By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will ordain two seminarians — Sean McKinley and Wilfredo Fernandez — to the diaconate on March 7 at St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky., at 1 p.m.
Diaconate ordination is a milestone on the path to the priesthood. Ordination to the priesthood usually occurs a year after a seminarian is ordained a deacon.
Fernandez, 32, graduated from Marian University in Indianapolis, Ind., in 2012. He currently attends Sacred Heart Seminary in Wisconsin. His home parish is St. Joseph Church in Butchertown and his parents are Martin Fernandez and Sergia Pania.
While Fernandez was a student studying engineering in his native country of Bolivia, he felt like something was missing, he said in a recent phone interview.
“I felt like I was called to do something different, but at the same time I was afraid to start seminary,” he said.
When he met a German priest named Father Godolfredo Zils, Fernandez began to seriously contemplate his priestly vocation. Father Zils, though not a Franciscan, worked with the religious order as a missionary.
Through his relationship with Father Zils, Fernandez began to discern a vocation with the Franciscans. He moved to the states in 2006 to begin formation as a Franciscan in the Diocese of Joliet, Ill. But he determined community life wasn’t for him and looked into diocesan priesthood.
Fernandez began studying as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2010.
He said he’s excited to spend time learning more about the archdiocese during his diaconate year.
“Now that I’ll be a deacon, I hope it gives me more time to go and see different places and help different parishes, especially
where there is Hispanic ministry,” he said.
Fernandez has already served at numerous parishes in the archdiocese, including Christ the King, Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph and Holy Name churches, during his time in the seminary. In addition, he has worked with Father Dale Cieslik, archivist for the archdiocese, and received clinical pastoral education while serving at Norton Healthcare and Kosair Children’s Hospital.
Outside of the seminary, Fernandez is interested in science fiction books, basketball, joking and traditional Bolivian folk music and dance, he said.
McKinley, 34, is a graduate of St. James School in Elizabethtown and Elizabethtown High School. He currently attends the Theological College in Washington, D.C. His home parish is St. James and his parents are Scott and Cindy McKinley.
After high school, he earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration in computer information systems at the University of Louisville.
Following his studies at U of L, he worked in Huntsville, Ala., developing web applications for government contracts for six years. As his work situation changed, he began to contemplate his future, he said in a phone interview.
Each Wednesday he spent an hour in eucharistic adoration at a local chapel. During this time, he said, thoughts of his vocation and priesthood came into the forefront of his mind.
“Through prayer and discernment, I decided to try out the route that I’d always been pushing away,” he said.
As a child and teenager, McKinley said, he spent a great deal of time around his parish priests at St. James.
“My mom was the youth minister and we spent a lot of time at the parish. … We always had two priests at St. James and also usually had some seminarians or young, recently ordained priests,” he noted.
His pastors, including Fathers William Fichteman and Richard Sullivan, helped him develop a rich understanding of his faith, he said.
“They were great guys to spend some time with and to just be able to ask tough questions growing up,” he said.
After his diaconate ordination, McKinley is looking forward to celebrating the sacraments of baptism and matrimony with parishioners.
“To be able to enter into family life through the sacraments” is important, he said.
Away from his studies and assignments, McKinley enjoys choral singing, soccer, camping, reading and science fiction. He also spent 17 years in the Boy Scouts of America and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
During his formation for the priesthood, McKinley has served at St. Michael, Good Shepherd and Our Lady of Lourdes churches.
Both Fernandez and McKinley are expected to graduate with master of divinity degrees in 2016.
Parish assignments for the two seminarians have not yet been announced.