Three men to be ordained transitional deacons

Dome of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. (Photo/Office of Communications)

Bishop Barry C. Knestout will ordain seminarians Andrew Clark, Samuel Hill, and Matthew Kelly to the diaconate at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond, on Saturday, May 18. Please pray for all of our seminarians as they discern their vocation.


Andrew Clark

For some – even Church Fathers, like St. Augustine – the vocation to the priesthood comes later in life, after decades of discernment.

Seminarian Andrew Clark, in contrast, says he received his vocation at the age of seven.

“It was maybe two or three Sundays after my first Holy Communion,” he recounted. “At the time, I didn’t really know how to verbalize what I experienced, but I knew with certainty that the Lord was calling me towards the priesthood.”

Seminarian Andrew Clark

At the time, he was living in Naples, Italy, where his father was stationed with the Navy. Clark said he was focusing on the chaplain during Mass, in awe of what the priest was doing. But as the Sacred Host was elevated, the rest of his memory fades.

“I vaguely remember the chapel we were in. But I remember specifically that moment of the liturgy, being completely fixated on the Host,” he said. “I had tunnel vision in a sense – I was completely enthralled by the Host, and I felt a great stirring in my heart.”

“It was a rather surreal experience,” he added. “It was a moment of illumination, like a light bulb going off.”

As he grew older, he said there was an ebb and flow, towards and away, from that conviction. But deep down, his desire for the priesthood always remained, and after graduating in 2016 from Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, he entered St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Upon being ordained to the diaconate May 18, he will spend his eighth and final year in formation at The Catholic University of America. He spent his pastoral year at St. Jerome, Newport News.

Clark enjoys hiking, camping, and studying philosophy. He says that Judith is one of his favorite books of the Bible, and that he has a copy of Caravaggio’s masterpiece “Judith Beheading Holofernes” on the wall in his apartment.

“It makes for a great read – the beheading is kind of fun,” he said, laughing. “But apart from its literary merits, which are many, it’s a beautiful story of Divine Providence.”


Sam Hill

From the window of seminarian Sam Hill’s apartment in Rome, he can see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

A student at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, perhaps it’s no surprise that he says, “Living a Christian life is exciting.”

“Everywhere you go [in Rome], there’s a saint that has a story buried under a church. You feel the communion of the saints,” he said. “We get to go on pilgrimages pretty often – for Easter, I got to go to Seville for Holy Week.”

Seminarian Sam Hill

After his ordination to the diaconate May 18, Hill will return to Rome for his final year of seminary. Originally from Bedford, he first felt the call to the priesthood as a student at Virginia Tech – while he was still a practicing Methodist.

“I became Catholic on Easter of 2014,” Hill said. “Even when I was still learning about the Catholic faith, I felt a call to serve God and be a shepherd of the people, although I didn’t understand it at the time.”

The first time he saw a religious brother in a habit, he was impressed by the witness to the faith. Now, he says, he wants to wear his Roman collar, demonstrating to others that he has given his life to God.

“Thinking about the apostles, they were all martyred, but they were hopeful that something would come out of it,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine Peter being crucified upside down, thinking, ‘This was a success.’ But because they were conformed to Christ, they knew there was victory in the cross.”

Hill expressed admiration for the Dominican Order, whose charism is to preach. He compared the two vocations: like a religious brother, he will be living as a consecrated witness to God, but as a diocesan priest, he will have a foot in the broader world, too.

“Whatever parish you’re assigned to, a diocesan priest has to have an openness to whoever walks in the door,” he said.


Matt Kelly

When seminarian Matt Kelly was at the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Belgium, he felt a responsibility to participate in Mass as a member of the choir from Christopher Newport University (CNU).

The CNU Chamber Choir was on tour in Europe, singing liturgical music in churches, but Kelly was one of only three Catholics in the choir. Therefore, even though the prayers were in Dutch, he gave the responses in English quietly, doing his part to focus on the sacrifice of the Mass.

“It gave me an increased awareness of what was really happening, and that Jesus Christ was giving himself to me,” said Kelly. “It was a moment of encountering the living person of Jesus Christ.”

Seminarian Matt Kelly

“After that moment, prayer became more of a mutual exchange: the possibility of listening in prayer, of meeting a living person and making a response to someone who calls and speaks,” he continued.

Now a student at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, Kelly will be ordained to the diaconate May 18, entering his fourth and final year of study before he hopes to be ordained to the priesthood.

He spent his pastoral year at Our Lady of Lourdes, Richmond, where he made use of his master’s degree in music from the University of Notre Dame to form and lead a children’s choir. He is trained to sing in all music of the Western tradition, including jazz, musical theater, opera and sacred music, and once performed in Puccini’s “La fanciulla del West” with the Virginia Opera.

On Easter Sunday at Our Lady of Lourdes, he chanted the Easter Sequence (“Victimae Paschali Laudes,” Latin for “Praise the Paschal Victim”) before the Gospel.

Fittingly, Kelly says that one of his favorite books of the Bible is the Song of Songs, particularly the phrase “Your name is oil poured out,” one translation of Song 1:3.

“Our desire as Christians is that we can offer to God a life poured out,” he said. “You empty yourself for the sake of fullness of grace, fullness of praise, reverence and honor for him.”


Editor’s notes:

Lee la historia in español.

Read the May 27, 2024 issue of The Catholic Virginian for the story on the ordinations!

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