Written by Paul Kopenkoskey
Encountering peace during the Mass, the godly example of parish priests, a hunger for Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. These experiences are among many that nurtured the vocations that culminated with the June 6 ordination of our three newest priests: Fathers Dominic Couturier, Michael Goodwin and Daniel Orris Jr. In the stories that follow, each of them describes what led to them to say “yes” to priesthood and what they most look forward to as they begin their priestly ministry in the Diocese of Grand Rapids.
“As a priest I pray that the Holy Spirit will use me as a conduit of his grace for his people.”
Father Dominic Couturier
Parochial vicar at St. Robert of Newminster Parish, Ada
HOBBIES: Spending time outdoors, mountain biking,downhill skiing, camping, carpentry, hunting and fishing, volunteer work, reading Scripture, and talking about the faith with friends and family.
RECENT READS: The Priest Is Not His Own by Bishop Fulton Sheen, The Power of Silence and The Day is Now Far Spent by Cardinal Robert Sarah, Christus Vincit by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, and Defending Boyhood by Anthony Esolen
FAVORITE SAINT: St. Ignatius of Antioch, because his writings on the Eucharist placed a deep conviction in my soul that the Catholic Church is the one true Church established by Jesus Christ, bringing me back into the Catholic faith.
A passion for the Eucharist
The most poignant, tangible and pivotal moment in my life was when I encountered the Holy Spirit in a supernatural way. This experience at 28 years old planted in me a desire to seek out truth. I began to devour Scripture, early Church writings, the lives of the saints, liturgical traditions and apologetics. But God did not call me to discern the priesthood until I was 33. While on a retreat, a priest straight up told me I needed to go to the seminary to properly discern God’s will in my life. No priest had even asked me to consider that God may be calling me to the holy priesthood. He challenged me to step out into the unknown and to trust God.
I am excited and humbled to celebrate the Eucharist. I have a great passion and deep faith for this sacrament. I am also excited to administer the sacraments of confession and anointing of the sick. But most of all, I desire to bring people back to the Mass and eucharistic devotions such as adoration, processions and Benedictions, and to incorporate more catechesis in homilies about the Mass, along with offering classes, retreats or programs in the parish that can help strengthen the faith. The Church has 2,000 years of robust teachings on the faith. It is a treasure trove of God’s never ending love for us, and the faithful have free access to this wonderful gift, given to us by God.
As a priest, I pray that the Holy Spirit will use me as a conduit of his grace for his people.
“I’ve been really overwhelmed with gratitude for the Christ-like generosity I’ve encountered with the people of God.”
Father Michael Goodwin
Parochial vicar at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, Grand Rapids
HOBBIES: Reading, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, jogging, walking, traveling and watching movies.
RECENT READ: Being a Priest Today by Pope Benedict XVI
FAVORITE SCRIPTURE VERSE: Titus 3:3-7
Helping others encounter Jesus
My journey to the priesthood is a little unique in that I didn’t grow up Catholic. I entered the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil as an adult convert in 2011 at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew.
I grew up in a loving evangelical family that taught me to love Jesus and his word as it has come to us in the Scriptures. I attended a historically Baptist college that placed a strong emphasis on Christian development and community.
After college, I had a desire to serve God as a chaplain in the Army and found a seminary far from my home in New York in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I completed my studies and was weeks away from completing Army chaplain officer school in 2010 when a classmate who was a Catholic seminarian invited me to Mass for the first time. It was a very powerful, profound experience.
To see the second part of the Mass being totally focused on Jesus inviting us to be in communion with his body and blood through the Eucharist was something I had never encountered before. This is Jesus here in the realest of ways, offering that personal relationship with me, to commune with him in a very personal way.
The person who invited me to Mass recommended doing some follow-up discussions with priests. Through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process I started to more deeply reflect on my prayer life. Through prayer and the encouragement of my Catholic friends, I realized that God had been opening my heart to consider the vocation of the Catholic priesthood.
About a year after I entered the Church, I started attending a discernment group with Father Ron Hutchinson to explore what the life of a priest is like. We talked about all aspects of priesthood.
During my pastoral internship, the biggest lesson I learned is to help people understand the faith and draw near to God. I’ve been really overwhelmed with gratitude for the Christ-like generosity I’ve encountered with the people of God. It’s been a good model in my life.
It’s the reason why I want people to encounter Jesus the same way I have been able to recognize him more in my life – through the sacraments, through preaching, through pastoral care and service. What I desire for them is that the life of Christ and the death of Christ would be manifested in all the things I do as a priest.
I have a passion that we as a Catholic community have a renewal in our call to be disciples of Jesus. I feel a lot of the problems we have, not only in our world, but also in our Church, derive from a lack of prayer. I don’t mean not gathering at the liturgy for prayer. Instead, when the avenues of communication break down with God, it results in anxieties, fears, quick tempers, and feeling without direction. Too often we ignore what’s going inside in our hearts. Priests and laypeople need to renew our life of prayer that flows through from the liturgy and in our everyday way of living, which then flows back into the liturgy.
“I hope to be a good and holy priest and spend my life leading other people into a deeper relationship with God.”
Father Daniel Orris Jr.
Parochial vicar at St. Jude Parish, Grand Rapids
FAVORITE HOBBIES: Cooking, studying sacred theology and liturgy.
RECENT READS: Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week by Pope Benedict XVI and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas
FAVORITE SAINT: St. Thomas Aquinas, because of his love for the priesthood and the Eucharist.
Inspired by a pastor’s example
I remember going to Mass at St. Dominic in Wyoming (Michigan) when I was 3 or 4, listening to Father Charles Dautremont and feeling a sense of peace and belonging, knowing this was a good place to be. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I realize now it was an invitation to the priesthood. I give credit to my pastor, Father Dautremont, because of the way he lived his life. He was a teacher. He knew Jesus and theology really well, and he used his homilies to teach as well as preach. The way he lived his life was very inspiring to me. He mentored me quite a bit when I went into seminary.
When I was 11, I started serving Mass. I loved to learn more about it, to keep discovering. In college, I was studying theater and was convinced that I was going become an actor on stage. I had written off the priesthood.
But then the call to the priesthood came back. I decided after my senior year in college that I would apply to the seminary. I was accepted in the fall of 2014.
One of the biggest things I learned during my pastoral internship at Our Lady of Consolation Parish in Rockford under Father Tony Russo was how important prayer is in what I do. He taught me the importance of praying and talking to God and relating back to the Father what is happening in your life so you’re able to deal with what is coming as a pastor. He showed me how to keep your people in prayer as a priest and help them with their own connection to God.
I look forward to being able to celebrate the Mass and celebrate the Eucharist. The simple rhythm of the liturgy is very attractive to me. I hope to be a good and holy priest and spend my life leading other people into a deeper relationship with God.
We have to preach and teach who Jesus is and inspire parishioners to remember that relationship with Jesus. We live in a culture where everything is expendable. Where do the Creator and Jesus fit into all that? We have to invite people back to Sunday Mass and show them the significance of receiving the Eucharist every week.
Photography by Eric Tank