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Our Seminarians

The men pictured below are currently preparing for priestly ministry in the Diocese of Gaylord. Diocesan priests commit their lives to serving the people of a specific diocese and generally work in parishes, schools, or other ministries as assigned by the bishop of the diocese.

Preparation for the priesthood typically requires eight years of education beyond high school, usually including a college degree followed by four or more years of theology study at a seminary.

We encourage you to pray regularly for these men and that others will also discern their call to the priesthood.

Deacon Benjamin Martin

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Recently ordained to the diaconate, Ben Martin began his journey to priesthood differently than many of our seminarians.  Though he had begun to explore the Catholic faith in high school, he officially enrolled in the RCIA program and was received into the Catholic Church during his first year of college.  Deacon Ben enjoys studying the Scriptures in the original languages and learning languages like Hebrew and Aramaic. Through his walk he has also had the great good fortune to learn alongside many of various faith backgrounds.  One such influence was a young Orthodox Jewish rabbi.  From him Deacon Ben said he “learned to see the study of the sacred texts not as an academic exercise, but as a spiritual practice leading to ‘devekus’ – attachment to God.”  He added, “Years of reciting the Psalms in the Breviary have taught me to think with both an ancient and a modern mind, that is to see and interpret the world around me in the spiritual context of a faith stretching back for millennia with an eye towards what we pass on to those who will come after us.”

Deacon Ben taught religious education at St. Mary Cathedral School in Gaylord before being accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Gaylord and enrolling at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake. St. Mary Cathedral is his home parish in the diocese.

Deacon Ben is known to be an avid outdoorsman.  He spent hours in the woods identifying flora and fauna in his youth, as well as rock climbing and orienteering.

He was ordained to the transitional diaconate on June 29 by Bishop Steven J. Raica at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord. Deacon Ben has been appointed to the faculty of St. Francis High School in Traverse City and is currently assisting at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Traverse City.

Deacon Benjamin is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood on February 20 of 2020. Please keep him in your prayers.

Alex Kowalkowski

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Alex’s journey to ordination began in July of 2013, after his first year of college at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids. He had returned home to work his summer job as so many college students do.  He found the quiet of his car on the commute more attractive than his usual “play list” and then found a CD of the rosary. “Between the silence and Our Lady, it wasn’t long after that I considered more seriously a vocation to the priesthood,” he said. “In the end, I found that God was inviting me to this vocation through the subtlety of silence rather than something like a lightning strike.”

As Alex has traveled through his faith journey, he has found things he didn’t expect -- such as the “gift of friendship,” both with “God and my brother seminarians.” Alex attributes “a large part of who I am to the friendships I have experienced in seminary.”

When asked for a fun fact about himself, Alex responded, “My favorite dessert is golden vanilla ice-cream with several scoops of peanut butter.”

Alex was ordained to the transitional diaconate this October in Rome. His home parish is Divine Mercy in Manistee.

With God's help Alex will be ordained to the holy priesthood in June of 2020.

Michael Lingaur

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Your faith journey doesn’t always look like you thought it would. Michael Lingaur, a self-professed “cradle Catholic,” knows this first hand.  Michael had always thought he would marry and have a large Catholic family of his own, but now finds himself striving toward being “Father” for an even larger family.

Michael’s vocation trajectory changed the year his grandparents went to their eternal rest.  “I was blessed to be able to witness how a priest is invited into the family at the very sacred moment that occurs during the passing of a loved one… Once I started to seriously consider the priesthood, most of God’s plan for my life was revealed.”  Michael was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Gaylord in July of 2015 and is studying at Mundelein Seminary.

When asked about surprises on his journey through seminary, he indicated “It was a great relief to discover that most of the guys at the seminary are just normal men who have been called by God to an extraordinary vocation.”

In a unique twist, Michael and Father Ben Rexroat (who was recently appointed diocesan Director of Vocations) played on the same varsity baseball team for a year at St. Mary Lake Leelanau School.  In that year Michael earned the distinction of achieving second place for a state record -- that of being “hit by a pitch” most often in a single season.

Michael’s home parish is St. Mary in Lake Leelanau.

Michael Gorman

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Upon graduation from high school, Michael attended Aquinas College in Grand Rapids and began working on a degree in theology.  He was also continuing his career as a runner with the Aquinas cross country and track teams.  It was through an alumni and current member event that he “stumbled on the friendly priest face of Father Tyler Bischoff.”  Michael stated, “Fr. Tyler's courageous Catholicism inspires not only me but other young men to live and love for God.”  Michael believes that “the Church should be for the secular world: A beacon of faith, hope, truth, and love to the world that is yearning to feel cared for. It all starts with God but it is the priest whom should lead this charge and inspire the laity to pick up their rosaries and fight the good fight and live the good life.”

Michael was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Gaylord and enrolled at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Cincinnati in July of 2017. In seminary, Michael has come to understand better what it means to be a beloved child of God.  “Knowing better that God loves me the way he created me has abled me to be unapologetically myself. In this way, I recognize my talents and shortcomings in a more pronounced way, which in turn allows me to be thankful for these blessings as well be more willing to hand life’s trials and joys over to God,” he said.

When talking with Michael don’t be distracted by his multicolored eyes!

Michael’s home parish is Holy Childhood in Harbor Springs.

Nicholas Hemker

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Nicholas Hemker is a busy young man.  When not in seminary he has been known to hold down up to three jobs, including his own lawn care business.  At the same time, he has been listening for God and discerning his calling to the priesthood.  He reflects that one of the most impactful experiences he has had on the road to seminary was attending a “live-in” weekend at the Pontifical College Josephinum where he came to experience the Liturgy of the Hours.  Knowing that these same prayers are said by “every Catholic priest, deacon, and ordained person in the world … on the same days [as I do] is truly incredible,” he said.

Now, having completed his third year in the college program, Nicholas feels he has come to know more about himself and his calling to be a better man.  Having grown up in household with four sisters, he appreciates the brotherly fraternity of the seminarians at the Josephinum and has found those friendships to be extremely valuable in his seminarian journey. His father, Brent Hemker, is a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Gaylord.

When not in class, Nicholas is often surrounded by maize and blue as he is a huge U of M sports fan. Nicholas’ home parish is St. Pius X in Hale.

Colin Wright

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For Colin Wright “Entering seminary was the easiest decision I have ever made; I had been preparing to make it for most of my life.”  Colin admits that his journey in seminary has had pitfalls like, “the homesickness, the doubt, the strenuous academics, the demanding schedule, and everything else that goes into the formation process,” but that it has been rewarding and enabled him to “[become] more open to the people around me by recognizing Christ in them.”  He admits to “not [being] the same person that entered seminary three years ago, and that is a good thing.  It means formation is working.” 

Colin was accepted to seminary in July of 2016 at the Josephinum and has just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy.

Colin credits Father Gerard Hunko for showing him that priests are human and enjoy being in a family atmosphere and Father Polycarp Mblarawa from the Diocese of Maiduguri for “putting [me] in [my] place and then inspiring [me] to do better.”  Just ask Colin about how his running and Father Polycarp’s compare.

Colin is an avid SCUBA Diver which has enabled him to experience a “world that is hiding in plain sight.”  He is also a very talented magician.

His home parish is All Saints in Alpena.

Connor Wright

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Connor Wright began his seminary journey with a question.  He, like so many young people, was at a point of questioning his faith journey.  Throughout that time in his life the one question that persisted was: “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” He describes it as “an itch of restlessness that could not be satisfied.”  Though he tried to calm this restlessness through pushing his academics (he was studying mechanical engineering), he found the answer “when I was sitting in the very back of a church during Adoration -- one of the few times my mom convinced me to go.”  Now as a seminarian he “continue(s) to unpack God’s call.”

A fervent academic, Connor also enjoys the drop-in soccer group that meets several times a week on the Josephinum campus.  He has found this sport a great way to meet other seminarians and priests. 

When not studying or playing on the soccer field you may find Conner honing his new found love of drawing.

Conner began his studies at the Josephinum in the fall of 2017.

In case you noticed the likeness, Connor and Colin Wright are indeed twins.

James Schultz

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James Shultz is a native of Alpena and a member of Alpena’s All Saints parish.  Having been educated at All Saints Catholic school, James understands that “it takes more than a house to make a home.”  He hopes to bring the example his parents set in resilience and love to his calling of discernment.  Through silent meditation and prayer he has come to the conclusion that “the Church is, and always should be, a place where even the most broken, twisted souls can be saved from spiritual death as long as they are willing to put forth the effort to genuinely try with what they have left and reconcile their relationship with God.”

Christopher "Jake" Belanger

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Jake Belanger is the eldest of six children in his family, there being five boys and one girl.  His parents raised all of the children in a catholic home and always encouraged them in their faith through prayer, specifically the rosary, holy hours and daily Mass. 

Jake attended school at St. Mary Catholic School in Lake Leelanau through the 2nd grade. He was homeschooled from third grade through high school.  During this period from third grade to graduation he played sports through his parish church and learned how to serve the Mass. 

After graduation from high school Jake studied and taught English for two years in France at a boarding school. It was during last Christmas of 2018 that he made the choice to discontinue his education in France and return home and apply for seminary.

His vocation came through the influence of the many priests in his life that cultivated his vocation and helped and encouraged Jake to be where he is today.

Jake is currently in his first year of seminary at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.