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May 25, 2015 | Volume 90 Number 15

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photo: As the mother church of the Diocese of Richmond, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is almost always the site of ordination to the priesthood.
As the mother church of the Diocese of Richmond, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is almost always the site of ordination to the priesthood.

Three paths to the Priesthood

B ishop DiLorenzo is pleased to announce the Call to Holy Orders for Rev. Mr. Daniel A. Cogut, Rev. Mr. Matthew A. Kiehl and Rev. Mr. Nicholas Mammi. Their Ordination to the Priesthood will be on Saturday, June 6, 2015, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond at 10:30 a.m. All are invited to attend. A reception will follow at Shafer Court.

 

Deacon Daniel Cogut

When asked to describe how he first felt the call to seek the priesthood, Deacon Daniel Cogut says it was “a gentle tug, gentle but loving.” He felt the “gentle tug” after graduating from the College of William and Mary and while working as a defense analyst at the Joint Warfare Analysis Center in Dahlgren.

photo: Deacon Daniel Cogut
Deacon Daniel Cogut

(According to its website, since 1994 the Joint Warfare Analysis Center has provided timely and accurate engineering and scientific analysis to military commanders and government officials to advance the national security strategy of the United States.)

The youngest of three children, Daniel Cogut was born in Alexandria and grew up in Falls Church. He has two older sisters.

“I am half Filipino (on his mother's side) and half Caucasian,” he said. “My mother was born in the Philippines and my father's parents immigrated to the United States from Ukraine.”

As a child he attended Corpus Christi School in Falls Church. He then attended Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, graduating in 2003. His family were members of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Falls Church.

He was an altar server for several years at St. Anthony's, but at that time felt no call to become a priest.

“Paraphrasing St. John Paul II, ‘Priesthood is a gift from God, but also a mystery that God called me to this life,’” Deacon Cogut said.

“That about sums up what I feel about my vocation.”

He entered William and Mary in August, 2003 double-majoring in both math and computer science. Finishing his undergraduate work in the spring of 2007, Cogut then received an M.S. in Computational Operations Research in 2008.

In his one year at the Joint Warfare Analysis Center, his vocation to the priesthood surfaced.

“It was only during that time I started to feel seriously called to the seminary and priesthood,” Deacon Cogut said, pointing out that he had not gotten involved in any kind of discernment group as an undergraduate or graduate student.

“The best way I can describe it is a gentle tug, gentle, but loving,” he said. “Things progressed pretty quickly after that.

“I did some research into discernment resources.

“I talked to good friends and family,” he continued. “They were all very supportive, even though they might have been surprised.”

In November 2008 he went on his first discernment retreat at the Roslyn Conference and Retreat Center in Richmond.

“I credit the pastors I've had for being good mentors and examples of priesthood for me.”

“After that I was still working in Dahlgren,” Deacon Cogut said. “After praying more and continuing to talk with good friends and family, I visited both seminaries (normally used by the Diocese of Richmond) — Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington and St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore in February 2009.

“I was ready at the end of February to ask for an application.”

“For me, the highlight of my formation was my pastoral year at Holy Spirit Parish in Virginia Beach,” Deacon Cogut said. “Being at a parish for an entire year and establishing good working relationships with the pastor (Father Timothy Kuhneman) and staff and being able to minister to parishioners over an extended period of time confirmed my desire to be ordained.”

Earlier pastoral assignments were at St. Andrew's in Roanoke during the summer of 2010; with the Portsmouth-Chesapeake Cluster to four parishes (St. Paul's, Resurrection and Holy Angels, all in Portsmouth and St. Mary’s, Chesapeake in the summer of 2011, and at Church of the Epiphany in Chesterfield County in the summer of 2014. He gained new insights about ministry at each parish.

“I've had good experiences in all my assignments in the Diocese,” Deacon Cogut said.

“I credit the pastors I've had for being good mentors and examples of priesthood for me.”

As a deacon he has done several infant baptisms. He has spent time with terminally ill patients as they prepared to leave their earthly journey and ministered to family members who grieve at the loss of loved ones.

“To me the diocesan priesthood is primarily about parish ministry,” Deacon Cogut said.

As he prepares for ordination to the priesthood, he remembers where he was on his own spiritual journey five years ago and thought he might have advice for other young men who may be considering a priestly vocation.

“To all those possibly discerning a call to priesthood, be open, pray intentionally about it and leave the rest to God,” he said.

The newly ordained Father Cogut will celebrate his first Mass on Sunday, June 7, at 12:15 p.m. at Holy Spirit Church in Virginia Beach.

 

Deacon Matthew Kiehl

In his journey toward the priesthood, Deacon Matthew Kiehl initially felt that if he was accepted into graduate school for studies in political science, any sense of unease would be gone. Instead the opposite happened.

photo: Deacon Matthew Kiehl
Deacon Matthew Kiehl

He had made application to a few graduate school programs which he hoped would bring him a sense of peace. He felt that if he gained at least one acceptance, he'd even feel better.

“Once I had heard from a program I knew I had somewhere to go,” he told The Catholic Virginian.

“But the unease continued. I was puzzled by that,” he said.

Even after he received a phone call from a university official notifying him that he had been accepted into what he felt was his favorite post-graduate program, he felt no sense of elation.

“I hung up the phone and I felt a profound emptiness,” Deacon Kiehl said.

“It then hit me that maybe all the plans I had worked out were not the plans God wanted for me,” he said.

Eventually after talking with Father Michael Renninger, then diocesan Vicar for Vocations, he applied for the diocese's priestly formation, went through the interview process, had psychological testing and was formally accepted.

Deacon Kiehl's life began 27 years ago when he was born in St. Charles, Ill., near Chicago and then continued in Midlothian where he has lived since the age of three. He is the oldest of three children with two younger sisters.

In 9th grade he was accepted into the Maggie L. Walker Governor's School in Richmond, a program for gifted students which took in students from at least 10 different jurisdictions. He will give an address at this year's baccalaureate service.

“This year I think I'll focus on a line from Psalm 100 — Serve the Lord with gladness,” he said. “It will be mostly about joy and the importance or unique joy that comes from encountering God and the witness that brings to others.”

“The priesthood has been on my heart and in my mind since I was eight years old.” After high school graduation in 2006 he went to George Mason University in Fairfax. He graduated three years later in 2009 with a B.A. in government and international politics.

“At Maggie Walker I was able to take a good number of AP (Advanced Placement) classes and also dual enrollment classes at VCU,” Deacon Kiehl said. “I fortunately didn’t have to take a much heavier load course-wise. It never felt overwhelming.”

While still at George Mason, he did an internship with the Virginia Catholic Conference in the summer of 2008.

“Jeff Caruso (executive director of the VCC) was a great mentor,” Deacon Kiehl said. “It was really an important discernment time for me.

“It helped inform my ministry because of faithful citizenship,” he continued. “The Virginia Catholic Conference is a lived reality day in and day out.”

During his internship he studied the death penalty in Virginia and also did work on bio-ethics.

Thoughts of the priesthood were not far away.

“The priesthood has been on my heart and in my mind since I was eight years old,” Deacon Kiehl said. “When I was very young I had a fascination with the priesthood. There was something kind of mysterious and appealing.”

He gained insight about the priesthood from Msgr. Thomas Shreve, who was then pastor of Church of the Epiphany in Richmond where the Kiehl family worshipped.

“Msgr. Shreve was and is a tremendous example of priestly life and ministry to me,” Deacon Kiehl said.

Thoughts of the priesthood “waxed and waned” during high school years.

“The sex abuse scandal broke about the time I was entering high school,” Deacon Kiehl said. “It was a confusing time for me to reconcile my personal positive view of priesthood with what I was seeing on the news.”

As a student at GMU he called himself “an adjunct member of Catholic campus ministry.”

“I did spend a good amount of time praying in the chapel and going to eucharistic adoration on Monday nights,” Deacon Kiehl said. “I was an eucharistic minister there and I helped with visits to the Juvenile Detention Center in Fairfax.

“Discernment of the priesthood became more serious. So fortunately for me the chapel was within walking distance from my residence hall.

“It was in that time of prayer I felt a subtle tug on my heart which became more pronounced — at Mass but also in silent prayer in the chapel.” He remained committed to practicing his Catholic faith, but still had some questions about the priesthood while at the same time applying for graduate school. He decided it was best to contact Father Renninger.

“Originally my hope was that Father Renninger would meet me and said ‘Matt, you're a nice guy, go on with your plans,’” he said.

Instead Father Renninger encouraged him to “continue to ask questions and be open to God’s promptings.

“Father Renninger basically told me ‘You can go to graduate school for political science or you can go to the seminary and see if that’s for you.’”

It was during his first year at Theological College beginning in 2009 that he knew the answer.

Deacon Kiehl’s summer parish assignments were at Our Lady of Nazareth in Roanoke in 2010, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in 2011 and St. Bridget’s, Richmond in 2014.

He had an extended pastoral ministry year at St. John the Apostle Parish in Virginia Beach from 2012-2013.

“I’m looking forward to being part of a parish community to serve with and for the people,” he said. “I want to celebrate the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and reconcilation and bring people closer to Jesus.”

The newly ordained Father Kiehl will celebrate his first Mass Sunday, June 7, at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral.

 

Deacon Nicholas Mammi

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y, into a multi-generational Italian Catholic home, Deacon Nicholas Mammi took an unusual path to the priesthood. He had discerned God’s call when he was in his mid-20s, but also wrestled with uncertainty as to whether he should seek the priesthood or get married.

photo:  Deacon Nicholas Mammi
Deacon Nicholas Mammi

He met Ginny, the woman who was to become his wife, when he was hired to teach in a high school, a position she had just vacated.

Two years later they were married. Their marriage lasted almost 32 years when Ginny died.

“God blessed us with two wonderful children — a son, Joseph John (JJ) and a daughter, Caitlin, now both married with families of their own,” Deacon Mammi said, adding that he has six grandchildren “who have brought me much joy in the wake of great sadness.”

Looking back on his childhood, he credits his grandfather who he says fostered in him a depth of faith and prayer.

“I began serving as an altar boy slightly before the liturgical changes that took place after the Second Vatican Council,” he said. “Although it was a stormy time for the Church, our country and personally for me, by God’s grace I was unscathed.

“As I look back, I have only fond memories of the Church as well as for the priests and nuns I encountered.”

But years later his relationship with Ginny grew. The principal who had hired him encouraged him to consult with Ginny about the high school curriculum.

“Even though I was only at the job for four months, it was long enough for the Holy Spirit to convince me that I was called to the vocation of marriage,” Deacon Mammi said.

As a married man, he began to discern the call to the permanent diaconate in 1981 while living in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y. But at the time it was not meant to be.

“Upon my initial inquiry, I was informed that my family and I were too young,” he said. He put his desire to become a permanent deacon “on the back burner.”

The Mammi family relocated to the Diocese of Richmond in 1987. “I was a bit disappointed to learn that limited options existed for the permanent diaconate,” Deacon Mammi said.

But in 1999, Bishop Walter F. Sullivan announced plans to begin a deacon formation program. Mammi was admitted to the program in which the men and their wives received instruction in systematic theology, sacred scripture, canon law, prayer and spirituality and liturgy for one weekend each month over a four year period.

In February 2003 he was ordained a deacon along with 12 others at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Lynchburg. He was assigned to ministry at the cluster parish community of All Saints in Floyd, Risen Lord in Patrick Springs and St. Joseph’s in Woodlawn where he preached, engaged in pastoral care, and instructed the Catholic lay faithful.

“The Missionary Cooperative brought me to various parishes of our diocese where I preached to raise funds which helped us sustain these small communities,” Deacon Mammi said.

Earlier in 1993 he and his wife, Ginny, both entered the Third (Secular) Order of Discalced Carmelites which helped deepen their life of shared prayer.

“As a family, faith and prayer were always primary in our lives,” Deacon Mammi said. “I now see this happening in the families of my children.”

The couple went on retreats together. During these times, Mrs. Mammi made comments which suggested her husband would make a good priest.

“I remember her saying ‘If God calls me home first, then you can return to your original discernment and see if God is calling you to the priesthood,’” he recalled.

“The thought of my wife dying caused me to shudder,” Deacon Mammi said. “Consequently I never gave her words much thought.”

But in 2011 Mrs. Mammi was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer. She died six months later.

“I tried to suppress the idea (of priesthood), thinking I was too old,” Deacon Mammi said.

“Only days after Ginny’s death, I lost count of the numerous people, including three priests, who encouraged me to pursue the priesthood,” he said.

“I hope that I can bring...solace as a priest to those who I am called to serve.”Before meeting with Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, Deacon Mammi spoke to his children about their thoughts.

“I think they sensed God’s call for me more than I did myself as I saw they were filled with joy,” he said. “Today my children, their spouses and my grandchildren are among the greatest supporters of my vocation.”

He believes his future as a priest will bring him great joy.

“I bring with me 30 years of experience in the nursing profession,” he said. “In my deacon ministry I have often found great joy in the pastoral care of those who are ill.

“I imagine this will continue, as I will have the option to bring them the healing touch of Christ in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

“From my perspective today, I see God’s gift to me in the form of my wife’s sickness and death,” he continued. “I experienced the ravages of terminal illness, death and grief in my midst, very directly and personally.

“As I received the joy of the Holy Spirit from faithful friends who visited me in my moment of need, I hope that I can bring that same solace as a priest to those whom I am called to serve in similar circumstances.”

The newly ordained Father Mammi will celebrate his first Mass on Sunday, June 7, at 11 a.m. at Holy Rosary Church in Richmond.

He will celebrate a second Mass of Thanksgiving at Holy Spirit in Christiansburg on Sunday, June 27, at 5 p.m.

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