Different paths, same destination for AOD’s priests-to-be

Deacon Patrick Joseph Gonyeau

Deacon Gonyeau

Deacon Gonyeau

Age: 34

Parents: Thomas and Patricia Gonyeau of St. Jude Parish, Detroit (formerly of St. David Parish, Detroit)

Education: St. Clare of Montefalco in Grosse Pointe Park (K-4); Tyrone Elementary School in Harper Woods (grades 5-6); Harper Woods High School (grades 7-12); Michigan State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising with special certification in public relations in 2001; Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where he earned a Bachelor of Philosophy in 2009, a Bachelor of Sacred Theology and a Master of Divinity degree in 2013.

Home parish: St. Jude Parish, Detroit

Masses of Thanksgiving: St. Jude Church, Detroit, 10 a.m. Sunday, May 19; Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, Harper Woods, 10 a.m. Sunday, June 2; Bishop Foley High School Chapel, Madison Heights, 11 a.m. Sunday, June 9.

Secular career before seminary: Waiter and folk musician

Route to the priesthood: It is true, and I am grateful, that God can write straight with crooked lines. At 25, I was a befuddled configuration of crooked lines living in Nashville, Tenn., when I began to reap the fruits of years of faithless and secular living. What I didn’t know then, but am certain of now, is that Jesus had come looking for another lost sheep. Shortly after returning to Michigan, it was suggested to me, by my mom, that I read the book of Psalms. I was doing so one day when “out of the blue” I heard God speak in my heart and tell me that I could give Him my life. The very next thought I had was inspired and incredible: priesthood. I returned to Church with a sister of mine who lived nearby and had my heart set ablaze for Jesus at the vibrant St. John Student Parish in East Lansing. The pastor, Fr. Mark Inglot, had a profound impact on me in particular. The Lord then led me to Fr. Jim Bilot (former vocations director for the Archdiocese of Detroit), who was an amazing guide on the journey that led me into the seminary … and the rest is history!

Greatest challenge facing the Church, and its greatest hope: Universally speaking, I think the increasingly aggressive secularism in our world might be the greatest challenge facing the Church. Subsequently, many important battles are being fought to protect and uphold Christian morality in the face of societies that want to normalize certain moral practices that Christians know God has spoken against in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. I think clear, charitable and courageous teaching of God’s revealed truths is what is needed within our communities and beyond. We needn’t succumb to our fears of being persecuted for what we believe if we stand with Jesus in His truth and love. He is our greatest hope, faithful and true, and will supply all the fortitude we need.

Hopes for priestly ministry: What I hope for most in my priestly ministry is to simply be a faithful and steadfast servant of the Lord, seeking day in and day out to live with the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus always flowing through my veins.

Aspect of ministry likely to be most rewarding: I think what might be most rewarding could be seeing conversions; people coming to Jesus for the first time, or returning to the Church with new love in their hearts for God and the Catholic faith. Celebrating Mass and confession will hopefully always be a great joy as well!

Deacon James C. Grau

Deacon Grau

Deacon Grau

Age: 28

Parents: James and Julie Grau of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Livonia

Education: St. Michael the Archangel, Livonia; University of Detroit Jesuit, Detroit; Christendom College, Virginia; Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit.

Home parish: St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Livonia

Masses of Thanksgiving: St. Michael the Archangel Church, Livonia, 12 p.m. Sunday, May 19; St. Paul on the Lake Church, Grosse Pointe Farms, 12 p.m. Sunday, June 23.

Secular career before seminary: Student

Route to the priesthood: I remember thinking about it in grade school, and since there were the Felicians there and Father was always around, it was almost a normal thing to think about — some people become priests, and other people do other things. It was in high school that I really started discerning, to the point where I felt that if this is what God wants me to do, I’d do it. But I didn’t know what he wanted or how to find out. I’d ask an older Jesuit there about it, and he said to keep praying — which was a pretty annoying answer at the time, even though it was the right one. In the years that followed, the priesthood was something that I kept circling back to in my prayer, and when I read about the saints, there was a continuing echo or a suspicion that this was to be my particular role in the Christian community. It really was just a long and gentle process, no great “a-ha” moments, and at the end of the day, this was just what made sense. So after my junior year of college, although I wasn’t completely certain about it, I knew the idea wasn’t going away, so I entered the seminary.

Greatest challenge facing the Church, and its greatest hope: I think it is the same challenge Jesus faced, and that each Christian generation has faced: how to proclaim the Gospel to those who are not interested, or who are busy attending to daily concerns, or who cannot imagine experiencing any real joy in living a Christian life, or who view religion as a hobby for people who are “into that sort of thing,” or — perhaps the most difficult situation — to those who have already heard the Gospel, but found it wanting or irrelevant, and who now consider themselves truly happy without it. But our greatest hope is in Christ, who is longing and thirsting for these souls, desiring that through his Church, they come to find in Him something that the world cannot give.

Hopes for priestly ministry: I hope to be a good and holy priest, preferably a little bit more so than Fr. Marko and Fr. Pat, which will be harder than it looks. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Aspect of ministry likely to be most rewarding: I think what will be most rewarding is having a very privileged view of the incredible gift Christ has given his people in the Church: both in seeing people grow close to God and meeting the Lord through the sacraments, and also in being edified by others’ generosity in responding to Lord and by their love for the Church.

Deacon Marko Mike Djonovic

Deacon Djonovic

Deacon Djonovic

Age: 34

Parents: Frano and Maria Djonovic

Education: Bryson Elementary in South Gate, Calif.; Dunkel Middle School in Farmington Hills; North Farmington High School in Farmington Hills; Oakland Community College; Madonna University; Sacred Heart Major Seminary (Bachelor of Philosophy, Bachelor of Sacred Theology and Master of Divinity)

Home parish: Our Lady of Albanians, Southfield

Masses of Thanksgiving: Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Farmington, 1 p.m. Sunday, May 19; Our Lady of Albanians Church, Southfield, 12:30 p.m. Sunday, May 26; St. Paul Albanian Church, Rochester Hills, 12:30 p.m. Sunday, June 2; St. Ephrem Church, Sterling Heights, 11 p.m. Sunday, June 16.

Secular career before seminary: Middle school educator

Route to the priesthood: I never considered the priesthood until I truly experienced the power of the Gospel as an adult. A major turning point in my life was in my early twenties. I was working as an auto technician, was seriously involved in the sport of boxing, and attending college. My life was full, active, and I was content with life. During this time I experienced physical health issues which abruptly put a halt to my full and active life. It was a very challenging time for me, but also a time of great grace because it forced me to venture into the deeper questions of life, and one being the most essential — my relationship with God. I eventually began to delve more seriously into my Catholic faith through reading Scripture and good Catholic books, listening to Catholic radio, and by attending a unique adult catechesis program at a local Chaldean parish. Moreover, I experienced a newfound relationship with Jesus, which deepened by coming to understand more fully the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Then the thought of the priesthood and the religious life arose, which I initially resisted. But as my relationship with Christ grew, so did this strong desire to follow our Lord in an extraordinary way.

Greatest challenge facing the Church, and its greatest hope: Every age has its unique challenges, and in our current age the most pressing challenge is the breakdown of the family. We are all negatively affected by the family crisis one way or another; either experiencing it in our own homes or among our friends and communities. I believe that there is great reason to hope, for I see people open and desirous to receive the Good News of marital and family life. Our Church will continue to be a source of enlightenment and guidance for the people of God amid the challenges facing our world.

Hopes for priestly ministry: I hope to witness the lives of many being transformed and set free by their encounter with Jesus Christ.

Aspect of ministry likely to be most rewarding: Generally speaking, I am looking forward to seeing the power of God’s grace being made manifest in all aspects of my priestly life. Pope Francis put it well: “….the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.”