Roman Catholic 
Diocese of Ogdensburg

Deacon Carter Pierce

Theology 4
Mount St. Mary's Seminary
Emmitsburg, MD

Birthday: November 21st 
Patron Saint: St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Pope John Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas
Home Parish: St. Raphael, Heuvelton 
Hobbies: Basketball, cycling, hiking, singing, farming
Family: Father Kelvin and Mother Carolyn, seven siblings 
Favorite Food: Stuffed shells and ice cream
Favorite Scripture: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (John14:6) 

Carter is a life-long resident of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, heading into his second year of theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Carter’s parents are veterinarians, so animals and farming have been an important feature in the family’s lives. Growing up, Carter always expected he would get married, have a family and live on a farm. That changed in high school when the idea of priesthood popped into his head. His family has been very active in their small, tight-knit parish, so Carter had the chance to really get to know the priests more personally. As time passed, Carter found himself praying more. He was accepted at the Catholic University in Washington, DC where he met lots of new friends and studied architecture. But the call to priesthood only became stronger, and Carter knew he had to give it a try. He left Catholic University and entered the seminary three years ago. While there have been tough times, Carter says his time in seminary has been a blessing and confirmed his calling.    

Carter looks forward to being a priest so he can, through the sacrament, bring people to know the love of God. “God has called me, and I trust God. God will use me as an instrument of His love.” In prayer, Carter goes back to his favorite scripture quote when he starts to stray into living life on his own terms. This passage calls him back because Carter knows it is only in God that peace and fulfillment will be found.    

In thinking about advice to someone considering priesthood, Carter admits there are lots of sacrifices to make, but it is a beautiful vocation if you are being called to it. Pray and trust is what Carter believes. Spend time with the Lord and listen to what He wants.

Deacon Douglas Schirmer

Theology 4
Mount St. Mary's Seminary
Emmitsburg, MD

Birthday: June 26th 
Patron Saint: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas More, St. Thomas Becket
Home Parish: St. Mary’s Cathedral, Ogdensburg Hobbies: Writing, drawing, reading, cooking, learning guitar
Family: Father Robert and Mother Amy and two brothers 
Favorite Food: Italian, cheese and anything Fr. Joe Giroux makes
Favorite Scripture: “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are… we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. We do know when it is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” - 1 John 3:1-2 

Douglas completed his second year of theology Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Doug didn’t always want to be a priest. In fact, Doug wasn’t always a Catholic. His family spent a year as missionaries in Zambia when Doug was 13. His dad is an Anglican priest. While in high school, Doug read St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and felt drawn to the Roman Catholic faith, but he hesitated because he knew if he converted, he would have to consider the priesthood. After seven years of running, Doug discovered his mother had come into the faith and made a consecration to the Blessed Mother. He, too, converted. Still, Doug ignored the stirrings in his heart asking him to consider priesthood. It would be another two years before he agreed to go on retreat in Italy. It was there that Doug asked God what he wanted of him. The answer was pretty clear. He applied to the seminary and has not looked back.    

Doug looks forward to the day when as a priest he can “reconnect people with the faith” through the sacraments. “I want to be a vessel of God’s love and compassion, truth and courage.” For prayer, one of Doug’s favorites is the rosary. For Doug, who came to the faith as an adult, he wants to communicate to others the profound joy and peace he has found in the church’s teachings.    

If anyone is thinking God might be calling him to priesthood, Doug has some advice: Take the time to talk to God. Sit in silence and listen. He will show you the way. “Beginning the conversation is not signing on the dotted line! Seminary is about discernment and taking the time to hear God.” And never, ever be afraid!

Michael Lennox

Theology 1
Mount St. Mary's Seminary
Emmitsburg, MD

Birthday: March 26th 
Patron Saint: St. Michael 
Home Parish: St. Cecilia’s, Adams 
Hobbies: Hiking, mountain biking, cycling 
Family: Margaret Briggs, stepfather Charles Briggs and brothers Shawn, Matthew and David. His father, Steven, is deceased. 
Favorite Food: Copious amounts of meat, vegetables and rice 
Favorite Scripture: “Be not afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name.” (Isaiah 43:1)

Mike is a recent graduate of SUNY Potsdam. He begins his theological studies for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Hailing from St. Cecilia’s Parish in Adams, Mike is a life-long resident of the diocese. Mike credits a former pastor, Father Martin Cline as most influencing his decision to enter the seminary during his high school years. 

When he prays, Mike loves to say the Rosary. He credits “hanging around with Catholic friends,” being a Camp Guggenheim counselor, the Exodus 90 program and becoming involved in the Newman Club at Potsdam as great helps in his faith journey. When asked what he thinks will be the best part about being a priest, Mike says, “Celebrating mass and hearing confessions. I want to administer the sacraments and bring people the truth.” 

As for advice to someone thinking God might be calling them to priesthood, Mike shares that he knew in his life that he would never know for sure unless he tried it. “Just give it a shot.” Seminary is a place to pray and discern what God’s call is. It doesn’t mean you will be ordained immediately.

Tyler Fitzgerald

Theology 2
St. Vincent Seminary
LaTrobe, PA

Birthday: August 2nd 
Patron Saint: St. John Bosco
Home Parish: St. John The Baptist, Madrid 
Hobbies: Cooking, baking, genealogy, writing letters, napping
Family: Father Leo and mother Michele and one sister 
Favorite Food: Spaghetti and meatballs, fresh vegetables from the garden and rhubarb pie
Favorite Scripture: “And your own soul a sword shall pierce that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” - Luke 2:35 

Tyler is a lifelong diocesan resident. His mother works at the local school and his father is a retired pastry chef. As a member of a small community and a small parish, Tyler has had the opportunity to try many different aspects of parish life from office work, catechesis, shoveling in winter and being a sacristan. Tyler is especially grateful to this parish community for the many ways it has nurtured his vocation and supported him in it. However, Tyler has not always wanted to be a priest. It was in the back of his mind while he considered other things during high school like, banking, teaching and medical careers. No matter how hard he tried, he could not remove the idea of priesthood from his mind. When he decided he really did need to consider it, if even just to get it out of his head as an option, Tyler attended several discernment gatherings and visited the seminary. It was at one particular mass when Tyler really had an experience of the Lord calling him to priesthood. Tyler applied and was accepted into the priestly formation program after his graduation from high school.   At the end of this year, Tyler will graduate from the college seminary with his degree in philosophy.   

Asked about what favorite prayer, Tyler replied, “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is indeed the greatest!” He quotes St. John Vianney who said, “If we fully understood the Mass, we would die of joy.” As he looks forward to priesthood, Tyler believes offering the Mass daily will be the best thing! In addition, the other sacraments offer healing and he looks forward to witnessing the power of the sacraments in the lives of those he will serve.      

What about some advice for a man thinking about priesthood? Tyler makes a very important point: You don’t have to be perfect or holy or have your life all together to discern becoming a priest! Seminary is a place where you can learn to grow in holiness and prayer. Regardless of the ultimate decision made, seminary time will make a better man. Confide in a trusted priest, pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Whatever you do, don’t put the idea in the “things I’d rather forget box!”

Venes Laine

Theology 1
Pontifical College Josephinum
Columbus, OH

Birthday: June 4th 
Patron Saint: St. Anthony of Padua
Native Country: Haiti 
Hobbies: Reading and playing sports
Diocesan Home Base: St. Alexander’s, Morrisonville Favorite Food: Rice and beans, chicken and fish
 (I am not fussy) 
Favorite Scripture: “I have come so that you may have life, life in its fullness.” (John 10:10)

Venes Laine is a native of Haiti. Before discerning a call to priesthood, Venes spent 14 years in a religious community as a religious brother. For the last two years, he has studied philosophy and sharpened his English at Holy Apostles Seminary in Connecticut. In the fall, Venes will attend the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio to finish his bachelor’s degree in philosophy.   

Venes Laine gives his mother credit for his desire to be a priest. As a child, a twin and one of 10 siblings, Venes’ mother would drag him to daily mass and force him to stay awake. It wasn’t easy but his mother never gave up. Venes explains, “God kept knocking at my door. Four years ago, I called mom and told her I was going to become a priest. She was so happy. She said, ‘Thanks be to God!’ Three weeks later, she died.” Besides his devout mother, Venes’ father was the church sacristan. Venes’ twin brother has just professed vows as a religious brother in Haiti. Venes explains, “I was so fortunate to grow up in my family. We didn’t have a lot, but we were happy, and my parents shared their strong faith with us.”   

Venes’ journey toward priesthood has been long and with many turns. His advice to someone thinking about priesthood is simple: Trust the call, give it a try. Expect challenges but never doubt God is in control. Venes has a home base here in the diocese. He lives at St. Alexander’s Rectory in Morrisonville when he is home from seminary. When he is not studying, Venes loves to read and play sports. So far, he loves the people and the priests he has met here in the north country. This is now home.

Dennis Ombongi

Theology 2
Pontifical College Josephinum
Columbus, OH

Birthday: December 28th 
Patron Saint: St. Dennis
Native Country: Kenya 
Hobbies: Music, soccer, reading
Home Base: St. Peter’s Parish, Massena 
Favorite Food: Fish, Adobo and beef
Family: Father and Mother, five brothers and one sister
Favorite Scripture: “I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) 

Dennis Ombongi hails from Kenya. He has been assigned to finish his bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. This will be about two years to complete. Dennis comes from a devout Catholic family consisting of his father, mother, five brothers and one sister. They are a farming family. They were active in their parish, where Dennis was an altar server, in the youth group and in the vocation club. A key moment in Dennis’ vocational journey happened when he attended his uncle’s ordination to the priesthood. It was at that moment that he strongly felt the desire to become a priest. After high school, Dennis joined a religious order of brothers. He worked in several countries as a brother for nine years, but the desire to be a priest kept coming back. So, he left his order and joined a Dominican order here in the United States. He studied philosophy for two years at Holy Apostles Seminary in Connecticut. When his order was disbanded, Dennis asked to come study for the Diocese of Ogdensburg. The diocese reminds him of home, and Dennis has grown to love it here.     

In looking toward being a priest, Dennis feels strongly the call of the Lord. He desires to give his life totally over to God and serve the people of the North Country in whatever way he can. To any young man thinking about priesthood, Dennis says, “Just say yes!” It really is that simple. God does not disappoint.”

Kevin McCullouch

Theology 1
St. Vincent Seminary
LaTrobe, PA

Birthday: March 4
Patron Saint: St. Patrick, St. Agnes, St. John Vianney, St. Don Bosco, St. Faustina 
Home Parish: Blessed Sacrament Parish, Watertown, NY (Holy Family Church) 
Hobbies: Skiing, Hiking, Kayaking, Golfing
Family: Mom (Laurie), Dad (Gary), Older Sister (Maeve), Younger Brother (Daniel)
Favorite Food: Steak and Potatoes, Ice Cream, and so much more 
Favorite Scripture: John 17:4-5, “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.” 
1 Corinthians 16:13, “Stay awake, stand firm in your faith, be strong.” 
Psalm 46:10, “Be Still and Know that I Am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” 

Kevin begins his second year of pre-theology at Saint Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Kevin was baptized at St. Patrick’s Church in Watertown and grew up receiving his other sacraments and his religious education at Holy Family in Watertown. A native of Black River his family found a place in the community of Watertown to best foster their growth in the church. Altar Serving and Camp Guggenheim are just a few examples that have provided ample room for Kevin to grow in discerning God’s call for his life. Another influence in his life has been the witness of the two retired priests in residence in the Watertown parishes Monsignor Whitmore and Father Wiley. 
Kevin’s favorite prayer is of course the Mass. It is through this greatest sacrifice, whether offered on the shores of lower Saranac Lake at Camp Guggenheim or at his parish in Watertown, the mystery of Christ’s gift to us at Mass is so powerful and gives me excitement to one day be able to offer the body and blood of Christ to the people of God. He also loves spending quiet time with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament during adoration. It is through these quiet moments that we can truly allow ourselves to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that is being placed within our hearts. In an age where we are used to so much noise and distraction, it is necessary to step away from the noise and rest in the Lord’s presence. 
To those that are considering their own call, a good thought to consider is, if you do choose to go to seminary, that does not mean you have to be a priest. Going to seminary is just one more step of discernment and forming yourself to be a good Christian Man. Do Not Be Afraid, talk to a trusted priest mentor, and bring it to prayer before the Lord.