29 May 2010

Oh, happy day!

From the Catholic Times:

Deacon Stephen A. Thompson and Deacon Paul Kala will be ordained priests for the Springfield diocese on May 29 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago will preside at the 10:30 a.m. Mass.

Deacon Kala, 34, a native of Ghana in West Africa, was ordained to the diaconate June 20, 2009, at St. Agnes Church in Springfield, by Archbishop-designate George Lucas.

Deacon Thompson, 39, a Wood River native, was ordained to the diaconate Sept. 26, 2009, at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Alton, by Bishop Victor Balke, a native of the Springfield diocese, who is the retired bishop of Crookston, Minn.

The Springfield see has been vacant since July 2009, when Bishop George J. Lucas was installed Archbishop of Omaha. The diocese’s recently named bishop, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, will be installed June 22 at the cathedral.

Rev. Mr. Paul Kala

Deacon Paul Kala, 34, is a native of Ghana in West Africa. As an infant he was very sick and near death. His mother, a young Muslim woman, was carrying him in her arms when she encountered a missionary priest.

“She asked him to baptize me, and he did,” said Deacon Kala. Several days later he was well. “She had vowed if I got better she would serve God. I firmly believe in God’s divine grace and love and mercy. It is one of the things that has brought me this far.”

Unlike his brothers, John and Francis, Deacon Kala did not begin school until he was 12. The family lived at a retreat center where his mother worked. The director of the center was a priest whose dedication to his vocation inspired Kala.

After high school he went into the sciences, “but quickly realized the Lord had something else he wanted me to do,” said Kala. He entered the seminary, studied for the Society of African Missions (SMA), and moved to Chicago for graduate studies.

“I told my spiritual director at Mundelein I wanted to go to a diocese where they need priests to work. Father John Titus visited me in 2006, and invited me to the Villa at Springfield in December” to visit with the bishop, seminarians home for Christmas and priests of the diocese at their annual gathering.

He interned at St. Mary Parish in Paris under Father David Zimmerman. “Father Zimmerman and the people of St. Mary’s were wonderful to me. It became my home away from home.” He then served an internship at St. Peter in Quincy, and spent the past few months at St. Alexius in Beardstown.

Vesting him at ordination will be Father Christopher Brey, pastor of St. Alexius.

He had hoped his mother, Juliana, and a brother, John, would be able to attend his ordination, but they are unable to attend. He is looking forward to seeing them on a visit to Ghana in June.

Rev. Mr. Stephen A. Thompson

Deacon Thompson is the son of Kenneth and Juanita Thompson of Bethalto. He grew up in St. Bernard (now Holy Angels) Parish, in Wood River, attended PSR classes, and went to public schools. He joined the Marines, fought in Desert Storm and, upon returning home after his military service, enrolled in business classes at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. He worked in the computer industry, eventually writing and setting up computer programs.

He was active at Holy Angels Parish, serving as a lector and in other areas and was also active in the Knights of Columbus. He was enrolled in the diocesan lay ministry program, when the formation program for deacons was established in the diocese, and asked to be enrolled in it. Father John Titus, pastor at St. Charles Borromeo in Charleston, who was vocations director for the diocese at the time, suggested Thompson consider the priesthood.

“I decided to try it, discovered I liked it, and went on to later serve an internship under Father Titus. He is a great mentor,” Deacon Thompson said.

“I had taken business classes at SIU, but the seminary calls for an entirely different way of studying and concentration. They do a very good job in the seminary to prepare you for parish life, and to teach you about things that will arise in your ministry.”

Deacon Thompson received his philosophy degree from Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., and his theology degree at Mundelein Seminary.

“I’ve really thought about why it was that God called me, but then I’ve come to realize, it’s not about me. It’s about everyone coming together to give me the support I needed to hear and answer his call.”

Deacon Thompson will be vested by Father Mark Schulte, pastor at St. Aloysius in Springfield, who is a former pastor at St. Bernard.

Please pray for these Deacons today as they are ordained to the priesthood. It will be a glorious day for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.

(And, even after these two are ordained, I will still be the youngest priest of the Diocese, five years later.)


  1. Looking forward to taking that 'youngest' title off your hands in two years, Father!

  2. That "young" thing - enjoy it while it lasts!!

    I don't know if you participate in blog awards, but I wanted to pass along a Sunshine Award. If you're interested, I should have details up on my blog on Monday!