Four answer call to diocesan priesthood

Categories: Around the Diocese

On June 21 the St. Cloud Diocese will welcome four new priests.

The priestly ordination Mass for Transitional Deacons Mitchell Bechtold, Timothy Gapinski, Aaron Nett and Jeremy Theis will be 10:30 a.m. June 21 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud.

The future priests are all in their 20s and 30s, hail from the diocese and come with some career experience. Two of them, Deacons Theis and Gapinski, have served in the military.

Each brings his own enthusiasm, dedication, personality and experience. They look forward to serving people.

June 6, 2014, edition
By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully


Deacon Mitchell Bechtold

12abechtoldDeacon Mitchell Bechtold, 28, credits his home parish pastor, Father Leon Slominski, for inspiring him to pursue the priesthood.

“With confidence he led and served the community of St. Wendelin for many years, and to me, being a young kid at the time, he seemed strong, steadfast and faithful,” Deacon Bechtold said. “His preaching became an occasion for the truth of the Gospel to take root in my heart, for a love of the Catholic Church and an understanding of her teachings to be formed and develop.”

Deacon Bechtold, a native of St. Wendelin Parish in Luxemburg, said Father Slominski’s example of spiritual fatherhood complemented his dad’s example of biological fatherhood.

A year of ministry at Camp Gray Catholic Youth Camp in Reedsburg, Wis., between his first and second years at St. Cloud State University, further nourished his vocation, and the life of St. Francis of Assisi motivated him to say “yes” to continue to pursue the priesthood. Deacon Bechtold said his family and the community of St. Wendelin’s supported him along the way.

He especially looks forward to administering the sacraments. He hopes to be a priest who is “present.” He hopes to be present before God, in prayer, before the people and in service.

He anticipates the life of a priest being one of joy.

“What a joy to think of the people I have met and will meet, the things I have learned and will learn,” he said. “And all this because of this vocation in which God has granted me a sharing.”

Deacon Bechtold’s parents are George and Marshia. He has four siblings and seven nieces and nephews.

He enjoys outdoor activities, including gardening, tapping maple trees and making syrup, hiking, hunting, picking apples and berries, camping, canoeing and kayaking. He also likes to cook, bake and sing.

His favorite Bible verse is 1 Corinthians 12:7-9 — “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit.”

He also likes Psalm 121 — “I lift my eyes up to the mountains. From whence shall come my help? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth ….”

Deacon Timothy Gapinski

12agapinskiDeacon Timothy Gapinski, 34, hopes to be a priest who is approachable.

“The type of priest with whom others can feel comfortable sharing their joys and sorrows and who will be able to offer care and support,” said Deacon Gapinski, a native of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Gilman.

Deacon Gapinski was inspired to pursue the priesthood after praying to God about what path he should walk. The idea of priesthood entered his mind. He knew it was not his own idea but God’s. Once he entered the seminary, he was confident of the call and was further supported by his family and home parish.

He anticipates the priesthood will be walking with the people of God through the highs and lows of life and all the points in between, helping them to see the presence of God in their midst and pointing them to follow where he leads.

He looks forward to getting to know and love God’s people, traveling with them on their journey of life and helping them draw closer to God.

“Bringing souls to Christ through baptism and helping those who have fallen return to God through reconciliation are causes for great joy,” he said.

Before the seminary, Deacon Gapinski was an infantryman in the U.S. Army for five and a half years. For most of his tour he was stationed in Fort Wainwright, Alaska. He completed one 16-month deployment to Iraq.

His parents are Tom and Jo Ann and his siblings are Marie (Keith), Karen (Ryan), Ted, Daniel, Nicole and Anne. He has six nieces and nephews.

Deacon Gapinski enjoys working outdoors in the garden or cutting, splitting and stacking wood. He also likes to read and play hockey and racquetball.

His favorite Bible verse is Colossians 3:1-2 — “Since you have been raised up in company with Christ, set your heart on what pertains to higher realms where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. Be intent on things above rather than on things of earth.”

Deacon Aaron Nett

12anettDeacon Aaron Nett, 37, anticipates the priesthood will be filled with “many amazing encounters with Christ in administering the sacraments, in visiting the sick and elderly and at Mass with the faithful each day.”

“Each era of priests has different challenges so there will no doubt be heavy crosses to carry,” he said. “In Christ is all my strength and my hope.”

Deacon Nett, whose home parish is Seven Dolors Parish in Albany, looks forward to being with the people of God and leading them in the journey. He plans to learn from many fellow priests already serving in parishes.

“I also look forward to seeing what great work God can and will do with the open hearts of his people and how the Holy Spirit can completely transform lives and difficult situations,” he said.

Deacon Nett was inspired to pursue the priesthood by his “good rosary-praying grandmother, Catherine Nett,” and Father Jim Reichert who was a family friend. A number of other priests and lay people, including his parents, further encouraged him along the way.

He hopes to be a priest who, as St. John Paul II said, “is a man for others.” Deacon Nett would like to strive to model the Lord each day and let the Lord work through him.

“I hope to be a priest with a good prayer life, a man of peace, and one who ‘lays down his life for his friends’ in sacrifice like the founder of our faith did,” he said. “Finally, I hope to be a holy priest who is zealous to win souls over to the love of Christ and eternity in heaven.”

Deacon Nett is the son of the Beverly and the late Edwin. His siblings are Chris (Samantha), Ted (Karla), Sarah (Steve) and Ryan (Sally). He has 11 nieces and nephews.

Before the seminary, he was a teacher and a coach. He enjoys sports, including baseball, basketball, racquetball and fishing. He also likes to read and play cards.

Deacon Nett’s favorite Bible verses are John 15:9 — “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love,” and John 15:13 — “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Deacon Jeremy Theis

12atheisSometimes support comes from places you least expect it.

A school nurse, who is a Baptist, influenced Deacon Jeremy Theis in pursuing vocation to the priesthood. He also found special encouragement from his grandmother.

Deacon Theis anticipates the priesthood will be full of joys and challenges. He hopes to be a priest who is holy, strong and approachable. He especially looks forward to reaching out to others.

“I’m looking forward to helping people along the path to conversion of heart and to live out their baptismal promises,” he said.

Deacon Theis, 38, is from S.S. Peter and Paul Parish in Richmond. Before joining the seminary, he served in the army in the infantry and later as a combat engineer. He also worked as a teacher and dean of students.

His parents are Deacon Jerry and Renee and his siblings are Greg (Andrea), Laurie (Jeff), Chris (Jenny), Dan (Beth), Sarah (Russ) and Andy (Cleo). He has 13 nieces and nephews.

He enjoys shooting sports. His favorite Bible passage is Luke 15: 11-32 — the story of the prodigal son.