What do two alumni from St. Francis High School in Athol Springs and an alumnus of Cardinal O’Hara High School, Tonawanda, have in common besides being graduates of Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Buffalo? All three men are studying to be priests and will be ordained transitional deacons on Friday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. at their school, Christ the King Seminary, 711 Knox Road., East Aurora, in the St. John Vianney Chapel. In addition, the men are probably the last seminarians to be ordained by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec as bishop of Buffalo.
The candidates for ordination are Seán Paul Fleming, Andrew R. Lauricella and Jeffrey L. Nowak.
Fleming, who grew up in Eden, is the only child of William A. and Sheila O. Fleming. Following his graduation from St. Francis High School, he went on to study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., where he earned a bachelor of science degree in computer science and a minor in information technology.
"I thought about becoming a Conventual Franciscan after high school," he said, "but my parents asked me to reconsider since I was still pretty young. They told me I should go to college, major in something that interested me and work for a couple of years."
Fleming did just that and, as his parents promised, "If I still felt called to the priesthood, they would support me." And, they did.
Despite the reaction from fellow co-workers about his switch in vocation, Fleming admitted, "I don’t find the skills I developed in the computer engineering field all that different from those I’m developing to become a priest. I am forever drawing parallels between the two."
In the secular world, Fleming worked for J. M. Canty Inc., in Pendleton and J. M. Canty Ltd., in Dublin, Ireland, as a manager of information technology. Since entering the seminary, he has worked in several parishes for his ministerial assignments including Blessed Sacrament, Tonawanda; St Mary of Lourdes, Bemus Point and Mayville; Christ Our Hope, French Creek and Sherman; Our Lady of the Snows, Panama; St. Christopher, Tonawanda; St. Joseph University, Buffalo; and Nativity of Our Lord, Orchard Park. He also was assigned to the Franciscan Center in South Buffalo and Sisters of Charity Hospital, Buffalo.
Looking forward to the next chapter in his life, Fleming said, "I have really fallen in love with my ministry. My ministry and my relationship with God motivate me, especially on the tough days, and I’m thankful for both."
The son of Ralph and Marian Lauricella, who have three other children, is a graduate of Cardinal O’Hara High School and D’Youville College, Buffalo, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. Like Fleming, Lauricella considered the priesthood in high school.
Father Leon Biernat, the chaplain at Lauricella’s high school as well as director of vocations for the Diocese of Buffalo at the time, had a profound effect on the young student.
"When I was a senior in high school," Lauricella explained, "I was considering the possibility of entering the seminary, but was really wrestling with the decision to do so. With Father Leon’s help, I decided to do so and have felt a deeper sense of fulfillment ever since."
Lauricella summed up his course by stating that he has, "come to realize that the whole journey was not my own idea, but God’s, and that true happiness comes from following God wherever He might lead."
The road to the priesthood for Lauricella, who entered the seminary after high school, has included assignments at Immaculate Conception Parish, Wellsville; Fourteen Holy Helpers, West Seneca; and St. Andrew, Kenmore, as well as Cephas Prison Ministries, Buffalo; Mercy Skilled Nursing Facility at Our Lady of Victory, Lackawanna; and Vive La Casa Refugee Shelter, Buffalo.
The other alumnus of St. Francis High School, Nowak, grew up in Lackawanna and furthered his education at Canisius College where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in secondary education and Spanish. In 2008, he received a master’s degree in pastoral ministry from Christ the King Seminary. He also studied at La Universidad San Nicolas de Hidalgo, Morelia, Michoacán Mexico, and the University of Notre Dame where he was enrolled in the Frank J. Lewis Institute for Campus Ministry.
Nowak was employed at several Catholic schools and parishes where he worked as either a Spanish teacher, religion teacher, campus minister, organist or choir director. He also was a campus minister at Buffalo State College’s Newman Center.
As a seminarian, Nowak’s ministerial assignments have been at a variety of Catholic institutions including Our Lady of Peace Parish, Clarence; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Dunkirk; Holy Family Parish, Albion; and St. Martin de Porres, Holy Cross and Blessed Sacrament parishes, all in Buffalo. He also worked at Wende Correctional Facility Regional Medical Unit, Alden; Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo; Kenmore Mercy Hospital and for the Network of Religious Communities in Buffalo.
One of two children of Joseph and Joanne Nowak, the soon-to-be deacon attributes his initial nurturing of his vocation to Sister Teresa Kolic, VZ, who told his grandparents one day in church that he would be serving at that Mass. This surprised his grandparents since he was only 5-years-old, but Sister Teresa assured his grandparents that he would "know what to do."
Mary, the mother of God, has also played an integral role in Nowak’s life. "I truly believe Mary has interceded for me throughout this journey and my devotion to the Blessed Mother still plays a huge part in my own spiritual life."
Admitting that it has not always been easy, Nowak said he has enjoyed his path toward religious life. "I’ve come to appreciate that from the time I entered the seminary until now," he said, "the journey towards ordination has had many joys, a few sorrows, yet no regrets. I am most happy doing what I am doing. I thank God for the wonderful gift and call He has given me and look forward to putting my faith and vocation into action for service to others."
All three men, Fleming, Lauricella and Nowak, will have plenty of years ahead of them to fulfill their vocation. They will finish their studies at the seminary in May and are expected to be ordained to the priesthood in spring 2012.