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Five to be ordained


With great thanksgiving to God, the Most Reverend Steven J. Raica, Bishop of Gaylord, will ordain five men  on Saturday, June 18, at 11:00 a.m. with a reception to follow at St. Mary, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Gaylord. Archbishop Paul Russell, a native of Alpena, Mi., who was recently named Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan, as well as over 60 priests and deacons and hundreds of family members, parishioners and friends from throughout the diocese will also be present.  Everyone invited to celebrate this joyous occasion. Solemn Vespers will also take place at the Cathedral, preceding the ordination on Friday, June 17, at 6:00 p.m.

Deacon Christopher Jarvis, Deacon Al Pillarelli, and Deacon Benjamin Rexroat will be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Gaylord. Nick Cooper and Bradley Nursey will be ordained to the transitional diaconate for the diocese.

Deacon Christopher Jarvis was born and raised in Ludington, and is the youngest son of Donald and Phyllis Jarvis’s four children. After high school, his family relocated to Traverse City, where he enrolled at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City before graduating from Spring Arbor University with a Bachelor of Arts in Business. Following college, Jarvis went into business with his brother and worked as a partner and carpenter at Jarvis Custom Homes.  

It was during his post-college exploration that Jarvis began seriously discerning the priesthood. As he continued to pray, spending a great deal of time before the Blessed Sacrament, he eventually discussed his vocation with a priest and entered the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception. He enrolled in theology studies at the Franciscan University of Steubenville before begin accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Gaylord and transferring to the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. Shortly after, he was selected by then-Bishop Bernard Hebda to continue his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Jarvis has said that he aims to imitate Christ, as the Church needs more holy examples. His home parish is Holy Rosary in Cedar. Several of his family members and friends from the diocese traveled to Rome this past October to witness Jarvis’s Ordination to the Diaconate at St. Peter’s Basilica. He has recently finished his Master of Divinity and looks forward to returning to the Diocese of Gaylord after four years of study in Rome.

Of his ordination, Deacon Jarvis says, “I am honored to be called to serve the Diocese of Gaylord… this vocation is an unmerited gift from our Lord and I am humbled and overwhelmed at the generosity of the people of our diocese, and look forward to serving.”

Deacon Al Pillarelli has taken a unique path to the priesthood. A 1965 graduate of Monroe High School, Pillarelli is also a widower, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. His late wife, Carol, passed away in 2012 after a long battle with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. During their 45 year marriage, the Pillarellis were blessed with one daughter and several grandchildren.

Employed as a marketing and sales liaison manager for 35 years for Hewlett-Packard, Pillarelli  was also active in his church and had a thirst for knowledge and to grow in his faith. He has served as a Eucharistic and Homebound Minister for over 20 years as well as a lector, youth group adviser and bereavement minister. In 2006, Pillarelli was commissioned as an assistant chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, New Hampshire, before relocating in 2011 to the West Branch area, where  he served as a hospice chaplain.

Prior to entering the Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, in the fall of 2013, Pillarelli earned his Bachelor’s degree in technical management from Southern New Hampshire University, and completed several courses in theology at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and through the University of Notre Dame’s Satellite Theological Education Program.

Pillarelli’s home parish is Holy Family in Klacking Creek (West Branch) though most recently, he has been gaining experience while serving the communities of Holy Family in East Tawas and Sacred Heart in Oscoda.  As he approaches his ordination, Pillarelli has expressed his deep desire to serve Christ’s people in northern Michigan and has said, “I am truly humbled and pray that God gives me the grace to please him in service of his Church.”

Deacon Benjamin Rexroat is the eldest of Douglas and Jozell Rexroat’s five children and a third generation graduate of St. Mary School in Lake Leelanau, where he was the valedictorian of his class.

Growing up with many siblings and cousins near his family’s 65-acre cherry orchard, Rexroat was involved in the Leelanau Youth Advisory Council and the National Honor Society, and played basketball, baseball, and soccer. After high school, he attended the University of Detroit Mercy on a full scholarship and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in electrical engineering. He was employed as a software engineer at GE Aviation (formerly Smith Aerospace) in Grand Rapids following his graduation in 2004 until the fall of 2010, when he entered seminary.

While living in Grand Rapids, Rexroat was deeply involved in a Catholic young adult group called Veritas, as well as ministries such as Theology on Tap and Catholics Connect. These experiences, along with the encouragement of his godmother, prompted him to seriously consider the priesthood.

Following his ordination to the transitional diaconate last June, Rexroat served for the summer at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Petoskey before returning to the Pontifical College Josephinum to complete his Master of Divinity.

All three men will receive their first priestly assignment from Bishop Raica following their ordination.

Taking their next steps to one day, God willing, being ordained to the priesthood are Nick Cooper and Brad Nursey who will be ordained deacons on Saturday.

Raised on his family’s farm in Elk Rapids, Nick Cooper is the third of James and Mary Cooper’s four sons. Growing up, he was involved in parish and community service projects and was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout from the Boy Scouts of America.

Nick is a graduate of Elk Rapids High School, Aquinas College, and the University of Notre Dame, where he received a Master’s Degree in Sacred Music. He has served as the Director of Sacred Music at his home parish of Sacred Heart in Elk Rapids and used his experience and gifts to plan, direct, and perform at three performances Lessons and Carols, a fundraiser held for the Diocese of Gaylord’s World Youth Day Scholarship Fund this past December.

He credits his experiences at several international World Youth Day pilgrimages, as well as spending time with the Lord during adoration, as helping him to discern a call to the priesthood. Nick attended l World Youth Days in Rome, Toronto, and Rio de Janeiro. He will also make the pilgrimage  next month with Bishop Raica and the Diocese of Gaylord’s group for World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.

During his summers away from seminary, Nick has served at the parishes of Cross in the Woods in Indian River, St. Ignatius in Rogers City, and is currently serving at St. Francis Xavier in Petoskey.

Brad Nursey was born in Florida and raised in Georgia and South Carolina, the second of William and the late Mary Nursey’s four children. Growing up, he would “play church” and pretend he was a priest. In school, he participated in baseball and served his parish as an altar server. As an adult, he has served as a lector, faith formation teacher, teen group leader, sacristan, and has taught religious education classes at a prison.

Brad says that his father, whom he considers to be one of his best friends, has always encouraged him to consider the priesthood, but that he began to seriously consider it after a month-long personal retreat with Trappist Monks shortly after his mother’s death.

A graduate of the University of Georgia, Brad taught English in Japan, worked as a videographer and video editor, and served as a fifth grade teacher at an Indian Mission School in New Mexico. Originally, he came to the Diocese of Gaylord with the plan of studying at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City but quickly realized that God had other plans for him.

Brad entered the seminary at the Pontifical College Josephinum in the fall of 2011, and is set to graduate with his Master of Divinity next spring.

“It is my great hope that I may serve God and the people of the Diocese of Gaylord well,” he said in anticipation of his ordination, while also asking the faithful for their prayers.

For those unable to travel to Gaylord for the ordination, it will be broadcast live on  the Baraga Radio Network. Log on to to listen online  or to find where to tune in locally on your radio.  Vespers and the Ordination are both planned to be video streamed through BeBloomin. The Diocese of Gaylord is one of the partners in this pilot project with the Otsego County Commission on Aging  and BeBloomin in an effort to make access to community resources and programs more accessible to the homebound.  Simply log on to, click the “register” button to sign up.  Be sure to use the authorization code “OCCOA”

This fall the Diocese of Gaylord expects to have nine  seminarians preparing for priesthood under the direction of Director of Vocations, Rev. Matthew Wigton. Men and women who are considering a call to religious life may click the “Vocations,” link above or contact the Office of Vocations at 989.732.5147.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaylord encompasses the encompasses the entire 21-most northern counties of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.  Within its boundaries are 77 Catholic parishes and 18 Catholic schools, as well as  several related organizations and institutions.

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