On Friday, June 12, Bishop David Choby will ordain five men as priests for the Diocese of Nashville, continuing a boon in vocations since he was installed as bishop in 2006.
Transitional Deacons Andrew Bulso, Benjamin Butler, Emmanuel Dirichukwu, Austin Gilstrap and Eric Johansen will be ordained in the ancient rite of the Catholic Church at 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 12, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. A reception for the new priests will be held in the Cathedral’s Fleming Center following the ordination.
This year’s ordination of five men follows last summer’s ordination of nine new priests, the largest number of men to be ordained at a single Mass in the diocese’s history.
During his tenure, Bishop Choby has ordained at least one new priest every year and a total of 21 men, including Father William Carmona who was ordained on his deathbed in a San Antonio hospital last September. Father Carmona was originally scheduled to be ordained with this year’s class of new priests.
“It’s an exciting time to be a seminarian and to be a priest in the Diocese of Nashville,” said Deacon Gilstrap. “We have a lot of reason for hope for the future of Nashville and the future of the Church in Nashville. It’s really been exciting to be part of that. Bishop Choby has really put a lot of effort not only into vocations but into each of us. He’s always available.”
This year’s class of ordinands includes cradle Catholics and converts, Nashville natives and a Nigerian.
Deacon Bulso grew up as a Catholic in Nashville and attended Catholic schools, including Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, where he was a member of the first graduating class in 2005.
Deacons Gilstrap, Butler and Johansen are all converts to Catholicism. And Deacon Dirichukwu grew up as a Catholic in Nigeria before coming to the United States to continue his seminary studies in 2011.
His parents and siblings will be traveling from Nigeria to Nashville for his ordination and it will be the first time he has seen them since he left. “I haven’t seen them for years,” he said. “This will be a very graced period for me.”
Deacons Butler, Gilstrap and Johansen, all answered the call to the priesthood after working in careers. Deacon Butler fought forest fires in Arizona for a couple of years and Deacon Gilstrap was a bartender at several restaurants in Nashville before hearing the call.
Deacon Johansen entered the Church in 2000, but soon after faced tragedy when his wife, Kathy, died of cancer in 2003. Several years after her death, he followed a call he felt to ministry and entered the seminary. His first assignment as a priest will be as a hospital chaplain, helping people just as the Church helped him during his wife’s illness.
To learn more about the five men to be ordained, read links on profiles below.
hen Deacon Andy Bulso was a student at Pope John Paul II High School, he, like so many teens in the Diocese of Nashville, made a SEARCH retreat. It was
Deacon Ben Butler’s spiritual life took a turn when he started to realize all the blessings God provided in his life.
“I had a spiritual awakening,” he said. “I realized the blessings God had given me. I grew up in a good family, I did well in school, I had good jobs. I realized it was not my own doing.”
Deacon Nwachukwu Emmanuel Dirichukwu carries his faith in his name. A native of Nigeria, his first name means “child of God” and his last name “belongs to God.”
Deacon Austin Gilstrap’s life changed when he said yes to God.
He was working as a bartender in a restaurant but unsure what direction to take his life. “I was searching and I didn’t know what I was searching for,” he said. “I still didn’t know what I wanted out of life or out of school or anything like that. I was just sort of floating through.” ...
From atheist, to husband, to priest, Deacon Eric Johansen’s spiritual journey has been marked by joy and grief. After he’s ordained a priest on June 12, he’s looking forward to walking with people on their own spiritual journey. ...