Five seminarians begin studies or pastoral year



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Five seminarians begin studies or pastoral year 


By Gene Fadness

The Diocese of Boise's revitalized efforts toward vocations is bearing fruit. This fall, five new seminarians are enrolled for the Diocese of Boise, one already half-way through his formation process. 

All of the seminarians point to fairly recent diocesan initiatives as pivotal toward their decision to at least begin the discernment process. Some of those initiatives include the Quo Vadis discernment retreats hosted by Idaho priests and seminarians; using current seminarians to help in the recruitment of new seminarians; appointing one priest as vocations director for seminarians (Father Caleb Vogel) and one as vocations director for recruitment (Father Nathan Dail); the creation of the Melchizedek Project, a discernment group that meets monthly; the annual seminary trip to Mount Angel Seminary; revitalized campus ministries at the three major universities and a bigger online presence with idahovocations. com.  

Many of the seminarians also mention the critical role youth ministers played in their discernment process. 

In the less visible, but just as powerful spiritual arena, increased awareness of and prayers for vocations by members of organizations such as the Serra Club in north Idaho and the St. John Vianney Society in southern Idaho, undoubtedly helped prepare hearts for priesthood as well. 

Earlier this year, three men were ordained deacons, all scheduled to be ordained priests next year. All three were not originally from the Diocese of Boise, but chose to pursue priesthood here, citing their affinity to Idaho seminarians and priests after attending diocesan-sponsored vocation events and becoming more familiar with the Diocese of Boise through campus ministry. 

Deacon Joshua Falce grew up in the Diocese of Yakima, but chose Boise after attending the St. Augustine Campus Center at the University of Idaho and getting to know Father Caleb Vogel, then pastor at St. Augustine's.  

Deacons Adrian Leszko and Pawel Pawliszko are natives of Poland who are completing their studies at Sts. Methodius and Cyril Seminary in suburban Detroit this year. 

Deacon Leszko chose the Diocese of Boise after attending a Quo Vidas (Latin for “Where are you going?”) retreat and getting to know Father Nathan Dail, Father Justin Brady and other Idaho seminarians. He then invited his fellow seminarian, Deacon Pawliszko, to attend as well. Similarly impressed, Deacon Pawliszko chose the Diocese of Boise as well.  

This year, five new seminarians begin or continue their studies. 

Mónico Fernando Heredia Esquivel, transfers into the Diocese of Boise, from the Diocese of Reno. He has already graduated from Mount Angel and is just beginning his pastoral year at St. Edward the Confessor Parish in Twin Falls after which the Diocese will determine where to send him for studies in theology. 

Joshua Tennyson and Zachary MacKeller began studies at Mount Angel in Oregon this month. Ian Willnerd and Carter Bushee are at Bishop White Seminary on the campus of Gonzaga University in Spokane.

The five new seminarians joined eight others, counting the three deacons mentioned above. Also in discernment are Nelson Cintra (Theology III), Timothy Segert (pastoral year at St. Mark’s Boise), Tom Malone (Theology 1), John Tyson (Theology 1) and Damien Sarrazolla (College II). 

Below are brief profiles of the five new seminarians for the Diocese of Boise

Mónico Heredia-Esquivel

Mónico Heredia, who began his pastoral year on Sept. 1 in Twin Falls, attended high school seminary in his native Mexico. His dad urged him to pursue seminary studies in the United States. “The voice of God comes first through our parents, so I listened to my dad and applied to come to the United States,” Heredia said. 

He ended up in the Diocese of Reno, but attended Mt. Angel, where 
he became friends with Landon Mulberry, a seminarian at the time 
from the Twin Falls area, and current seminarian Timothy Segert. 

Mulberry invited Heredia to his home for Thanksgiving. Mulberry’s dad took a liking to Heredia. “He said, ‘You are my son right now,’ 
and kind of adopted me as part of his family,” Heredia said. A pilot, 
Mulberry took Heredia for a ride in his airplane above the fertile farm ground of the Magic Valley. 

“I fell in love with the area, the farms and the ranches, and I began praying about a possible switch in dioceses,” he said, pointing also to the “brotherhood” he felt at Mt. Angel with the seminarians from Idaho.  

He was first drawn to the idea of priesthood when he was an altar server between the ages of 10 and 12. “One of my aunts invited me to serve Mass with her son, my cousin and that started me out in helping the parish.” But it was serving at the altar that cultivated within him a reverence for the Mass. “I just love the mystery of the Mass. I remember paying attention to the consecration and thinking, ‘This is a mystery I cannot understand, but I want to work start working toward working for my heavenly home from here. I  want to be a celebrant of the sacraments.”  

Even though he is far from his home in Mexico, his family is very supportive of his decision to pursue the priesthood in the United States.  

Pastime: Sports, particularly basketball and baseball. He played for a Mt. Angel basketball team that qualified for a national tournament in Chicago.

Music: Banda, Mexican traditional music. 

Non-church related book: “El Llano en Llamas” (“The Burning Plain”) by Juan Rulfo.  

Catholic book other than the Bible: “A Father Who Keeps His Promises,” by Dr. Scott Hahn

Three heroes other than Jesus: 1) His father; 2) Consuelo Macías Flores, his father’s cousin and a cloistered nun in Mexico who helped him finish high school seminary. “She did whatever she could do help pay for my schooling. Without her, I could not have made it” and 3) Father Thomas Koller, a Carmelite priest who was his formation director and also a professor of scripture. “He is everything that a priest should be.”

Joshua Tennyson

For Mountain Home native Josh Tennyson, discernment has taken a different twist than for most.

He's wanted to be a priest for so long and has been so nearly certain about it that, for him, the question has been, "What if I want to be a priest, and that's not what God wants for me?"

That’s one of the reasons he chose to attend the Franciscan University of Steubenville in the fall of 2019 instead of enrolling directly in Joshua Tennyson seminary. It’s a decision he does not regret.

“Looking back, I can see how much I grew at Franciscan. I don’t think I would have been nearly as prepared going to seminary straight out of high school. “I grew up good at memorizing facts and details,” but was still figuring out who he was and what God expected of him. 

I got into Franciscan spirituality – St. Francis is my favorite saint – so Franciscan, obviously, was a good place to do that. I was surrounded by a community that really loved God and lived out that love; by  students who were going to daily Mass because they wanted to, not because their parents were telling them to go. It was a culture that really helped me to grow.”

Even though he tried to be open to vocations other than priesthood, seminary was still foremost in his mind even while at Steubenville. He knew that by majoring in philosophy, his credits would easily transfer. “I took a lot of time to pray about it and be really open to Jesus,” even if that meant learning that seminary was not for him.  However, the experience at Steubenville only solidified his call. 

A cradle Catholic, Tennyson was born near the North Pole in Alaska. His dad was in the Air Force so the family moved frequently until they settled in Mountain Home when Joshua was 6. He was active in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, serving as an altar boy and, when he was older, helping to teach religious education classes. 

When asked who his personal heroes are, Tennyson includes his youth minister at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mark Martin. “Before my college years, he was the best teacher I’ve ever had. We had the most engaging conversations about whatever was on my mind on the time,” Tennyson said. Martin helped him understand “the story of salvation as a whole” including Old Testament prophecies about the coming of Jesus. 

Wanting to be a priest since he was about 8, Tennyson did not hesitate when the opportunity came to attend the diocesan Quo Vadis camps. At the same time he is discerning, so is his oldest sister who is currently seeking out a religious community.  

His parents divorced recently, but that did not affect his vocation. “I was stable enough in my faith that I recognize they are human and they are going to make mistakes just like everyone else,” he said. Both parents are supportive of his decision to pursue priesthood. 

Mt. Angel is already a far different experience for Tennyson than either Mountain Home or Steubenville. “This place is absolutely gorgeous. The campus is beautiful. I love pretty much everything about it,” despite the fact that this year, seminarians are socially distanced and wearing masks.

Music: I listen to wide variety, but I especially like movie sound tracks, particularly “Lord of the Rings.”

Non-Catholic books: “Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter,” and “Inkheart Trilogy.” 

Catholic book other than the Bible: “To Save a Thousand Souls” by Father Brett Brannan. “That definitely helped in my discernment,” Tenny-son said. He also cites a favorite booklet, “Francis-can Readings.” 

Heroes other than Jesus: Professor John Walker at Franciscan University who helped him un-derstand the arts from a Catholic perspective. “The best art in the world almost always will have some sort of Catholic root, including the most impressive architectural designs and sculpture. Art is Catholic because art is transcendental, it is always pointing to something higher.”  In addition to Mark Martin, the former youth group leader in Mountain Home, he also includes his older sister, Holly, as a hero. 

“I was not a creative person, I’ve always preferred facts and logic, but Holly got me into loving fantasy and fiction and really prepared me for enjoying art as much as I do now. From her, I learned to be more imaginative, creative and compassionate.” 

Zachary MacKeller

Like Tennyson, Zach MacKeller’s father was also in the Air Force, and, for a time, it seemed as if the younger MacKeller was follow in his dad’s foot-steps.

He graduated from high school in Guam in 2013 and spent one year in college at the University of Michigan before enrolling in the Air Force and getting stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base. 

Raised in a Catholic home, he was very active in his base chapel 
at Mountain Home and also at St. Paul’s Catholic Student Center on 
the Boise State campus, taking part in many Bronco Catholic activities. 

His discernment about priesthood has increased the most during the past year, he said. “There really was no big event that convinced me to go to seminary. It was just reflecting on the many events of my life that seemed to be leading to this and a feeling that this idea was not going away,” MacKeller said. 

He approached Father Caleb Vogel and put him in touch with seminarian Nelson Cintra “who helped accompany me through this process.” He also approached Archdiocese for the Military Services to consider becoming a military chaplain, but later decided on diocesan priesthood and enolled at Mt. Angel.  

Pastime: Packing up my car and living in the mountains for as long as I can. If I only have a time for one day’s activity, it’s picking a spot in the mountains for a 20-mile trail run.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Television show: Star Trek

Music: Funk 

Non-Catholic: “The Way of Kings,” by Brandon Sanderson.

Catholic book other than the Bible: “Father Elijah” by Michael O’Brien 

Heroes other than Jesus: St. John Paul II; author and speaker Matt Fradd; and two military chaplains who were Medal of Honor winners, Father Vincent Capodanno and Father Emil Kapaun. 

Ian Willnerd

Ian Willnerd grew up in Boise and attended the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, and points to the positive influence of his youth group, led by Mike Abbondandolo. He attended Riverstone International School all 12 grades, graduating in 2019.

At the beginning of his senior year Willnerd said he felt “a serious tug to explore priesthood.” 

“I was looking for answers as to why would God want me to be a priest. After a lot of prayer the only words that came to mind were ‘so that you may help others.’ Two weeks later, Willnerd attended a retreat held for St. John’s and St. Mark’s youths at Pilgrim Cove on Payette Lake near McCall. Because it was a United Church of Christ camp, the youths were not able to have Adoration on Saturday night, so they participated in a praise and worship service. Near the end, youths had the opportunity to go to the front and have one of the youth leaders pray over them. As Ramiro Tapia was praying over him, he stopped and said, “I think God wants me to tell you to continue to stay in the path so that you can help others.” 

“At that point, I was pretty confident of what God wanted me to do,” Willnerd said. He met with Father Caleb Vogel several times and also attended a discernment group led by seminarian Nelson Cintra. “That was a huge help,” Willnerd said. 

He received a scholarship to attend Gonzaga University, spending his freshman year there. Since philosophy is his chosen major, he spent a lot of time at Bishop White Seminary. 

Even though he jokes that the “Willnerd family is not an enormously expressive bunch of people,” he says his family is supportive, even though he has chosen a career path far different that his only sibling, an older brother, who is in his senior year as an engineering major at UC-Berkeley.  

 Pastime: "If its summer, hiking; if it's winter, skiing."

TV show: “The Office” and “Scrubs.” 

Music: Early 2000s rock

Non-Catholic book: “A 100 Years of Solitude,” by Gabriel García Márquez.

Heroes: My dad, Mark; Father Dominique Faure of Verbum Spei; and Jim Harper, his high school  art teacher who recently died of cancer. "He taught me some serious life lessons."


Carter Bushee

Carter Bushee lived in Austin until he was 10 when his family moved to upstate New York for the next five years. Then, when he was 15, a promotion for his father, who works in the semi-conductor industry, 
led the family to Boise. 

Bushee was raised Catholic, but “I never really cared about the faith very much. I just was not interested at all. My parents were trying to 
instill the faith in me, but Carter Bushee I proved to be resistant to 
them, straying pretty far in my later years of high school, really getting into the party scene.” 

He remembers one morning during his senior year at Timberline High School waking up in his car with friends. “I was really hung over and feeling terrible. I realized this is not what I want to be doing with my life. It was a moment of clarity.”

The party that led to that hangover was his last one. "I said no to all of it. I had to quit hanging around with some friends."

During the start of the second semester of his senior year, Bushee said he “started to value Mass more, which led me more toward a pursuit of truth.” 

The suggestion of priesthood came from Father Nathan Dail, who Bushee knew from Family Camp and from Camp Apologhetti. Father Dail invited him to the Quo Vadis retreat, “which was huge for me, especially in learning what priesthood is” 

 Bushee enrolled last September at the University of Idaho. He joined a fraternity, but instead of going to the parties was attending Mass and praying the rosary every day. “I was while I was at that fraternity that I believe I was called to priesthood. I woke up one morning and just had a total moment of grace. The thought of being a priest came into my mind and a great peace came over me. I could see myself as a priest. It really was a profound, supernatural moment."

Immediately after that experience, Bushee dropped out of the University of Idaho and went home to Boise to work and live with his parents to allow him time to pray more "and try to figure out what to do."

He began the application process to Bishop White Seminary. The day of his interview with the Idaho Catholic Register he was on his way to the Spokane campus. “I’ve never been to Spokane and I’ve never been to Bishop White, but this is where I’m supposed to be going,” he said. 

Pastime: “What I’m doing now, driving all over Idaho looking for places to swim.” 

Music: Gregorian Chant, classical, jazz and some rock.

Non-Catholic book: “A Separate Peace,” by John Knowles. 

Catholic book other than the Bible: “Confessions of St. Augustine”

Heroes: Father Nathan Dail; his father, Todd; St. Augustine.


Seminarians currently serving in the Diocese of Boise are Deacon Joshua Falce (Theology IV), Deacon Adrian Leszko (Theology IV), Deacon Pawel Pawliszko (Theology IV), Nelson Cintra (Theology III), Timothy Timothy Segert (pastoral year, St. Mark’s-Boise), John Dyson (Theology I), Tom Malone (Theology 1), Zachary MacKeller (College II),  Damien Sarrazolla (College II at Bishop White), Joshua Tennyson (College II), Ian Willnerd (College II at Bishop White), Carter Bushee (College I at Bishop White) and Monico Heredia (Seminarian-in-residence at St. Edward’s-Twin Falls).
Letters and care packages can be sent to the seminarians at the addresses of their respective seminaries or parishes.
The address for Bishop White Seminary is 429 E. Sharp Ave., Spokane, WA, 99202. The address for Mount Angel Seminary is 1 Abbey Drive, St. Benedict, OR, 97373. 



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