Extraordinary Ordination



Extraordinary ordination

It what may be a first for the Diocese of Boise, five men will be ordained to the Diaconate at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Coeur d’Alene on Saturday, Oct. 10. Because three of the men are from Lewiston, Wallace and Coeur d’Alene, Bishop Peter Christensen decided to move the ordination to Coeur d’Alene rather than at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise. Also unusual to this ordination will be the by-invitation-only attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, St. Thomas has agree to livestream the ordination so that all in the Diocese may watch. To see the ordination, which begins at 11 a.m. Pacific Time and noon, Mountain Time, click on the link below. The story below, from the Oct. 5 Idaho Catholic Register, profiles the five men to be ordained.

Ordination Live From St. Thomas the Apostle 



Extraordinary ordination 

The location, crowd size and faces will be different for this year's ordination to the diaconate, but the call to serve remains the same.

From left, Chris Privon, José Medina, Tom Kilbourne, Matthew Johnston and Andy Finney during their final weekend retreat at Nazareth Retreat Center in advance of the Oct. 10 ordination at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Coeur d’Alene. While the ordination is limited to invited guests, it will be livestreamed from the parish’s website, YouTube channel and Facebook page. The Diocese of Boise website, catholicidaho.org, will also have a link to the ordination. (ICR photo/Gene Fadness)

COEUR D’ALENE – Ordination Masses for men called to be deacons have become a welcome fall ritual in the Diocese of Boise, but the 2020 ordination, like so many events this year, will be unique.

This will be the first year since the revival of the current version of the deacon formation program about 12 years ago that the ordination will not take place in Boise. Because three of the men to be ordained are from Lewiston and points north, the ordination was moved to Coeur d’Alene on Saturday, Oct. 10, at 11 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (noon, MDT).a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (noon, MDT).

Also, unlike, past ordinations that have included large crowds – including a large contingent of deacons and priests – this year’s celebration will be attended by only a few invited family members of or friends of the deacon candidates because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Mass will be livestreamed from St. Thomas’ website, YouTube channel and Facebook page. (Include “Coeur d’Alene” or “Idaho” when doing an internet search because there is more than one St. Thomas the Apostle Church in the United States.) 

The men to be ordained by Bishop Peter Christensen are Matthew Johnston of All Saints Parish in Lewiston, Andy Finney of St. Thomas the Apostle in Coeur d’Alene, Tom Kilbourne of St. Alphonsus Parish in Kellogg, José Medina of St. Nicholas Parish in Rupert, and Chris Privon of St. Mark’s Parish in Boise. 
The Idaho Catholic Register asked the men to tell us about themselves and their faith journeys.

Matthew and Nancy Johnston
All Saints, Lewiston

I was born in San Diego and spent most of my youth growing up in the San Francisco Bay area.  I had the privilege of attending Catholic schools from grade school through college. I earned my bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Santa Clara University in 1996 and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of California, Irvine.  While attending UC Irvine, I met Nancy (Ciszkowski), also working on her doctorate in chemistry.  Nancy is originally from Buffalo. Our Catholic faith was an immediate connection for both of us in a largely secular, academic environment.  

After completing our graduate studies, Nancy and I were married and wanted to pursue careers in higher education, hoping to be in a smaller, family-oriented community.  We were blessed to come to Idaho where we both teach chemistry at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston. I am a full-time professor, while Nancy prioritized raising our young family and worked part-time while they were at home. Now that our youngest is in school, she is a full-time associate professor.  

We have four children, three in junior high and high school and one in college.  All Saints Catholic School in Lewiston has been an important part of our family life and community during our 20 years in Lewiston.

Matthew and Nancy Johnston

I was raised in a Catholic family that regularly practiced the faith. A pivotal moment in my faith journey happened during college when I attended a retreat focused on growing from disciples into apostles. I came to understand that deepening my relationship with Jesus also meant putting my gifts and charisms into practice in the world around me. I began to get involved in different ministries in the parishes I attended and this continued after Nancy and I were married. We have been able to minister as a couple in many of the ministries in which we have been involved, using our background in education to share the faith as catechists in youth ministry, RCIA, sacramental prep and family faith formation. Most recently, we facilitated the new Family Catechesis program at All Saints.  

Several years ago, I began to discern that God might be calling me to the diaconate. Initially, I tried to postpone the call, as we still have teens at home and busy careers. Even though I had prayed about it and received spiritual direction, I thought that this could not be the right time in our lives to answer the call. Despite my stubbornness, God was persistent, working through others to continually present His plan to me.  

The moment of grace that helped me accept His path occurred at a daily Mass during the Easter season. During the Mass, Father Brad Neely offered an intention for vocations, including priesthood, religious life and the diaconate. After receiving Eucharist, I continued to feel God asking me to be open to the call. In prayer, I shared with God that I would be obedient to His Will but that I needed clarity. A few minutes later, the late Angela Davies, wife of Deacon Chris Davies, came up to me and asked me bluntly: “Matt, have you ever thought about being a deacon?” I looked at her dumbfounded and could only say, “Well, maybe?” She invited Nancy and me to a local mentoring group that they facilitated for couples in formation to learn more. 

Ultimately, we surrendered to God’s will, trusting that if it wasn’t right, He would show us during formation. During an ordination for deacons that I attended near the start of my formation, I was struck by the first reading from Jeremiah 1:7, “But the Lord answered me:  ‘Do not say that I am too young.’  To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.” 

God has given me the graces that I need to live out my vocation as husband and father, while also serving Him as a future deacon. These past four years have abundantly blessed our family, drawing both of us closer to God and deepening our love and understanding of the Church.

I am deeply grateful for the support of my wife, my family, Father Neely, the All Saints community and my brothers in formation for accompanying me in prayer and encouragement. I am excited to serve Christ’s Church in Idaho and to live the diaconal identity of Christ the Servant wherever He leads me.

Andrew (Andy) W. Finney

St. Thomas, Coeur d’Alene

Roxanne and Andy Finney

Growing up, my parents let each of us children decide whether we wanted to go to church or not. They did not belong to nor attend any of the churches in our area but required that we attend some church service before we say, “It’s not for me.” It was similar to the way they approached food. You had to try one bite before you said you didn’t like it.

As a child, I would walk a few blocks down the street to the local Friends Church (Quaker). I started going there because of a man who ran the local Feed & Farm store across the street from our home invited me. But, after a while, I told my mother I didn’t want to attend anymore. That was because all the kids were sent into another room to make crafts or sing while the adults were taught about Jesus. Even though I was only 6, I wanted to learn what the adults were learning.

As a young adult, I joined the U.S. Air Force and married shortly thereafter. That marriage lasted for six years. I was discharged from active duty at the end of Desert Storm in 1991, returning home to Idaho.

While attending college in 1994, I met Roxanne. I was not ready for another relationship, but she was a nice girl and study partner. The more I got to know her, the more I liked her and eventually asked her out on a date. I also began to open myself to another way of thinking about the world and beyond. I had a physics professor tell me, “Science is the study and proving of tangible things, 
things that we can know. For all of the things we don’t know or can’t prove, that is faith.”

My relationship with Roxanne grew. I began attending church with her and eventually proposed. The answer was yes, but she had to be married in a Catholic church, even though she did tell me that I didn’t have to become Catholic. I was fine with that arrangement, but I could tell that she was hopeful that I would at least learn more about the Catholic faith. I took RCIA and was baptized and confirmed on April 21, 1996. We were married one week later.

During RCIA, I had an encounter with Christ. I had never felt more open or exposed. I felt transparent; that everything about me was no longer a secret. It was liberating. For the first time in my life, I had real answers to some of the questions I had about life and where I fit in the universe. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said. 

During the early years of our marriage, I continued my education, graduating from North Idaho College with an associate degree and then continuing on to Lewis-Clark State College where I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in business administration. An opportunity presented itself to continue my education at Gonzaga University where I attained a master’s degree in Information Systems in 2005.

Over the past 24 years of being married to Roxanne and attempting to live the life that God wants us to live, my faith has grown. I first considered becoming a deacon while we were on a pilgrimage during 2001 to Lourdes and to Rome. Even though I was considering the call, I was not quite ready to make that commitment, nor was I spiritually prepared. 

However, ever since then, I have received little nudges here and there that have brought me back to a focus on the diaconate. During a recent pilgrimage to Rome, I had the honor of being lector at a Mass at the tomb of then Blessed Pope John Paul II. There were several pilgrims on this journey who asked me if I was a deacon. I took that as a subtle sign to closely examine that initial thought from back in 2001. In 2016, Father Mariusz Majewski, my pastor at the time, asked me if I had ever considered the diaconate.  After several discussions with Roxanne, reflective prayer and observing Father Mariusz as an example of the life all of us should lead, we decided that now was the time. 

Thomas C. (Tom) Kilbourne
St. Alphonsus, Wallace

On October 9, 1951, three little bundles of joy came into the world in Billings, Mont. (Yes, triplets).  Since we were the first triplets born in Billings, it created quite a bit of publicity.  I was the middle child of the group known for the first couple of weeks as “A boy,” “B boy” and “C girl.” My mother, Zoe, was a devout, practicing Catholic and my father, James, was a non-practicing Protestant.

Later, the triplets were joined by two other brothers and two other sisters. We attended Mass and 
CCD classes every week. I was active in our local Boy Scout troop sponsored by St. Patrick’s Church in Billings, which is now the Co-Cathedral in the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings.

After graduating from Billings Senior High School in June 1969, I attended Eastern Montana College for about 1 ½ years before dropping out to work and join the U.S. Navy. Our homeport was Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I left active duty in December 1974 and returned to Eastern Montana College in Billings. While there, I became active in the Catholic Newman Center, where I met my future wife, Michelle Lavigne.

In the fall of 1975, I transferred to the University of Montana at Missoula, graduating in June 1978 with a degree in business administration and finance.  Michelle and I were married at St. Alphonsus Church in Wallace in June 1979. (I was the second child of seven children, and I married a second child of seven children.)

In 1980, I started working for my wife’s family businesses in number of different positions. In 2006, I left the family business to work for Day-break Oil and Gas, Inc., an oil and gas exploration and development company headquartered in Spokane. I am currently the company Controller.

Michelle and I have three children and six grandchildren. 

Even though I attended Mass every week for most of my life, it was my wife Michelle, who had the stronger faith in our marriage. She had the opportunity to attend Catholic schools through the seventh grade.  I have continued to look to her for advice throughout this journey.

We have lived in the Silver Valley for most of our 41 years of marriage. During that time, I have been active in my home parish of St. Alphonsus in Wallace in a number of capacities including lector and Extraordinary Minster of the Eucharist. I have also served numerous multi-year stints on both the finance council and the parish council. 

However, it wasn’t until I was working in Spokane that I started to feel the call to the diaconate. I had never had the opportunity to attend daily Mass while living in the Silver Valley.  But, when I was living in Spokane in 2007, I was able to attend daily 6:30 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 2015, I was able to telecommute, which made it possible for me live full-time in the Silver Valley. My priest, Father Jerome Montez, started to encourage me to pursue my interest in the diaconate.

I am grateful to Deacons Eric Shaber, John McKinley, Mike Pentony and the late Deacon Floyd Turner as well as Father Tom Loucks, Father Tim Ritchey and Father Jerome Montez for the guidance, assistance and encouragement that they have offered me during this journey. 

Also important have been the prayers and support that my Kilbourne brothers and sisters and my in-laws, the Lavigne family, have given me during my four years of formation. The parishioners at St. Rita’s in Kellogg, St. Michael’s in Mullan, and St. Alphonsus in Wallace have been wonderful in accompanying me through formation.

Most of all, I am exceedingly grateful to my wife, Michelle, for her love, support and companionship not only on the many trips to Boise and throughout Idaho for formation classes, but also for her unfailing support while, at the same time, recognizing that I am a flawed human being. 

My faith has increased exponentially as my knowledge of the Catholic faith has increased. My formation classes, the extra work I have had to put into teaching religious education classes and Confirmation classes have given me the opportunity to encourage others to learn about their faith. I am so fortunate to be given the opportunity to continue doing so as a deacon.

Chris and Keron Privon
St. Mark’s, Boise

Chris Privon was born in 1956 and raised in Syracuse, New York. His family moved to eastern Tennessee where he graduated from high school. Instrumental to his faith life were a devout mother, grandmother and godparents. (His god-father, who is more than 90, plans to watch the ordination with his family.) 

He attended Catholic schools growing up, starting his freshman year of high school at the Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse before his family moved to Tennessee. After graduating high school in Tennessee, he attended a Seminary College, Wadhams Hall in Ogdensburg, New York, to discern a possible vocation to the priesthood. 

He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in mechanical engineering from Tennessee Tech and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Virginia. Later in life (2018), he earned a Master of Arts Degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame. 

He married Keron Chew in August 1981 and the family came to Boise in 1983 where he was employed by Hewlett Packard. From 1993-96, Privon’s job at HP took his family to Boeblingen, Germany. The Privons have three sons. His oldest son, Peter, married Katy Brinegar, the oldest daughter of Deacon Clyde and Kathleen Brinegar. “You can send Peter a deacon Servant School application, as he has no choice but to follow in his father’s and his father-in-law’s footsteps,” Privon jokes. 

Chris and Keron Privon

Privon retired as an executive at HP Boise in October 2009 to care for his aging parents and in-laws and to “immerse myself more deeply in the faith.”

Privon says he was only “marginally active” in the Church during his career. Because his career required extensive travel, he did attend Mass in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, New Zealand and through-out Europe.

During a 1997 visiting with his godmother, she informed Privon that she had been praying for decades for him to receive a call to become a deacon. In 2004, five years before his retirement, Privon said he felt a strong call to “re-immerse myself in the faith through study.” In 2010, he attended a Cursillo weekend, which he says was “pivotal to the start of my diaconate call.” At the Cursillo, he was introduced to “great Catholic men seeking to live out their faith and evangelizing those of us searching for God.”

Later, Privon became part of the Cursillo team that gives talks on the weekend and while studying those talks and also through his involvement with his men’s group from the Cursillo, Privon says he began to have “déjà vu” experiences of his days in high school at his year at seminary college when he was discerning priesthood.

That experience deepened when he attended a Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ordination of his spiritual director at seminary college. “I go to this Mass and I see 40 or 50 priests who are older than me and I’m thinking about how selfish I am. Here are these men, including three or four of my professors, who have given their lives to serve. That’s when I realized I needed to stop questioning and start doing.”

With the support of his pastor, Father Ben Uhlenkott, Privon began his deacon formation in the spring of 2016. During that same time, he was also accepted into Notre Dame's Master of Arts theology program.

In advance of his ordination, he has also become the diocesan ombudsman for refugee resettlement, helping Catholic refugee individuals and families resettle in the Boise area.

José Medina
St. Nicholas, Rupert

José and Josefina Medina

José Medina’s path to the United States and then to possible ordination as a deacon in the Catholic Church has been one fraught with danger and trials of faith. 

Medina grew up in Aguililla, a small town in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. There, his father taught him and nine siblings to work hard in the fields. From a young age, José began to show signs of being an excellent worker and a clever entrepreneur. His first business transaction was when he traded his bicycle for a horse.

This was only the beginning of a long career in business for Medina, who today owns a Burley mobile home park, rental property and a 140-acre family farm north of Rupert.  

Even as a boy, he set more ambitious goals to work and save money to help others. In fact, his family called on him when he was just 14 to help pay a doctor to save the life of his 3-year-old nephew. 

His parents were hard workers who did not agree about the best use of their children’s time. While their mother wanted them to study, their father wanted them to work. So they compromised: one week they would go to school and the next week they would work in the fields.

When Medina was 17, he was invited by relatives to work in the United States where he knew he could earn more money to send home to his parents. Hungry and with no money, he nearly died when crossing the desert. What helped him to survive, he said, was recalling his mother’s advice to call on the Blessed Virgin. “That’s why I’m here,” he says.

Medina spent his first years in the United States in California living with his sister and brother-in-law. He began working right away for asparagus and celery farmers, and later in apple orchards, working 12 hours a day for $2.25 an hour, which was still more than he could earn in Mexico. 

During his early years in California, Medina was not practicing the faith as he knew he should. However, as he matured, he started to turn his life around. He learned to speak English in a school for adults, which made it possible for him to enroll in an 18-month program that would allow him to work as a machinist. He worked two machinist jobs at the same time, including becoming a shift supervisor for 50 people after he went part-time to a managerial school. 

While in managerial school, he married his wife, Josefina, a berry picker, also from Mexico.  José and Josefina had two daughters and one son. They were able to buy their first home in California after Medina learned photography. They established a home-based studio. He took pictures at weddings and quinceaneras and Josefina made wedding, bridesmaid and quinceanera dresses. Later, Medina learned to sell insurance and was named “Rookie of the Year” at his mortgage company. He also received a real estate license and became licensed in tax preparation. His business success led to Medina being profiled in a 1996 Washington Post story about the government job training program that helped Medina get his machinist training. 

Despite Medina’s success in business, life was not without challenges. One of their daughters, Elizabeth, was born with a disability. 

In less than a year after she was born, Elizabeth began to suffer the first symptoms of her illness, with numerous seizures that required special medications for her to survive. Doctors said she would never walk. She had to be fed with a spoon and had no control of her limbs. Her care required much attention from her parents.

Every day they went to see the doctor, Medina carried his daughter to the second floor where the neurologist’s office was. Since doctors said she would never walk, they gave Medina a voucher for a wheelchair, but Medina would not accept it. “The doctor told me that one day I would reach an age that I would not be able to carry my daughter. I told him, ‘She will walk; she does not need a chair with wheels.’ ”

For four years, José and Josefina gave their daughter medications for almost continuous seizures that were becoming increasingly prolonged. “They even asked us to leave the hospital because they said they couldn’t continue to treat her. But we did not give up and we returned to the hospital when there were emergencies,” Medina said.

Prospects for the Medinas brightened when they were referred to a specialist from another hospital interested in their daughter’s case. The specialist said there was a chance to stop the seizures but due to their daughter’s small weight and size – she was 4 at the time – the dosage would either stop the attacks or kill her. José and Josefina had only a half hour to decide.

Family members came to the hospital accompanied by a priest, all to pray. Medina recalls that Josefina, despite the incredulous looks of the hospital staff, knelt in the middle of the hallway to pray for her daughter. They decided to try the injection.

When the doctor came to give Elizabeth the injection, Medina recalls that Elizabeth was laying at the foot of her crib. “She held my finger, never letting go of me,” Medina said. “The doctor told us that if she did not wake up by 5 in the morning, that we would need to make the necessary preparations for the funeral. I stood with my daughter all night and it was 4 in the morning when I felt on my finger the pressure of her little hand, and, with the other hand, she gestured to me that she was hungry.” Medina said.

The doctor told them it was a miracle, because not only did she survive the high dosage of medicine, but it also worked to decrease the seizures. “For me, it is only through Christ and the Holy Spirit that we can understand what happened here,” Medina said.

Before the procedure, Elizabeth was having seizures almost every hour. Afterward, the seizures decreased to about 10 to 15 per month. Elizabeth had to return to the doctor only once a year for evaluation. She began receiving physical therapy, a long process with slow progress. Doctors eventually said they did not want to continue the physical therapy, partly because the family would not accept a wheelchair. So, José and Josephina continued what they had learned from the therapy at home.

When Elizabeth was about 8, she started crawling and then grabbing the couch to stand up. Elizabeth began to take her first steps at age 9, always taking that first step by clasping on her father’s finger. “That’s our connection, even now that she’s grown up, she still does it,” Medina said.

Elizabeth now walks and eats on her own. She attends Minidoka High School. She accompanies her parents to all their activities because they still must care for her at all times. Even when José attends his deacon training classes, Elizabeth is a special guest. “Everyone welcomes her with love and kindness. We are very grateful,” José said.

“This girl has been an instrument of our unity, bringing our family together.” Medina said. “She has been the one who has given us the experiences that have caused us to reflect on the fact that God exists.”

Medina said he has felt a calling to the diaconate for some time, but he was always focused on ensuring the welfare of the family. However, because of all that had happened to him and to his daughter, Medina began praying more fervently about God’s will for his life.

Before he would go to sleep at night, Medina said he would think about his behavior during his young adult years and everything that has since happened in his life. He also recalls a vivid dream in which he is told that Pope Francis wanted to speak with him. That led to a new goal in his already eventful life: to become a humble and faithful deacon for Christ and His Church and to support the people of his home parish at St. Nicholas. He is also taking the College of Southern Idaho’s Mini-Cassia citizenship class for immigrants with permanent residency seeking to become citizens.


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