Later-in-life vocations Fr. Dudek, Fr. Voiland ordained before friends and family

Deacons Robert Voiland, 60, and John Dudek, 55, process down the aisle of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament to be ordained priests by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron on May 15. Detroit’s two newest priests share a bond in being “second-vocation priests,” having come to their calling later in life. (Photos by Tim Fuller | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Detroit’s newest priests, both second vocations, now ‘called to imitate Christ’ archbishop says during first of two ordination Masses this month

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DETROIT  Since God is the lord and master of all time, every vocation is fulfilled exactly when it needs to be. 

God’s providential timing was on display May 15 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, where Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron ordained two men to the priesthood who are little older than the typical newly ordained priest. 

Regardless of the journeys Fr. John Dudek, 55, and Fr. Robert Voiland, 60, took to get to priestly ordination, it happened exactly as God intended, Archbishop Vigneron said.

“Whatever has led to this day has to have grace by the providence of God,” Archbishop Vigneron said in his homily. “We are right to give praise and thanks for guiding us to this day. All of you here have accompanied these deacons to this hour ... especially family and friends, how proud you are and how much you give God praise and thanks for what He has done in the lives of these men.” 

Soon-to-be Fr. John Dudek, flanked by his daughters, Stephanie and Elaina, awaits to be presented to Archbishop Vigneron as a candidate for the priesthood. Fr. Dudek, who considered a vocation as a young man, returned after his marriage was annulled, opening the possibility of a priestly vocation. 

In a liturgy with roots hearkening back to the earliest day of the Church, Archbishop Vigneron ordained Frs. Dudek and Voiland as priests “forever, like Melchizedek of old,” tasked with using their consecrated hands to celebrate Mass, perform marriages, forgive sins and baptize the faithful. 

Fr. Voiland spoke on behalf of the two after Mass, thanking friends, family, pastors, professors and the archbishop for supporting their discernment later in life

“Your Excellency, thank you for ordaining us,” said Fr. Voiland, who came to the priesthood after a several-decade career as an electrician. “Thank you for training us as later vocations, allowing us in this stage of our lives to bring the gifts God has given us to serve the people of God, to serve those He has called together to serve as the body of Christ.” 

Fr. Dudek came to the priesthood after a 26-year career as a special education teacher.

Fr. Voiland thanked the faculty and staff, particularly Fr. Brian Kiely, rector and president of Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass., for supporting them in their priestly formation. The seminary, founded in 1964 just outside Boston, specializes in “second-career vocations” or “delayed vocations.” 

Soon-to-be Fr. Robert Voiland stands with his six siblings during his priestly ordination Mass. Fr. Voiland was an electrician for General Motors before becoming a priest, having never married. 

Fr. Voiland said it would almost be impossible to thank all the priests, teachers, parishioners and family members who have assisted them, but their support has made them the priests they are today. 

“Fr. John and I have been formed by the faculty at Pope St. John XXIII to be priests for you, pastors to serve you as Christ wants to serve,” Fr. Voiland said. “I would be remiss to not mention all the support of all our parishioners who have been with us through formation, both back in Massachusetts and in the summers here. It really is beyond words to describe how important you are to us in our formation as priests.” 

The Mass is the first of two ordination Masses in the Archdiocese of Detroit this year; Deacon Zaid Chabaan will be ordained on May 22. The archdiocese split up this year’s ordination class to encourage social distancing in the cathedral. 

Archbishop Vigneron anoints Fr. Voiland’s hands during the rite of ordination at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. 

After reading the Gospel according to St. John, in which Jesus tells His disciples there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends — a stern reminder of the dedication priests are called to bring to their service of the Church — Fr. Craig Giera, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit, presented Deacons Voiland and Dudek to the archbishop for their election to the priesthood.  

“Relying on the help of our Lord God and our savior Jesus Christ, we choose these men, our brothers, for the order of the priesthood,” Archbishop Vigneron proclaimed to the congregation, who responded with applause. 

In his homily, Archbishop Vigneron congratulated Frs. Voiland nand Dudek, reflecting on the readings appointed for the liturgy.

Fr. Dudek lies prostrate before the altar during the Litany of Supplication, during which the assembly prays for the saints to intercede for the newly ordained. 

Jesus Christ chose certain disciples to carry out on behalf of mankind the priestly offices of the Church,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Christ was sent by the Father, so he in turn sent the apostles into the world, so that they and their successors would continue to exercise these offices as priests and shepherds.” 

The two men then stood before the archbishop, making a promise of obedience to him and his successors before the Litany of Supplication was chanted by the choir, asking the saints and martyrs to pray for the men. 

The two elect then knelt before Archbishop Vigneron for the laying on of hands, when the archbishop and all the clergy present lay their hands on the two ordained, praying for the Holy Spirit to come over them.  

Fr. Dudek and Fr. Voiland pose for a picture with Archbishop Vigneron after their ordination. 

Msgr. John Zenz and Fr. Anthony Richter vested priestly robes on Fr. Dudek for the first time, while Fr. Michael Quaine and Msgr. Brian Kiely vested Fr. Voiland. 

Family members brought gifts up to the altar, and Archbishop Vigneron placed the gifts in each of the two men’s hands, saying, ‘Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.” 

The two men concelebrated the remainder of the Mass with Archbishop Vigneron, distributing Communion to the people for the first time as priests. 

After Communion, a hymn of thanksgiving was sung before Archbishop Vigneron knelt in front of the altar to receive a first blessing from Fr. Voiland and Fr. Dudek. After Mass, friends and family gathered for first blessings, congratulating the two men on finding their calling. 

Fr. Voiland offers a “first blessing” to two Missionaries of Charity following his priestly ordination. 

Elaina and Stephanie Dudek’s experience was unique, watching their father become an ordained priest. 

Fr. Dudek originally considered the priesthood early in life, entering Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit at 18, before getting married and having two daughters. His marriage was eventually annulled, which opened the possibility of a priestly vocation. 

“He told me when we were at dinner with some of his best friends that he was considering the priesthood, and I was just like, ‘Yeah, I can see it,’” Elaina Dudek told Detroit Catholic“I think he is very welcoming and very loving to a community. He has always been my support system throughout my entire life, and I knew he’d be someone else’s support system further down the line.” 

Being the daughter of a priest in the Roman rite is a unique situation, but Elaina watched her father embrace his new vocation even more during his formation 

For the first time as priests, Fr. Dudek and Fr. Voiland offer the Eucharist to the faithful. The two men distributed Communion after concelebrating Mass with Archbishop Vigneron.  

“I don’t think he changed so much (in formation) as he just embraced it,” Elaina Dudek said. “He’s been thinking about this for a long time, before I was around or even born. So the fact that he was able to go fulfill this lifelong dream is very exciting.” 

Fr. Voiland, one of seven children, had a career as an electrician for General Motors before retiring to care for his elderly parents. He never married, but the thought of the priesthood was always in the back of his mind, said his sister, Janice Kay. 

We weren’t really surprised when he said he wanted to become a priest,” Kay said. “Both of our parents passed, but at the time my dad was still living when his journey with schooling began. He’s compassionate; I think he has wisdom and concern for other people. 

“My brother is a loving guy, and he really has other people’s interest at heart,” Kay added. “It’s great to have a priest in the family. My parents would be really pleased.”