Bishop Vásquez will ordain five priests June 3
By Mary P. Walker
With great joy and thanksgiving, Bishop Joe Vásquez will ordain Deacons Jared Cooke, Joseph Daheim, Doug Jeffers, Jesse Martinez and Brian Phillips to the priesthood June 3 at 10:30 a.m. at St. William Parish in Round Rock. With ages ranging from 26 to 30, four of the young men grew up in Catholic families and Catholic parishes within the diocese, and one was baptized into the Catholic Church during his college years.
Deacon Jared Cooke, age 30, was born in Denver, and his family moved to Austin when he was in fifth grade. St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Austin is his home parish. He is the son of John and Kari and the oldest of three boys. He characterized his family life as “active, well-rounded, and eclectic.”
During high school, he participated in the parish’s youth group, and started the first Christian organization at McNeil High School. He maintained a strong relationship with his then pastor, Bishop Daniel Garcia, who took him to a Project Andrew event. When he was a high school sophomore, Deacon Cooke first considered whether God was calling him to the priesthood at a vocation awareness summer program at the University of Notre Dame.
After high school, he attended the Texas A&M University Galveston campus, and transferred to College Station after one year. There, he was a member of the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish youth core team, and committed to two one-hour Eucharistic Adoration vigils each week. Adoration, working in youth ministry and the witness of Padre Pio (St. Pio of Pietrelcina) profoundly influenced his desire to serve God’s people as a priest.
“The calling was persistent and loud during my junior year in college,” Deacon Cooke said.
He transferred to St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana, where he spent “the best three years of his life,” and graduated with a degree in philosophy and liberal arts. During that time, he was discerning whether God was calling him to be a diocesan priest or to join a religious order. After graduation, he spent time with Capuchin and Benedictine communities, but felt that God was calling him to the diocese. Father Brian McMaster, then diocesan vocations director, helped him enroll in St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston.
After ordination, he looks forward to reconnecting with his Central Texas Catholic community, hearing confessions, preaching and teaching. There is also a special place in his heart for youth ministry.
Deacon Cooke advises any young man or woman considering the priesthood or religious life “to step back and look at your life in full frame! Life is a blessing from God. He knows us better than we know ourselves. The best life is when we live the vocation God has chosen for us.”
Deacon Joseph Daheim, age 27, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Son of Timothy and Sandra, he is the oldest of four children, with one brother and two sisters. His family moved to Temple when he was young, and St. Luke Parish is his home parish. He attended St. Mary’s Catholic School and Holy Trinity Catholic High School.
After his first Communion, Deacon Daheim was an enthusiastic altar server. Each Sunday, he asked his parents to drive to church early so he could substitute if the assigned server was late. Admiring the example of his pastor, Msgr. Louis Pavlicek, he was active in the parish youth group, a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and he attended retreats.
“There were multiple vivid moments at retreats when the Lord put upon my heart that he might call me to be a priest,” Deacon Daheim said.
After high school, he thought about entering the seminary, but did not believe the time was right. He enrolled in the University of Dallas, majoring in history. Deacon Daheim characterized his freshman and sophomore years as a time of spiritual dryness that God used to help him mature in his faith.
“I didn’t feel much intimacy with the Lord. Looking back, the Lord was challenging me to love him in a deeper way,” he said.
Toward the end of his sophomore year, Deacon Daheim believes that he experienced God directly calling him to enter the seminary. At a retreat, he was the censer-bearer for two priests entering the church carrying the monstrance. During the period of adoration that followed, he believes that God spoke to his heart, saying, “Joseph, you are one of these men, and I need you now.”
After contacting the diocesan vocations director, he transferred to Holy Trinity Seminary, graduating in 2012 with a degree in philosophy and history. He attended St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston and the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.
As a priest, he looks forward to “sharing the beauty of God’s fatherhood, especially during the sacrament of reconciliation and offering Mass for the people.” He advises those who are wondering if God is calling them to the priesthood or religious life to follow the counsel of St. John Paul II and “Be not afraid,” follow God with a generous heart, trusting that he loves us and has our good and happiness in mind.
Deacon Doug Jeffers, age 29, is the son of Kent and Kathy Jeffers, and has a younger brother and sister. His family attended the Church of Christ and settled in the Sugarland-Missouri City area when he was in third grade.
In high school, Deacon Jeffers had an interest in history. Studying the history of Christianity, he came across the Catholic teaching regarding apostolic succession, the understanding that the bishops are successors to the apostles, united with and under the authority of the pope, who is the successor of St. Peter.
As he studied, he came to realize how deeply this doctrine was held in the history of the early church and how it is rooted in Scripture. Eventually, this understanding was one of the things that led him to the Catholic Church.
While attending Texas A&M University, he began the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) process at St. Mary Catholic Center. In the fall of 2006, the Gospel reading at Mass was Jesus healing a deaf man with the words “Be opened.” During the homily, the thought came into his mind that perhaps Jesus was asking him to “be open” to becoming a priest.
“I was not even Catholic yet, and the thought was exciting, terrifying and confusing,” Deacon Jeffers said. At that time, he had no idea about the formation process for the priesthood, or even if it was possible for him. He decided that if the thought persisted, he would go see a priest after he had received the sacraments.
After Easter, he went to see Father Brian McMaster, then associate pastor at St. Mary Catholic Center. To give him time to mature in the faith and test this possible call, Father McMaster encouraged him to finish his degree and continue to discern. Deacon Jeffers grew in his prayer life and participated in a community of college men who were considering the priesthood and religious life. In his discernment, he determined that God was calling him to serve as a diocesan priest.
In 2010, he received his degree in history and philosophy. That fall, he entered Holy Trinity Seminary. He also attended St. Mary’s Seminary and the Pontifical College Josephinum.
As a priest, Deacon Jeffers looks forward to sharing in Christ’s mission of saving souls. He advises others who are thinking about the priesthood or religious life to “entrust yourself to God. If you unreservedly put yourself in his hands, he is going to do the best thing for your life.”
Deacon Jesse Paul Martinez, 26, grew up in Caldwell, with St. Mary Our Lady of Lourdes as his home parish. He is the son of Ernest and Martha, and has a younger brother, Brandon. When he was 5, he first thought about becoming a priest. The idea persisted in his ministries as altar server, lector and within the parish youth group.
“I first approached discernment as an attempt to figure out if this call to the priesthood was genuinely from God or just a pious thought,” Deacon Martinez said. Before his junior year in high school, he confided to his parents, who contacted the diocese. Deacon Martinez met with the vocation director, then Msgr. (now Bishop) Michael Sis, who helped guide him in the discernment process.
Bishop Sis arranged for Deacon Martinez to have spiritual direction, which is the process and discipline of understanding the movement of God in our lives and responding to his promptings.
At the beginning of his senior year in high school, accompanied by his father, Deacon Martinez met with Bishop Sis for what he thought would be another information session. They concluded the meeting by beginning the paperwork for admission to the seminary.
“I walked out of that meeting very excited and shocked that everything was happening so quickly,” Deacon Martinez said.
He received his undergraduate degree from Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas and studied theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and the Pontifical College Josephinum. For him, seminary life was a time of enriching his knowledge and prayer life, making strong friendships, and the satisfaction of working toward a mission.
Deacon Martinez has found great comfort and joy in the support of his parish. The Caldwell area is especially excited about his upcoming ordination, the first since Father Ed Karasek’s ordination in 1987.
Deacon Martinez looks forward to serving God’s people through celebrating Mass and the sacraments, and the day-to-day life of a priest, saying, “One of my great passions is parish life.”
To those who are wondering whether God is calling them to the priesthood or religious life, he advises not to overthink their concerns and to be open to God’s gentle promptings.
“Trust that God is working in the church and that Christ is the primary agent of your discernment and formation,” Deacon Martinez said.
Deacon Brian Phillips, age 28, is the son of Leah Ann and Walter Phillips. He is the middle of five children, with three sisters and one brother. His family are members of St. Joseph Parish in Bryan, and Deacon Phillips attended St. Joseph Catholic School from Kindergarten through high school graduation.
His mother is a nurse and converted to Catholicism when she got married. She embraced the faith with enthusiasm, and evenings at home included prayer or spiritual readings. Because she worked weekends, Deacon Phillips’ father made sure that all the children got to Mass, even when they were very young.
Because his pastor, Msgr. John McCaffrey, was active in the school, Deacon Phillips had many opportunities to see and experience the ministry of a priest firsthand. When he was a senior in high school, he prayed about his future through a novena to St. John Bosco, his confirmation saint. The following Good Friday, he felt a strong attraction to the Cross, which demonstrated God’s total love and self-gift.
“The priest is a living example of that total gift. There was a real desire in my life to imitate that,” Deacon Phillips said.
He contacted Bishop Sis, then diocesan vocation director, also originally from Bryan and also an alumnus of St. Joseph School. Bishop Sis visited the family, continued discussions with Deacon Phillips, and helped him with the discernment process.
In 2007, Deacon Phillips entered St. Joseph Seminary College. The Benedictines, who administer the college and direct the seminarians, helped him grow in knowledge, prayer and his relationship with God. He also learned from the diverse group of men who were his fellow seminarians.
“You meet people from all walks of life and different parts of the United States and world. Those relationships were a big part of my seminary experience, and I learned a lot about the universality of the church,” Deacon Phillips said.
After college seminary graduation, he attended St. Mary’s Seminary. As a priest, he looks forward to helping people discover the healing mercy of God in the greatest depths of their lives, and bringing them to this mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation.
To those who are also considering the priesthood or religious life, he said, “Be open to God and remain in prayer. Know that he loves you and desires only your good.”