CHARLESTON—The lives of three men will be forever changed when Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone ordains Deacons Philip Gillespie, Richard Jackson, and Artur Przywara at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on June 11 at 6 p.m.
Though they come from different states or countries and have diverse backgrounds, they all have one important thing in common, according to Father Jeffrey Kirby, vicar for vocations.
“Each has their unique gifts, and they each just really have a priest’s heart,” he said.
Father Richard D. Harris, vicar general for the diocese, served as vocations director for the men during most of their time as seminarians.
“I have seen them steadily grow in their spirituality and knowledge of what it will mean to be a priest in our diocese,” he said. “They have the ability to instill in those they meet and serve an appreciation for the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church. Their diverse histories and personalities, combined with an obvious love for the church and the priesthood of Jesus Christ, will bring the people they are called to serve into a deeper relationship with God.”
Father Kirby said this is a great year for vocations in the diocese. After the June 11 ordinations, three seminarians will be ordained to the transitional diaconate July 16 at St. Joseph Church in Columbia, and five men will enter formation for priesthood in the fall.
“I’m convinced this is only the beginning for our diocese in increasing vocations,” he said “Things are looking very good in terms of vocations in the future.”
Here is a look at the ordinandi:
Philip Gillespie, 52, is a native of Pennsylvania. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University and pursued a career in sales and consulting for 17 years before entering the seminary in 2003.
He studied at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, for four years before being reassigned to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.
Deacon Gillespie said his vocation developed over seven years when he took a brief retirement.
“I was fascinated with being retired and thoroughly enjoyed the freedom to do as I wished, when I wished,” he said. “Nevertheless, Jesus and the church remained. The church called. Jesus called … I challenged Jesus to make things happen, to open doors and give me a willing spirit.”
Richard Jackson, 65, was born in Colorado and began studying for the priesthood after serving in the U.S. Army and working as a public defender for many years in Scotland and Polk counties in North Carolina.
He studied at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla. Deacon Jackson spent 10 years on active duty, including two with the Green Berets in Vietnam.
He retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, and then received a law degree from Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. While in the Army, he married and had a son and daughter. Deacon Jackson’s marriage was later annulled. He now has two grandchildren.
The son of Methodist missionaries, he converted to Catholicism in 1986. His vocation grew as he learned more about the faith.
Since graduating from seminary in May, he has worked at St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach, which will be his first assignment.
Deacon Jackson said he looks forward to serving in a large, diverse parish that caters to locals and tourists, and has a thriving parish school.
“It just doesn’t get better,” he said. “I tell you I am so excited. Finally, after five years of studying and 65 years of praying, the Lord is calling me to help other people in a very, very special way. Now, other than just being a Eucharistic minister, I’m able to give them Jesus in a very special way, through the Mass. A priest shows his love for the people by giving them Jesus every day.”
Artur Przywara, 29, was born and raised in Mielec, a city in southeastern Poland, where his mother still lives. He lost his father when he was 16, and has one sister, Ilone.
Deacon Przywara said he first felt the call to the priesthood as a child, and decided to pursue his vocation after high school.
He completed three years of seminary study in the Diocese of Tarnow in Poland, and came to the United States in 2004 to study at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lakes, Mich.
He applied for service in the Diocese of Charleston after hearing about it from two fellow Polish seminarians, Fathers Marcin Zahuta and Jeremi Wodecki, who have been ordained.
Deacon Przywara recently spent time at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg, where he will be assigned after ordination.
“I’m very excited and very happy to be able to serve God and the people in beautiful South Carolina,” the deacon said.
All of the faithful are welcome to share in the excitement by attending the ordination. The Cathedral is located at 119 Broad St.