Newly-ordained Holy Cross priests reflect on ordination

Wedding bells are part of the Saturday afternoon soundscape at Notre Dame. Basilica weddings bring smiles to the faces of passersby, and no sunny weekend would be complete without at least one wedding. The afternoon of Saturday, September 6 brought a not-too-different cause for celebration: Rev. Vincent Nguyen, Rev. Gilbrian Stoy, Rev. Zachary Rathke, and Rev. M.Joseph Pederson were ordained to the priesthood in Sacred Heart Basilica.

The ordination, originally scheduled for April 18, was postponed due to COVID-19 and celebrated in conjunction with the profession of final vows, which is always held in early September. 

The postponement was challenging for Rev. Nguyen, who reflected, “Part of the Easter celebration in Holy Cross is having ordinations. When Easter came and we didn’t celebrate ordinations, it didn’t feel like all of Easter had happened, so over the past few months it’s felt like Lent was extended.”

Yet, despite the prolonged anticipation of ordination, the delay allowed for a deeper, more intentional preparation for the priesthood. “Since life slowed down significantly during the pandemic, I could spend more quality time in prayer every day, allowing my heart to be readied to receive the gift of priestly ordination,” stated Rev. Rathke.

This ordination is the culmination of many years of discernment, prayer, and work. Holy Cross Seminarians spend 7-10 years in formation preceding ordination, and no two paths to the priesthood are identical. 

For Rev. Nguyen, the path to the priesthood began with the PSAT. After getting to know seminarians at his home parish, he began to consider discerning the priesthood and told his parents. The very next day, an invitation from Holy Cross to visit the Old College Undergraduate Program arrived in the mail. They had received his address from the PSAT interest survey database. 

“I took that as a sign,” Rev. Nguyen said. ”I visited Old College, and it felt like home. That feeling of home has only continued with every new Holy Cross location and experience. Even through all the ups and downs of discernment and formation, I would not have traded that experience for anything else.” 

Rev. Rathke reflected that his new priesthood has felt both familiar and strange. “Everytime I call myself ‘Fr. Zach,’ I feel as if it isn’t me yet,” he commented. “But in asking the Lord again and again to work in me despite my frailty and weakness as a human person, I have no fear that this life will ever be too much for me.” And the advice he’d give to his past self? “I would tell myself simply to trust in the grace of God, not merely in myself.”

Ordinations mark the joyful end of formal discernment and seminary formation, and they also serve as a beginning of vocation. As Holy Cross priests, these men are bound in obedience to the direction of the order, which alleviates much concern for the future. Rev. Joe Pederson commented on the future of his priestly ministry, saying, “I don’t really know what the future will hold, but I trust that wherever my superiors send me will be fulfilling. At least for the time being, I have been assigned to be the rector of Siegfried Hall. It’s a role that I really enjoy and find a lot of life in.”

And, despite the end of formal training, the priesthood will continue to teach the newly-ordained priests. “Being the rector of Siegfried constantly challenges me to be a better minister, preacher, listener, and leader,” said Rev. Pederson. “Over the coming years the men of Siegfried will teach me how to be a priest.”

Rev. John Deriso, C.S.C., the Director of the Office of Vocations for the United States Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross, commented: “Ordinations to the priesthood are profoundly joyful moments for the Congregation of Holy Cross and for the Church. It was especially the case this year as we combined what are usually separate liturgies into one weekend. We give thanks to God for sending us gifted and zealous men who wish to consecrate their lives for service to Christ and His Church as Priests and as Brothers of Holy Cross.”

At the Rover, we echo Rev. DeRiso’s gratitude as we congratulate these four men on their ordinations and thank them for their service to the Church.

Mary Frances Myler is a junior majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and Theology. Her ideal day would be spent hiking, swimming, and reading on the shores of Lake Superior. Send book recommendations to