Saturday, May 18, 2002

Four committed to priesthood

They feel called to help renewal after scandal

By Richelle Thompson,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Roman Catholic church is in a crisis of trust from the priest sex abuse scandal, but it has strengthened the commitment of four area men to the priesthood.

        Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk will ordain the men today at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral downtown, and the new priests will assume their posts at archdiocesan parishes and high schools in July.

[photo] Seminary graduates (from left) Anthony Brausch, Ron Williams Jr., Earl Fernandes and Michael Cordier will be ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood today.
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
        In other years, the ordination ceremony attracted mild media attention. On Friday, the men defended the church to a fan of microphones at a press conference.

        “I don't think we should tolerate abuse of children. To the best of their abilities, priests should be faithful to their promise of celibacy,” says the Rev. Earl Fernandes, 29, one of the four. “The types of things that have gone on in the past cannot go on.”

        Still, the men said they believe the scandal can help the church grow and eventually emerge stronger and as a better witness for God in the world.

        Already, Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West at the Athenaeum of Ohio in Mount Washington is expecting one of its biggest classes in two decades next fall. What role the scandal has — and will — play is unknown, said the Rev. Gerald R. Haemmerle, president and rector of the Athenaeum. Stepped-up recruitment efforts in the past five years and the post-Sept. 11 introspection likely played significant roles, he said.

        But “times of distress can make a person more firm in their commitment,” said another new priest, the Rev. Michael Cordier, 45. “When the church is in trouble, people need to come forward.”

        Each of the new priests traveled a circuitous route to this day.

        • The Rev. Fernandes of Toledo left the University of Cincinnati's medical school and joined the seminary in 1997. His appointment is to Holy Angels parish in Sidney, north of Dayton.

        • The Rev. Cordier of Madeira worked in information technology until entering the seminary in 1996. He is assigned to Guardian Angels parish in Mount Washington.

        • The Rev. Tony Brausch, 35, of Clarksville, was once engaged and owned a landscaping company before answering the call. He will teach at Elder High School in Price Hill.

        • The Rev. Ron Williams Jr., 32, of Greenhills, grew up in the United Methodist church and converted to Catholicism during college. He will serve at St. Charles Borromeo parish in Kettering, near Dayton.

        The men acknowledged the scandal has made their jobs tougher in some ways. They will be ministering to congregation members who feel betrayed and angry, and the men may face criticism for how fellow priests have acted.

        And the new priests said they plan to exercise caution in dealing with children. They'll follow the archdiocese's Child Protection Decree, which mandates priests not be alone with children.

        “We want to make sure there's not even a hint of impropriety,” said the Rev. Brausch. “Prudence is mandatory.”


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