Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) – Four men are in the final stages of formation and preparation before they become priests of the Diocese of Lincoln.
Bishop James D. Conley will ordain Christopher Eckrich, Nathan Hall, James Morin and Evan Winter at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 28.
Deacon Christopher Eckrich is the son of Gary and Mary Eckrich of St. Peter Parish in Lincoln. He has one younger sister.
After graduating from Pius X High School in 2008, Deacon Eckrich enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) to study international business and Spanish. However, during his first year, he began to seriously consider a priestly vocation.
“I attribute a lot of my vocation to my late maternal grandmother’s prayers for a vocation within the family,” he said. “It was a mix of the Catholic culture that I grew up in, both in my family and school environment, which disposed me to being open to the call.”
As he entered formation, the Lord blessed Deacon Eckrich with, “a deep abiding sense of peace and joy at the prospect of embracing this vocation.”
He reasoned, “If we follow where God leads us, then we will find peace. He desires what’s best for us, so our hearts will find their rest if we allow ourselves to be open to His design for our lives.”
Deacon Eckrich said he is looking forward to being able to celebrate the sacraments with the people of the Church.
“Remember to pray for us!” he added. “Have patience as we learn the ropes of the priesthood.”
Nathan Hall grew up outside of Morse Bluff with five sisters and one brother. They and their parents, Cecilia and Jerry Hall, attended Sacred Heart parish in Cedar Hill.
“Our parish was very small, so my cousin and I were the only servers every Sunday,” Deacon Hall recalled. “Father Bernard Kimminau would ask us, ‘Now which one of you is going to be a priest?’ We’d just point to each other.”
Deacon Hall graduated from North Bend Central High School and then earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He got a job as a structural bridge engineer and played in a rock band on the weekends. But he felt something wasn’t quite right.
“I essentially ‘had it all,’ but was still restless,” Deacon Hall said. “God slowly but clearly showed me the relationship with Him that I was made for, and it is the priesthood.”
One of his biggest influences was Father Leo Kosch, whom Deacon Hall said, “simply invited me through his life as a holy, healthy, and happy priest.”
Now he wants to share with others what he has received.
“I received so much healing from God that I truly want to reciprocate,” he said. “I desire to bring the peace and hope of the Gospel to the restless, lost and hurting.”
Deacon James Morin is the son of Peter and Lori Morin and the late Mary Morin of St. Teresa Parish in Lincoln. He has five sisters.
A graduate of Pius X High School, Deacon Morin attended Washington University in St. Louis before entering the seminary.
“My vocation story is pretty simple,” he said. “I wanted to be a priest when I was young, and the desire persisted…. Looking back, I can see that God placed certain events in my path in order for that desire to mature.”
He noted several priests who had a strong influence on him: his uncle, Father Michael Morin, and his pastor, Msgr. Joseph Nemec were particularly inspiring. Deacon Morin is also grateful for the examples of several priests who were assistants at his parish and teachers at Pius X High School, including Father Jay Buhman, Father Joseph Faulkner and Father Sean Kilcawley.
He said, “I’m grateful for all the prayers and support over the past years… I hope to return some of that generosity by living my life as a faithful priest.”
While Deacon Morin will be ordained with the others, he still has a year of studies before him. He will be completing an advanced degree in Patristic Theology in Rome.
Deacon Evan Winter is the oldest of Blake and Cheryl Winter’s seven children. He has three brothers and three sisters, and the family attends St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln.
As a youth, Deacon Winter would head out to St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward once a month for a high school Schoenstatt group led by one of the seminarians. That’s when he first started to think he might have a priestly vocation.
After completing homeschool, Deacon Winter attended UNL for a year, studying music.
“When that desire [to become a priest] didn’t go away after a year of music school, I decided that it must be the right thing for me,” he said.
The fruit of his years of study and formation are now coming to an end. Deacon Winter says that he is looking forward to, “celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, and getting people to meet Jesus.”
The Mass of Ordination will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 28 at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln. All are welcome to attend.
Bishop Conley will also ordain five men transitional deacons Friday, May 27 at 7 p.m. in the Cathedral.