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Deacon Robert Lawson prayed with children, including 4-year-old Natalie Claudin (right), gathered near the altar during eucharistic adoration at a Young Families Holy Hour April 25 at Incarnate Word in Chesterfield. Deacon Lawson will be ordained to the priesthood May 25 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
Deacon Robert Lawson prayed with children, including 4-year-old Natalie Claudin (right), gathered near the altar during eucharistic adoration at a Young Families Holy Hour April 25 at Incarnate Word in Chesterfield. Deacon Lawson will be ordained to the priesthood May 25 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

Three men to be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese say final year of seminary formation has been a time of growth, discovery

Three men will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of St. Louis this month

Three men who anticipate ordination to the priesthood this month say that as men who have given themselves to Christ, they look forward to serving God’s people.

Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski will confer the sacrament of Holy Orders upon Deacons Jeffrey Fennewald, Robert Lawson and Joseph Martin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

The men described their final year of seminary formation as transitional deacons as a time of further growth in their vocational calling.

People have been eager to share their trials and joys, said Deacon Fennewald, who spent the past year at Ascension Parish in Chesterfield. “Whether that’s in the parish or outside of the parish, that’s just been a really consistent theme,” he said. “It’s as if they know that this is a man who has been conformed to Christ and is set apart to be available for (them). It’s been really beautiful to be welcomed into those moments. That’s where my desire and excitement to be a priest has grown this year.”

Deacon Martin spent his transitional diaconate year at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, where he said he experienced growth within the opportunities for preaching at Mass. He also discovered freedom in allowing the Holy Spirit to guide his words. Meanwhile, Deacon Lawson, assigned to Incarnate Word in Chesterfield, found great joy in baptizing 24 infants (a class record, he beamed) and connecting with young families.

Robert Lawson

Deacon Robert Lawson talked with Michael Schonhoff and his 2-year-old son Tighe before a Young Families Holy Hour on April 25 at Incarnate Word in Chesterfield.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
Age: 29

Family: Mother, Maryanne; sister, Krystal; brother, Nick

Home parish: All Souls in Overland

Education: Duchesne High School, Cardinal Glennon College, Kenrick School of Theology

First Mass of Thanksgiving: 3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 26, at All Souls in Overland (Mass will be celebrated in English and Spanish)

Vocation to the priesthood: One of Deacon Lawson’s first priestly influences happened in the second grade, when as a student at Holy Trinity School in St. Ann, he observed students light up when parish pastor Msgr. John Leykam visited the class. By high school, it was no secret that he was interested in the priesthood.

Through his seminary formation, a break from studies to attend to some health needs, and being there to support the faith community when his grade school and childhood parish closed, Deacon Lawson said he discovered hope and the understanding that all he has done on the path to priesthood comes through trusting God.

“One of the things I’m looking forward to bringing that further into priesthood will be just the being able to give myself even more fully to the people of God in a more stable state,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being able to really dive deep into the parish life.”

While at Incarnate Word, Deacon Lawson helped at a monthly Holy Hour designed for young families to bring their children to eucharistic adoration, which quickly became one of his favorite ministries. He also baptized 24 infants, which he described as moments to rejoice, “because the number of people won for Christ is increased. There’s just something blessed about being able to be that person who brings this child into new life in Christ.”

He tells parents that “it takes a village to raise a child and this is your village — Incarnate Word is here to support you; the Church as a whole is here to support you. We want to be part of the child’s life just as much as the parents.”

Joseph Martin

Deacon Joseph Martin spoke to a class of eighth graders April 19 at Holy Infant School in Ballwin.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
Age: 30

Family: Parents, Jeffrey and Ann; brothers, Thomas, Robert, Michael and Jeffrey; sisters, Katherine and Clare

Home parish: St. Anselm in Creve Coeur and the Oratory of Sts. Gregory and Augustine

Education: Homeschool, Saint Louis University, entered as a pre-theology student at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, Kenrick School of Theology

First Mass of Thanksgiving: 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 26, at the Oratory of Sts. Gregory and Augustine in Richmond Heights (Mass will be celebrated in English using the Ordinary Form)

Vocation to the priesthood: Deacon Martin grew up in a tight-knit family. He received the faith from his parents and, through his homeschooling experience, received a strong catechesis and exposure to Catholic culture and traditions. At a young age, he served at Mass, and eventually, other priests asked him if he had considered the priesthood.

He didn’t rule out the idea of priesthood — and as it seems, God didn’t either. By college, he knew he couldn’t compartmentalize his faith, so he stayed close to the sacraments and made more conscious choices to develop his prayer life and invest in friends who shared the same faith and values.

While at Holy Infant this past year, Deacon Martin said there were plenty of opportunities to grow in confidence and put into practice the formation he received in the seminary. One of those ways was by making himself available to help with eucharistic adoration when needed.

Looking forward to ordination day and his first Mass as a priest, Deacon Martin said he is reminded of a letter he received from a friend, who said that if it’s God’s will, one day he will offer Jesus to the Father. “That simple expression of what the Mass is has never left me,” he said. “On the day of ordination, we will hold Jesus for the first time and we will offer Him to the Father for the first time … and then we will be priests for eternity.”

Jeffrey Fennewald

Deacon Jeffrey Fennewald placed a note for a game on the back of Will Jacob during a youth gathering April 28 at Ascension Parish in Chesterfield. Christopher Winter, center, watched.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
Age: 29

Family: Parents, Randy and Nancy; sisters, Allison and Emily

Home parish: Sacred Heart in Troy

Education: Troy Buchanan High School, Benedictine College, entered as a pre-theology student at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, Kenrick School of Theology

First Mass of Thanksgiving: 10 a.m. Sunday, May 26, at Sacred Heart in Troy

Vocation to the priesthood: Deacon Fennewald found positive influences in his youth group at Sacred Heart Parish in Troy, including his youth minister, Eddie Voltz — who eventually became Father Eddie Voltz. Some of the older parishioners at Sacred Heart also told him he’d make a great priest. But then it started happening among his peers at Benedictine College.

“The people who seemed the most free and joyful were the people I saw staying close to the Eucharist and confession,” he said. “Jesus was drawing me to Himself, and the witness of these people and the priests were immensely impactful.”

During his assignment at Ascension, Deacon Fennewald found that the connections he made with parishioners reinforced the formation he received at the seminary, whether through a conversation with someone about a homily he gave or making connections with young adults.

In his final steps before ordination, Deacon Fennewald and his classmates practiced administering the sacraments of reconciliation and baptism and celebrating Mass. Even though the words had no meaning in those practice sessions, he found himself in a sacred place and growing in excitement for his vocation as a priest. “My vision for what I hope to do as a priest hasn’t really changed, but it’s the excitement and the awe that has become more great,” he said.


>> PRIESTHOOD ORDINATION MASS

WHEN: 10 a.m. Saturday, May 25

WHERE: Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, 4431 Lindell Blvd. in St. Louis

MORE INFO: Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski will confer the sacrament of Holy Orders upon three men for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The Mass will be livestreamed at cathedralstl.org.

Additionally, seven men from other dioceses who have studied at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary will be ordained for the priesthood in May and June. To learn more about them, visit www.kenrick.edu/ordinations.


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