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Monday, May 19, 2008

Another Ordination for Colorado Springs

"Father Slattery ordained to priesthood for diocese"
From the Colorado Catholic Herald
by Jim Myers

COLORADO SPRINGS. For the third time in less than 12 months, a man committed himself to the priesthood in the Diocese of Colorado Springs. Father Kirk Slattery was ordained in a Mass May 17 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“Some of my greatest hopes are of serving people in a parish, getting to know communities and their struggles and becoming part of that. That fills out the picture of priesthood,” said Father Slattery, who celebrated his first Mass at 11 a.m. May 18 at Corpus Christi Church. “Our formation as a priest doesn’t end when we leave the seminary. There is a lot of formation in the early years of the priesthood.”

Father Slattery had a chance to see several of his classmates from St. Paul School of Divinity in Minnesota ordained to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Diocese last month, and the experience made an impact on him.

“I remember seeing the amount of joy they had in their faces during the ordination rite,” said Father Slattery, 36. “Sometimes you get caught up in all that busyness. After that ordination, I reflected on the joy they experienced, and I’m anticipating all that joy.”

Father Slattery (no known relation to Father John Slattery) entered the seminary in 2002 after feeling the pull to the priesthood for several years. It wasn’t until his second year in the seminary, when a fire destroyed St. Catherine of Siena Church in Burlington — where he was placed during his Christmas break — in January 2004 that Deacon Slattery galvanized his commitment to the priesthood.

Father Slattery was sleeping in the rectory the night of the fire and saw first-hand how Father Francisco Quezada, then-pastor of St. Catherine of Siena, and the community responded.

“That experience was pretty traumatic. But the experience of how the community came together during that time and seeing Father Frank in his role as the priest during a time of great turmoil struck me,” said Father Slattery. “Up until then, I had been back and forth with the vocation. Right then I knew that people need that presence in their lives, not just in times of tragedy, but all the time. That kind of really solidified it for me.”

Father Quezada vested Father Slattery during the ordination rite. The rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral said he had a chance to get to know Father Slattery at St. Catherine of Siena and “is someone with whom I share special ministry moments.”

“Kirk demonstrates a docile heart for the Lord and for service. He is simple in presence and whole-hearted in his love for the Lord,” said Father Quezada.

Father Slattery is not the first member of his family to be ordained to the priesthood. According to Father Slattery’s grandmother, Winifred Slattery, Father Slattery’s grandfather was cousins with former Kansas City Archbishop Ignatius Jerome Strecker, who was a bishop for more than 40 years in Missouri and Kansas.

Father Slattery, a Colorado native, finished his studies at St. Paul School of Divinity last week and quickly made his way back to Colorado Springs for the ordination. He anticipates many family members from Colorado, Kansas and other parts of the country attending the ordination Mass. Among family members in attendance should be his grandmother, who has been a support for her grandson in his call to vocation.

“It’s really hard to believe yet,” said Winifred Slattery. “It’s a special day, and I hope, the good Lord willing, that the Holy Spirit is with him and guides him.”

Father Slattery was raised Catholic as a child and attended St. Michael Parish in Calhan, but he was not baptized until he was 15 years old. Still, he recalls how Father Jim Halloran, former St. Michael pastor, was an early example of a priest “living the priesthood joyfully.”

Following his baptism, Father Slattery did not immediately enter communion with the Catholic Church. However, it was during his time in the U.S. Army from 1994-98 that Father Slattery began to feel the pull back to the church and toward the priesthood. He credited people of faith in the military for giving him an example to follow.

“I met some people when I joined the military who were very alive with their faith,” said Father Slattery. “Meeting those people helped rekindle a desire for what the church was all about.”

While he was stationed in Israel for a year, Father Slattery said he had the opportunity to visit many religious sites in the Holy Land, where he felt the pull toward faith after walking in the steps of Jesus Christ.

“That experience was when I was first starting to think about something else. The military wasn’t going to be the rest of my life,” said Father Slattery. “The power of being in those places started the first inklings of my vocation.”

When Father Slattery left the military, he became involved at Corpus Christi Parish in Colorado Springs and went through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) with his grandmother as his sponsor. Father Slattery also began volunteering his time with projects like BeFriender Ministries and Silver Key Senior Services.

“That’s when I really started thinking God is calling me to do something else,” said Father Slattery, who first starting talking to priests about entering the seminary in 1998.

Because of Father Slattery’s path through Catholicism — which included making initiation sacraments at a later age — he said RCIA is an area of interest for him as a priest. He also has an interest in marriage preparation, saying there “is a lot of fruit that can be gained through marriage preparation.”

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