Five young men ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Detroit, ready to serve

Archbishop Vigneron tells five new spiritual fathers, ages 27 to 31, ordained May 18 at cathedral: 'This is why God made you'

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DETROIT Ryan Asher, Nicholas Brown, Matthew Kurt, Stephen Moening and Tommy Ngo solemnly processed into the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament as deacons on May 18, and processed out as priests and spiritual fathers.

Detroit's cathedral was full as family, friends, fellow priests and faithful from across the Archdiocese of Detroit joined together to celebrate the presbyteral ordination of the five men through the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the Saturday before the feast of Pentecost.

Before the laying on of hands, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron addressed the five men — who have spent years in formation at Sacred Heart Major Seminary and, in the case of Fr. Asher, in Rome — in his homily, emphasizing their new role as spiritual fathers.

Archbishop Vigneron lays hands upon Fr. Tommy Ngo to ordain him to the priesthood Saturday, May 18, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Archbishop Vigneron lays hands upon Fr. Tommy Ngo to ordain him to the priesthood Saturday, May 18, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The five young priests, ranging in age from 27 to 31, have different vocation journeys and interests, from waiting tables to working as software engineers, but each now shares a common life in Christ as his priests, the archbishop said.

The archbishop recalled the scrutinies he presided over with the five men several weeks ago — a process he referred to as the presbyterial formation equivalent of “an exit interview.”

“I asked them their own sense about what the Holy Spirit would do for them today,” Archbishop Vigneron said in his homily. “And pretty much across the board, they responded to my question by thinking and talking about the priesthood they would receive as a way to become spiritual fathers — that by being made a priest, they understand that they are dedicated to generating and nurturing the life of grace in the people of God through the sacraments, through teaching the Gospel, and guiding the people in the way of holiness.”

To be a spiritual father in the Church is to be a mediator between the people of God and God the Father in the person of Jesus Christ, Archbishop Vigneron explained. The role of a priest is to facilitate a bond of communion between God’s people and the Father Himself, he said.

By presenting themselves for ordination, Frs. Asher, Brown, Kurt, Moening and Ngo have accepted their God-given mission, the archbishop added.
By presenting themselves for ordination, Frs. Asher, Brown, Kurt, Moening and Ngo have accepted their God-given mission, the archbishop added.

“To become a spiritual father in the Church is to be consecrated to that role, to be totally given over to it, to have every talent, every ambition, every hour made part to be dedicated to this work of being a spiritual father,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “It is not about a career plan. It is not about becoming an ecclesiastical civil servant making the ecclesiastical trains run on time. It is about oneself, and it is permanent.”

By presenting themselves for ordination, Frs. Asher, Brown, Kurt, Moening and Ngo have accepted their God-given mission, the archbishop added.

“It is a man’s destiny to receive this call … to be able to say, ‘I was born for this,'” Archbishop Vigneron said. “You have, by your discernment, discovered that this is why God made you — this is what he had in mind for you before you were even created in the wombs of your mothers.”

For the mothers of the newly ordained, their sons' call to the priesthood didn’t come as a surprise. Rather, several told Detroit Catholic they saw God working in their sons’ hearts from a young age, preparing them for their vocation.

“When Stephen (Moening) was four years old, my mother looked at me one day just out of the blue and said, ‘He's going to be a priest,’” Joanne Moening, Fr. Moening’s mother, told Detroit Catholic. “Those who really knew Stephen growing up are not surprised at all by his vocation. There was always something a little more tender-hearted or connected with him. His dad and I always had an inkling that he would follow a vocation (to the priesthood).”

Detroit's cathedral was full as family, friends, fellow priests and faithful from across the Archdiocese of Detroit joined together to celebrate the presbyteral ordination of the five men through the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the Saturday before the feast of Pentecost.
Detroit's cathedral was full as family, friends, fellow priests and faithful from across the Archdiocese of Detroit joined together to celebrate the presbyteral ordination of the five men through the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the Saturday before the feast of Pentecost.

Judy Asher, Fr. Asher’s mother, said that as her son Ryan grew up, there were little signs God might be calling him to the priesthood. As he expressed interest in his faith, she and her husband did all they could to encourage him and help him foster its growth.

“I think it's important for parents to tune into those little things along the way and be open to the possibility that this might be the path my son wants to pursue,” Judy Asher said. "(It's important for parents to) ask, ‘What can I do to foster that?’”

Each new priest has already been given his first assignment: Fr. Asher will serve as full-time priest support for the South Oakland Family 7, primarily at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Farmington; Fr. Brown is a priest in solidum for South Oakland Family 3, serving primarily at St. Damien of Molokai Parish, Pontiac; Fr. Kurt is a priest in solidum in the South Oakland Family 7, serving primarily at St. Fabian Parish, Farmington Hills; Fr. Moening is a priest in solidum at the Northwest Oakland Lakes Family of Parishes, serving primarily at Our Lady of the Lakes Parish, Waterford; and Fr. Ngo is assigned to be associate pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Plymouth.

Archbishop Vigneron shakes the hand of Kris Kurt, the mother of Fr. Matthew Kurt, middle, as he processes into the cathedral before the ordination rite.
Archbishop Vigneron shakes the hand of Kris Kurt, the mother of Fr. Matthew Kurt, middle, as he processes into the cathedral before the ordination rite.

One important way to foster openness to a priestly vocation is through altar service, Joanne Moening added.

“I think having them be (altar servers) is so wonderful because they're so close to the Eucharist and Jesus, and to watch the priest so closely,” Joanne Moening said. “I also think that, as a mother, one should cling to the Blessed Mother. I prayed many prayers to the Blessed Mother (throughout his discernment).”

At the end of Mass, Fr. Asher addressed the Church on behalf of his four classmates, giving thanks for God’s call to the priesthood for himself and his new brother priests.

“Our Father has been so good to us in giving us a share in the priesthood of His son Jesus, that priesthood which is such a precious gift to his Church.” Fr. Asher said. “Today, my heart is filled with gratitude for this gift we’ve received. The five of us ordained today don’t know exactly what the priesthood will mean or look like in our lives, but today, I wish, as Blessed Solanus Casey would, to thank God ahead of time for all that He will do and to thank Him in hope and in confidence that He is present at every moment in our lives.

"We can depend on our heavenly Father, who unceasingly guides this local Church and archdiocese, which is so dear to Him," Fr. Asher added.

More photos

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, center, stands with five new priests ordained May 18 for the Archdiocese of Detroit at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Left to right, the new priests are Fr. Matthew Kurt, 28, Fr. Nicholas Brown, 31, Fr. Stephen Moening, 27, Fr. Ryan Asher, 27, and Fr. Phuc (Tommy) Ngo, 31. (Photos by Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, center, stands with five new priests ordained May 18 for the Archdiocese of Detroit at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Left to right, the new priests are Fr. Matthew Kurt, 28, Fr. Nicholas Brown, 31, Fr. Stephen Moening, 27, Fr. Ryan Asher, 27, and Fr. Phuc (Tommy) Ngo, 31. (Photos by Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)


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