Five ordained to diocesan priesthood May 25

Managing Editor

On Saturday, May 25, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki ordained five men as priests for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois during a Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  The ordination was attended by their individual families and friends, as well as various parishioners from places they have lived or served, and representatives of their seminaries. 

Earlier in May, these new priests — Fathers Alex McCullough, Daniel McGrath, Troy Niemerg, Bruce Scott, and Jayke White — took time to share their thoughts on their vocations to the priesthood and their ordinations.

Father Alex McCullough

The son of Chris and Angie McCullough, 29-year-old Father Alex McCullough is a native of Mattoon. He asked Father John Titus to vest him at his ordination. “Father Titus is my home parish pastor, and he has been a great mentor for me throughout my time in seminary,” he said. 

Father McCullough’s parents were on hand for his celebration, as well as his brother and sister-in-law  Stephen and Brittany McCullough; his sister and brother-in-law Allison and Jacob Maynerich; and his nephews Samuel and Sylas Maynerich. 

Besides Father Titus, Father McCullough names several other younger priests who have been good mentors to him. “Father Steve Arisman has been a good friend to me over the past several years, and he has taught me a lot about what it means to be a pastor who can relate to his people well,” he said. “Also, Father Zach Samples was a great mentor during my first two years at St. Meinrad when he was there also as a seminarian.  I learned a lot from Father Mark Tracy during last summer when I was at my summer deacon assignment.” 

Father McCullough celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving at Immaculate Conception Church in Mattoon.  He plans to spend the month of June attending his classmates’ ordinations and first Masses, traveling to several cities in neighboring states. “I will also be able to go back to my seminary parish ministry assignment in Jeffersonville, Ind., to fill in for some daily Masses as well,” he said. 

Beginning July 1, Father McCullough is looking forward to his first assignment as parochial vicar at Christ the King Parish in Springfield. “I am excited to going to a parish with a school,” Father McCullough said. “My school years from preschool through fifth grade were at St. Mary’s in Mattoon. It was truly a gift for the Church to play such a large role in our lives during those formative years. I really look forward to being able to participate in school activities and celebrations. I also look forward to being at Christ the King with Father (Chris) House. He is a great priest who has a lot of great insights and wisdom to share.” 

About discerning a vocation, Father McCullough said, “I would encourage anyone who is in the process of discernment, whether to priesthood, religious life, or to marriage, to be willing to not only hear the call but to respond to the call. God only needs a small nugget of faith in order to do His good works in you.”  

Father Daniel McGrath

Virden native Father Daniel McGrath, who is 27 years old, is the son of Mark and Catherine McGrath.  He thanks his parents in this way: “I would be happy to honor my parents for all they have taught me when I was growing up and beyond. They have been a constant supportive presence and I look forward to being back in the diocese a bit closer to them as I begin my priesthood. I also grew up close to some of my extended family, so my aunts, uncles, and grandparents have also played a great role in shaping who I am today.” 

Father McGrath asked Father Michael Friedel to vest him at his ordination. “Between my second and third years of my theology studies (the last four years of seminary) I spent a whole year at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Decatur.  Father Friedel was the pastor there, and he was my primary priest formator and mentor through the year. At that time, he had only been at the parish for a year, so I was able to watch him learn even for himself what it meant to be a pastor. I saw his love for the people and a great deal of his own growth into the position.” 

Other people have played a part in his road to the priesthood, he said. “I was grateful early on for the model that (the late and long-time diocesan priest) Father August Sperl offered me when I was a kid in my home parish. He was close with my family and gave me an excellent view of the priesthood. 

“When I entered college and began considering priesthood more seriously, it was Father John Titus and Father Steve Arisman who were mentors to me and supported my discernment when I was at EIU. I am indebted also to each of my seminary formators and spiritual directors over the last eight years, as well as our diocesan priests who were my parish assignment pastors: Father Jeff Goeckner, Father Michael Friedel, and Father Seth Brown,” he said. “Finally, a constant presence for me during my time in formation was Father Brian Alford, our vocation director. He has been a mentor while I’ve been in seminary and will certainly continue to be one for me at Cathedral.”

Beginning July 1 Father McGrath will be parochial vicar at Cathedral and associate chaplain at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School. “I am very excited to be at the Cathedral and at SHG! I have many good memories at the Cathedral from the years I have been at seminary — ordinations, Holy Thursday Mass, etc. I look forward to life at Cathedral and am happy to have Father Alford as my pastor,” he said. “I remember going to Cathedral periodically when I was in high school because they have regular confession times on weekdays. It was a primary place in my life that I received God’s mercy, and I really look forward to entering the parish and sharing that ministry of Christ’s reconciliation.”

Father McGrath says SHG is his own alma mater, so he’s thrilled to be there, serving as a chaplain. “I have known Father Zach Samples for about nine years now,” he said. “I look forward to serving with him at the school. I also look forward to meeting the students, getting to know them throughout the year, and bringing them closer to Jesus.”

Father McGrath celebrated his first Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Virden. “It is the parish I’m proud to call my home parish,” he said just before he was ordained. “It will be pretty cool to be back there where I’ve served and prayed at so many Masses, to now preside as the priest at the Mass.”  

Father Troy Niemerg

Dieterich native Father Troy Niemerg has been living far away from home during the seminary, studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Last fall, he was ordained a deacon in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica, with his family in attendance. 

Much closer to home, Father Niemerg’s priestly ordination at Cathedral was attended by his parents, Duane and Annette Niemerg, along with the rest of his immediate family. Included in that group were his twin brother, Travis, his three older siblings, Craig, Cory, and Candace, his nephews, Henry and Calvin, baby niece, Amelia, and others.   

Father Chris House vested Father Niemerg at his ordination. “I chose Father House to vest me because his example of priestly holiness and dedication during my summer assignment with him at Christ the King Parish in Springfield was particularly impactful,” he said. 

Father Niemerg also mentioned several other priest mentors as well, including Father Peter Harman, Father John Titus, Father Joseph Moriarty, Father Joe Carlos, OFM, Father Bill Rooney, OFM, and Father Frank Folino, OFM. “All these and many more,” he said. 

At the time of his interview, Father Niemerg wasn’t sure what parish he would be helping out at this summer, but he does know that from October 2024 through June 2025, he will be back in Rome once again, doing graduate studies for the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) in Systemic Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (The Angelicum), with residence at the North American College. 

About serving as a priest, Father Niemerg, who at 26 is the youngest of all the newly ordained priests, said, “I am certainly most excited to celebrate the sacraments and to help bring as many people to Christ as possible.” 

Father Niemerg celebrated his first Mass on May 26 at St. Aloysius Church in Dieterich. 

Father Bruce Scott 

Father Bruce Scott’s road to the priesthood is both unique and moving. A widower with three children and four grandchildren, he is a native of Paris, where he has a long family history with the parish. Before seminary, he had worked for over 20 years as an EMT/paramedic at a local hospital. “I was working as a registered polosomnographic technologist when I went to St. Meinrad (Seminary and School of Theology),” he said. “I have also done factory work, home health and other odd jobs.” 

While he was married, Father Scott applied to the permanent diaconate program in 2014, however his wife, Joy, died in September of 2016 after a long illness. “After a long journey through grief and discernment, I was ordained a permanent deacon on June 26, 2021,” he said. “I had not thought about priesthood as a real possibility until January of 2021, and was not sure it was the path for me but the formation team along with Bishop (Thomas John) Paprocki suggested after (permanent diaconate) ordination, I consider going to St. Meinrad to discern that call more formally.” 

Father Scott said that just before his mother passed away in February 2021, he was able to tell her “that I was possibly going to be a priest.” His father, Richard, was able to be at the ordination, along with several close family members and people from his parish. 

“The thought that started my journey to the priesthood was what if someone needed a priest and I could not get one? I’m sure God in His mercy would take care of them but what would my answer be if He asked me why they didn’t have a priest,” Father Scott remembered. “I could here Him say, ‘I called you, why didn’t you answer?’ So here I am.” 

Father Scott chose Father Augustus Koomson to vest him at his ordination. “I was assigned to his parish in Marshal two years prior to diaconate ordination,” he said. “Father Koomson was very patient and gave me the direction along with the space I needed to grow in my spiritual life.”

Although many of Father Scott’s priest mentor’s “are among the faithfully departed” he also names Father John Titus, Msgr. David Hoefler, and Father Chris House as helping him along the way.  “Father Koomson and Father Titus have shown me the trust and given me direction that has helped me to understand the relationship of a parish and its pastor,” he said. “Msgr. Hoefler and Father House gave me support and encouragement during my time of grief without which I would have never stayed in the program.” He said he also looks up to the permanent deacons who he has studied and worked with, especially Deacon Dave Sorrell and Deacon Greg Maynerich.

Father Scott will be serving as a parochial vicar at St. Francis Solanus in Quincy. “I have been to St. Francis Solanus once and have been inside the beautiful church, but I do not know very many people,” he said. “They do have a permanent deacon, Deacon Dennis Holbrook, who is a classmate so it will be great to work alongside him. I have also known Father (Steve) Arisman for some time, so I expect a pretty easy transition.” 

Father Scott celebrated his first Mass after his ordination on May 25, at St. Mary Church in Paris. 

Father Jayke White

The son of Leon and Tami White, Father Jayke White, 27, calls St. Mary in Edwardsville his home parish. He was happy that his parents, siblings, future brother-in-law, and a number of other family members and friends were present as he was ordained to the priesthood. 

Father White asked Father Robert Jallas to vest him at his ordination. “He is my home pastor, and I chose him because he has given me an incredible amount of support, encouragement, and opportunity over the years.” 

In addition to Father Jallas, Father White has a number of other people who were instrumental on his road to the priesthood. “I would like to state my gratitude for all the staff at St. Meinrad Seminary, where I’ve studied for the last six years. Most importantly, I am thankful for my parents, whose love, support, and example have gotten me where I am today,” he said. “Finally, I would like to thank the many Springfield priests who have aided in my formation over the years.  That list includes — but is not limited to — Father Steve Poehlman, Father Dan Bergbower, Father Jallas, Father Dean Probst, Father Brian Alford, Msgr. Leo Enlow, and Father Zach Samples.

 “Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me during my time in seminary,” he said. “Whether you are friends, family or ‘bonus family,’ I would not be where I am without you. “ 

In June, Father White will be traveling to New Hampshire for the ordination of his seminary classmate, Father Eric Quellette. He will celebrate Masses at St. Mary in Edwardsville the weekend of June 8-9, and the remaining weekends will be spent at parishes he’s been serving at in the past. “I look forward to revisiting old stomping grounds and seeing so many familiar faces,” he said. 

Beginning in July, Father White will be serving as parochial vicar at St. Anthony Parish in Effingham. “Please pray for me and for the people of St. Anthony as they graciously welcome me to their parish,” he said. “I am very excited to be going to St. Anthony and working with a grade school and a high school.  I love the Effingham area and it will be such an honor to help in the formation of our Church’s youngest members as they grow in the Christian life.” 

Father White celebrated his first Mass with family and close friends in Edwardsville on May 26.