Diocese welcomes four priests, eight transitional deacons;
Four men prepare to serve home diocese in Sri Lanka
Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) — The Diocese of Lincoln will gain four new priests May 24. Bishop James D. Conley will ordain Eric Clark, Caleb LaRue, Benjamin Rynearson and Michael Ventre at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ, 3500 Sheridan Blvd., Lincoln.
Two other men sponsored by the Diocese of Lincoln have also been preparing to be ordained for the Archdiocese of Columbo, Sri Lanka.
Deacon Eric Clark
Raised at St. Patrick Parish in McCool Junction, Eric Clark is the son of Allen and Shelly Clark. He has two sisters and two brothers.
After graduating from McCool Junction High School in 1999, Deacon Clark earned a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). He then served as a FOCUS missionary at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
“Father Jim Cheney invited me to consider the priestly life,” Deacon Clark recalled. “I realized that God was calling me to be His priest and to give my life for His people.”
He feels tremendously drawn toward being an instrument of God’s mercy.
“I look forward to working as a shepherd for God’s flock,” he said. “I would just like to thank God for this wonderful calling!”
Deacon Caleb LaRue
The LaRue family—including parents Jacob and Marlene, their one daughter and three sons—lived in Lincoln, then Napoleon, N.D., San Antonio and Omaha as Caleb LaRue was growing up.
“I consider Lincoln my hometown and the Newman Center my home parish,” he said, “as it was there that I really came to know and love Catholicism.”
Deacon LaRue first thought about the priesthood in middle school, but set that aside as he graduated from Millard West and enrolled in UNL to study history and education.
“Father Jay Buhman was instrumental in my entering the seminary,” he said.
Deacon LaRue is excited about being ordained, “to be out serving the people of God, to bring the sacraments to them, and to do what I can to help them know God’s love and mercy.”
Deacon Benjamin Rynearson
Born in Auburn and baptized at St. Joseph Parish, Benjamin Rynearson and his parents and younger sister moved into Lincoln’s St. John the Apostle Parish when he was young.
The Pius X High School graduate attended UNL for three years, intending to become a secondary language arts teacher.
“It took a lot of prayer and a lot of listening on my part to discover God’s plan for me,” Deacon Rynearson revealed. “I pray that I may daily strive to live up to this calling I have received.”
He said the thing he looks forward to most following ordination is being among the people of God in southern Nebraska.
“We have such amazing people who not only care for one another but are truly interested in having and developing a continual relationship with God,” he said.
Deacon Michael Ventre
Ohio-bred Michael Ventre’s home parish is St. Antoninus in Cincinnati. His parents are Joseph Ventre and Patricia Feucht, and he has four sisters and two brothers between both sides of his family.
In 2002, Deacon Ventre graduated from St. Maximillian Kolbe High School, which was run by Franciscan priests who had connections with the Diocese of Lincoln.
“They were faithful, young, energetic, and good men just living a life given to Jesus Christ,” he remembered. “I thought, ‘I could do that.’”
He enrolled in St. Gregory the Great Seminary in 2003, and he is looking forward to serving the people of southern Nebraska.
“I am not a native son, but in the past 10 years I have been loved and supported by the people of this diocese and found a home,” he said.
Two Sri Lankan men have been studying for the priesthood with their counterparts from the Diocese of Lincoln. They are returning to their homeland on May 26 and will be ordained for the Archdiocese of Columbo in May 2015.
Deacon Eranga de Silva
The son of Lakshman and Asuntha de Silva, Erange de Silva is from St. James Parish in Mutwal. He has an older sister.
“As a child, as a youth, and now as a deacon… I hear His calling,” the deacon said. “All that I do is saying, ‘Yes’ to His call!”
He and the other “Sri-Lincolns,” as they are affectionately termed, are in the U.S. because of the friendship between Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Columbo and Emeritus Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln.
Deacon de Silva said, “It was a great privilege to be formed under two great bishops: Bishop Bruskewitz and Bishop Conley.”
He added, “The friendship and the brotherhood I built with the seminarians, priests, and many families of this great diocese truly enriched my ministry as a deacon and, God-willing, a priest.”
Deacon Asitha Hettiarachchi
Asitha Hettiarachchi grew up in St. Joseph Parish in Pamunugam. His father is Hettiarachchige Don Peter Benedict, and his mother is Jayamanne Mohotttige Dona Ann Thilakangani Suwarna Latha. He has two younger sisters, one deceased.
Deacon Hettiarachchi said, “I always wanted to be a priest.”
“The Diocese of Lincoln had a very important role in my priestly formation,” Deacon Hettiarachchi said. “I have really broadened my horizon.”
He continued, “I am deeply thankful to the Lord for the years he has taken in forming me to be a priest after his own heart,” he said.
As he returns home, Deacon Hettiarachchi is focused on the needs of the Church.
“I think the modern evangelization will be a new thing that will bring a revival in the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka,” he said.
The Mass of Ordination will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 24 at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln. All are welcome.
Editor's Note: Please also see, "Ten men to be ordained deacons."