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Ready for ordination

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By Dr. Joe McAleer

Growing up on the shores of Tampa Bay on Florida's west coast, Deacon Matthew Tomeny, MIC, is comfortable with the water. He enjoyed sailing with his grandfather in Louisiana and was always interested in his collection of model sailing ships.

"I can swim and I don't get seasick," he says.

That's good to hear, as the soon-to-be Fr. Matthew is preparing to sail the ocean blue as a chaplain in the United States Navy.

Deacon Matthew will be ordained to the priesthood on Monday, Dec. 27 at 9 a.m. in the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Father Matthew will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving the following day at 9 a.m. in the National Shrine. Due to limited space in the Shrine, both events are by invitation only, but will be livestreamed on our website, Facebook, and YouTube.

Deacon Matthew, ordained to the diaconate last January, completed his theological studies at Dominican House of Studies this past May, and is currently serving at our Marian parishes in Illinois, St. Mary's in Plano and St. Patrick's in Yorkville.

"Both parish communities have been very welcoming," Deacon Matthew says. "I've been getting a lot of practice, performing baptisms, presiding at funerals, and preaching at Mass. I especially like working with the young adult group and Bible class. I enjoy sharing what I have learned about the Catholic faith and passing it on."

Deacon Matthew credits his parents, Patrick and Nelly, for setting a good example, gathering their 10 children (Deacon Matthew is number four) every night to pray the Rosary before the Divine Mercy image.

"What Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC, said is absolutely true: 'The family that prays together, stays together,'" he says.

The call to the priesthood came early, at age 13. "I was reading a book on hell," he recalled. "Upon finishing, a profound thought came to me: 'I want to be a priest to save souls.'"

His last year in high school, a religious priest introduced Matthew to regular Eucharistic Adoration which intensified his faith and discernment to the priesthood. He entered the Marian novitiate in 2013, then returned to his studies at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, graduating in 2017 with a degree in Philosophy and Humanities & Catholic Culture.

Deacon Matthew cites the wisdom of Blessed George Matulaitis (1871-1927), Renovator of the Marian Congregation, in his decision to become a Navy chaplain.

"Blessed George encouraged the Marians to go and serve where the need is greatest," he explains. "There's a huge shortage of military chaplains, especially in the Navy. You can be on a ship at sea for eight months and never have access to a priest, never receive the Sacraments."

Currently, the U.S. Navy has only 50 Catholic priests on active duty, serving a Catholic population of 135,000 sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard personnel worldwide—and that's not counting their family members. Chaplains are under the auspices of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

Deacon Matthew completed Officer Development School in Newport, Rhode Island this past summer and is a lieutenant (junior grade) in the Naval Reserve as a chaplain candidate. He will be called to active duty in the Navy after three years of priestly ministry.

Father Donald Van Alstyne, MIC, recently retired as a U.S. Army chaplain after two deployments to Afghanistan. He is currently assisting at VA hospitals.

Much like the Founder of the Marian Congregation, St. Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701), who served as a chaplain in the Polish army, Deacon Matthew is confident that, when the time comes, he will be ready to endure whatever dangers arise.

"I trust that Our Lord and Our Lady", he says, "will give me the grace and strength to be a shepherd and serve my flock wherever they are."

Dr. Joe McAleer is the Director of Communications and Editorial for the Association of Marian Helpers.

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