood, because he had never allowed for the reality that it might be the single thing that brought him real happiness.
“I think oftentimes we compare the best things of married life and a career path with the worst things of seminary. So if you ask a young guy in most parishes have you ever thought about becoming a priest? The first thing they say is, you can’t get married. And the presumption there is that marriage is easy street and the religious life is just burden and sorrow,” he said. “I think adult experience teaches us that that’s not always the case. It dawned on me that the priesthood wasn’t harder, easier or less fulfilling than anything else.”
He comes from a self-described “regular Catholic family,” and credits his early Confirmation (the Diocese of St. Louis administers the sacrament in the eighth grade) with instilling in him an early sense of responsibility for his own faith. “High school was more of a time when you do (church-related) stuff because you want to do it, as opposed to because you have to do it,” he said.
While working at St. Bruno’s, he realized that something had changed in his life when he missed a planned Holy Hour at adoration to go to a concert instead. “I remember having a sense of sadness — like I was leaving Jesus behind,” he said. “I had a peculiar sense of a stronger draw to spending that time in church than going out to a concert.”
When he decided to enter the seminary in 2013 for further discernment, “it was just me, in my heart, sensing that I would miss something if I didn’t look into that.”
During his time as a seminarian, Deacon Infanger has ministered to inmates at the Milwaukee County Jail, which he describes as a “very powerful experience.”
“You learn a lot, especially from the standpoint of faith, from the men who are there,” he said. “I almost wish some of our parishioners had the faith of prisoners. There’s something to be learned from the faith life of people who don’t have much. They’re missionaries to us just as we are to them.”
Tom Klind, a longtime friend of Deacon Infanger, described him as a reliable and faithful confidant and advisor who isn’t afraid to broach the tough subjects or accompany others as they face complicated situations. His background in youth ministry helps him to “invest himself fully in relationships” with the people he’s ministering to.
“He loves people and he loves God,” he said. “Friendships and relationships come very naturally to him, because he cares so much.”
Deacon Infanger has also had the unique experience of attending seminary at the same time as his own father, Peter, who is completing his fourth year of theology at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. Michelle Infanger, Peter’s wife and Deacon Infanger’s mother, passed away in 2013, during her son’s first year at St. Francis de Sales Seminary. It was just a few months later that Peter told his son that he, too, was feeling a call to the priesthood.
Deacon Infanger “wasn’t super-thrilled,” he admitted. “It was kind of a sense of maybe you’re losing your dad, too.” But the experience has also bonded the two in a powerful way. “It’s easier to talk about certain things because I don’t have to explain it all.” The reality of being a father/son seminarian duo has brought a lot of attention — in recent months, the Infangers were profiled in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the story has been picked up by news outlets all over the country.
Peter Infanger is on track to be ordained in 2020, but he will always be “Dad” instead of “Father” to his son. “I won’t picture him as a parish priest — I hope other people do, but I think it’ll take getting used to,” said Deacon Infanger.
After his own ordination, Deacon Infanger will head to West Bend to serve at St. Frances Cabrini and St. Mary Immaculate Conception parishes. After so many years in school, it will finally be a graduation of sorts. “I’m not nervous about anything, but I’ll miss the seminary, because it’s been a very good experience,” he said. “You get a lot of opportunities that most people don’t ever get in their life. But I’m looking forward to a fresh start.”
Deacon Aaron Laskiewicz
There was never a time when Deacon Aaron Laskiewicz didn’t want to be a priest.
Even as a child, as early as the first grade, the usual laundry list of pipe dream careers didn’t attract him. Though he’s a die-hard Packers fan who has been known to miss school the day after a particularly painful loss at Lambeau, he never looked at Brett Favre and wanted to be a quarterback.
Instead, he was looking at Fr. Mike Ignaszak, his pastor and longtime mentor and friend, thinking — in his own words — “I want to do that.”
“As a kid, you think, is it just the shiny vestments? But it always stuck with me,” Deacon Laskiewicz, now 27, recalled. “I never remember wanting to do anything else. There was nothing else. Even getting married and all that — I never felt drawn. This was it.”
An only child growing up on the south side of Milwaukee, Deacon Laskiewicz graduated from Holy Wisdom Academy in 2004, went on to St. Thomas More High School, and was always very involved at his parish, St. John Paul II. He was such a constant presence during important liturgical events like Holy Week that the staff joked he should just sleep in the church. But it was in college when his childhood ambition — to be a priest — began transforming into a more adult reality. “My senior year of high school, I decided I needed to figure out if this was something real,” he said. He contacted Fr. Jim Lobacz, director of vocations at the time, who told him to begin spiritual direction with Fr. Ignaszak and continue discerning. In the meantime, he began pursuing a degree in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“In college and with spiritual direction, I gained more of a solid prayer life and understood how to recognize God in different ways,” said Deacon Laskiewicz. “It was just starting to go deeper.”
He made the decision in 2012 to apply to the seminary and was accepted. His parents never questioned or discouraged the vocation of their only child. “I always had a supportive family — never, ‘Hey, are you sure?’” he said. “A lot of guys don’t have that. I realize now what a blessing that was.”
His years at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary and at his teaching parish at St. John Vianney in Brookfield taught him self-awareness and renewed his dedication to prayer. “It’s just that growth in the spiritual life, and being able to recognize more often the little ways that God makes himself present in daily life. It’s not always the big fireworks you can’t miss, but it’s the little bottle rockets,” he said. “Sometimes that’s how God works — you’ve got to quiet down and be intentional.”
Following his ordination, he won’t be straying far from familiar territory — he will be assigned as the new associate pastor for St. Dominic Parish in Brookfield, working with his friend, Fr. Dennis Saran. “I’m really excited to learn from him. Those first few years of priesthood, building the foundation, are really crucial for guys,” he said. “I enjoy a parish where there are a lot of resources and a lot of opportunity to do some great things.”
Deacon Laskiewicz’s close friend, Debbie Brotz, who is also the executive assistant to seminary rector Fr. John Hemsing, said his personable nature will serve him well in his life as a priest.
“In some of our conversations, it was very clear that he has a desire to minister to people, not just during the Mass, but with every other aspect of their lives,” she said. She noted that he has been “extremely present at his teaching parish, including the school,” and said that the parishioners of St. Dominic will likely benefit from that same work ethic. “His priesthood will be a blessing to this archdiocese, and his friendship is a blessing to me.”
This summer, one of Deacon Laskiewicz’s first acts as a priest will be to celebrate Mass at Polish Fest. “I’m really excited about it because that has been a Mass I’ve attended with my parents for years and has been a family tradition,” he said. “Even though I always wanted to be a priest I never really thought about being the principal celebrant for that Mass, so it is very touching to have that opportunity.”
As he stands now on the cusp of ordination, there’s a great sense of fulfillment, both for Deacon Laskiewicz and the friends and family who have watched him take this long journey. When he is ordained, it will be very much a moment that was a lifetime in the making.
“It’s going to be surreal, in a good way,” he said. “I’ve thought and dreamt about this for so long, going back to when I was a kid — it’s always been something that’s in the future, working towards, looking ahead — but now it’s here.”
Deacon John LoCoco
What’s one of the first things Deacon John LoCoco will do as a newly ordained priest this summer?
Finish up his exams.
Deacon LoCoco is studying at the Pontifical North American College (PNAC ) in Rome, which operates on a slightly different schedule than American educational institutions. The PNAC spring semester doesn’t technically conclude until the end of June, so even though Deacon LoCoco will become a full-fledged priest on May 19, he still has to return to Rome and hit the books.
“It happens every year,” said Deacon LoCoco. “Someone flies home and gets ordained, and they come back and it’s like, ‘Wow, you’re a priest now.’”
For Deacon LoCoco, it makes sense that something as ordinary as studying for exams would be one of the first hurdles of the priesthood — because his vocation itself, in his eyes, is something that itself is beautifully ordinary.
“You meet so many people who are so grateful and so thankful for your vocation, which I can understand, especially given the state of the world and the reality of the numbers of priests we have,” he said. “But I don’t feel like it’s this great heroic thing, inasmuch as I don’t think it’s a great heroic thing when people get married — if God has placed this desire on your heart, it’s going to be the best thing for you. In many ways, following that is the easiest thing you have to do.”
Deacon LoCoco grew up in Elm Grove, one of eight children of Lydia and Francis LoCoco, attending school at St. Mary’s Visitation and Marquette University High School. His environment was a “Catholic milieu,” he said — faithful Mass attendance and Catholic education — but not “overtly religious.”
“I think my parents modeled the faith well just by living it, and having a personal prayer life and seeking virtue,” he said. He chose to pursue finance and Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in the Twin Cities, and it was while studying abroad in Rome during his sophomore year that the idea of a priestly vocation first made its way — very gently — into his mind.
“In many ways, it’s kind of unremarkable,” he said. Studying at the Dominican-run Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, “we took a couple classes with PNAC seminarians. We were very much immersed into the life of an ecclesial university, and when you live in a community like that, all of a sudden all your conversations become about your schoolwork — which are all Catholic-related classes. You’re 20 years old, you’re engaging with the world and with ideas and what you think for the first time, and I started to hone a more personal prayer life. As soon as the thought entered my mind, I knew I had to pursue it.”
And once the thought was there, it stayed.
“I didn’t really wrestle with it — it was like, ‘OK, I gotta do this,’” he said. “In six years, I really have never once doubted that this is what I’m supposed to do, which is not the case for everyone. That was a great grace for my own discernment, that the Lord affirmed my own desire.”
He abandoned the finance degree and began his philosophy studies at St. Joseph’s College Seminary at Loyola University, graduating in 2014, when he began his priestly formation in Rome, spending summers at his teaching parish, St. Mary in Menomonee Falls. He was ordained to the transitional diaconate in the fall of 2017 at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Deacon LoCoco’s close friends, Ryan and Beth Grusenski, describe him as a “loyal, supportive, really faithful and funny guy who’s not afraid to get into the mess of life.”
His background as a member of a large family serves him well in appreciating the everyday realities facing Catholic families, said Beth Grusenski.
“He just has a great desire to live with people and love them. He’s not afraid to just jump in,” she said. “That keen awareness of family life and its importance for the Church — but also its challenges — will be really important. And he has a huge heart and a really big desire to be super available for people in the sacraments — whether it’s the hospital visits or the impromptu confessions or any of those things.”
Deacon LoCoco will once again serve at St. Mary this summer, returning to Rome in the fall for one more year. Looking forward to his ordination, he said, he feels “a great peace and calm.”
“There are so few moments in your life where you can be absolutely certain that this is God’s will for you, and ordination is one of those moments,” he said. “At the very beginning of the rite, the church basically affirms the men that are there — usually the rector of the seminary gets up and speaks to the bishop and says, after so many years and after inquiry amongst the faithful, we have found these men to be worthy. So if the Church is affirming your decision and the bishop lays his hands on you and prays that prayer, you know in that singular moment, your will to be a priest is the same as God’s will, which is what the Church’s will is.
“There’s a great peace and joy in ordination day, because you know this is what the Lord wants.”