Meet the 17 Saint Paul Seminary deacons being ordained priests this year

saint paul seminary 2024 ordination priests
Left to right: Deacon Brian Klein, Deacon Daniel Ruprecht, Deacon Frankie Floeder, Deacon Nick Vance, Deacon Brent Bowman, Deacon Sean Mulcare, Deacon Josh Miller, Deacon Ryan Sustacek, Rector Fr. Joseph Taphorn, Deacon Luisito Cabrera, Deacon Kevin Soenneker, Deacon Michael Panka, Deacon Nicholas Gawarecki, Deacon Chris Yanta, Deacon Philip Conklin, Deacon Alex Rasset and Deacon Derek Gilde. Not pictured: Deacon Hjalmar Gudjonsson.

Seventeen seminarians or former seminarians from The Saint Paul Seminary are being ordained priests this spring and summer.

Some of them have been in formation since graduating high school. Some discerned their calling to the presbyterate much later.

The group contains natives of the Philippines and Iceland. It also includes a former teacher, law clerk, public accountant and a credit analyst.

Eleven are from the seminary’s home Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis — part of the Twin Cities’ largest priestly ordination class since 2005.

The Saint Paul Seminary began the 2023-24 academic year with 100 seminarians — the most in 10 years — and over 1,000 aspiring priests, deacons and lay leaders in formation.

“We’ve been blessed over the last number of years to see more bishops choose to send men to The Saint Paul Seminary, and we’ve seen in particular in this Archdiocese just a strong number of seminarians,” said seminary rector Fr. Joseph Taphorn. “We’re just very, very blessed … and excited about having a basically full house.”

Scroll onward to meet the latest group of seminarians anticipating priestly ordination.

brent bowman saint paul seminary
Deacon Brent Bowman

Deacon Brent Bowman

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: Fargo, North Dakota
Home parish: Cathedral of St. Paul | St. Paul
Parents: Larry and Peggy Bowman
Siblings: Matt, John
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies and Journalism and Advertising, University of St. Thomas; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

Before seminary, Bowman had a 15-year career working in marketing, business development and senior management roles for retail, fitness and healthcare companies. Experiencing God’s love though his confirmation, frequent Eucharistic adoration and “a life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother on pilgrimage to Medjugorje” inspired him to pursue the priesthood. Now, he can’t wait to lead parishioners to their own sacred encounters. “Our great Catholic faith is an experiential one, and everyone needs to be led to personal encounters with God,” Bowman said. “Because people cannot evangelize others with what they themselves do not have, namely knowledge of God’s intimate and personal love. This is one of the reasons why I feel so privileged to be ordained a priest in this year of our country’s Eucharistic Revival.”

luisito cabrera saint paul seminary
Deacon Luisito Cabrera

Deacon Luisito Cabrera

Diocese of Des Moines

Hometown: Des Moines
Home parish: Christ the King | Des Moines
Parents: Manuel B. Cabrera and Maurita S. Cabrera
Siblings: Victor, Manuel Jr., Victoria, Marco
Education: Bachelor of Science in Communication, St. John’s University (New York); Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

“Deacon Lui,” as he’s known around the seminary, first began discerning a call to the priesthood at the age of 15. But God, he said, had a different plan for him. Cabrera was married to his wife for 25 years before she passed away. A native of the Philippines, he traveled around the world while working for the United Nations. After his wife’s death, Cabrera felt God telling him “now is finally time for you to enter seminary.” “God called me back to be a priest,” Cabrera said. He’s most looking forward to celebrating “the Mass — for my late wife and for the people of God.”

philip conklin saint paul seminary

Deacon Philip Conklin

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: New Brighton, Minnesota
Home parish: St. Charles Borromeo | St. Anthony, Minnesota
Parents: Michael and Leone Conklin
Siblings: Thomas, Jacqueline, Michelle, Mathieu
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies and Philosophy, University of St. Thomas; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

Conklin’s call to the priesthood has been a gradual journey, he said. “It’s a long process, and as time went on, I became more assured that this was the path I ought to go. There was no ‘aha!’ moment, but over time, with my peace about it as well as the seminary formation giving the green light, I became more certain.” A wholesome family upbringing created the environment for Conklin’s discernment; he, his parents and four siblings grew up saying the rosary together almost every night. But it was Conklin’s grandmother, who he barely knew, who provided particular spiritual inspiration. “She raised nine children in very difficult circumstances,” Conklin said, “and I love all of those eight aunts and uncles, who are faithful. She was convicted and strong in the faith, while being extremely gentle.”

francis floeder saint paul seminary

Deacon Frankie Floeder

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: Shoreview, Minnesota
Home parish: St. Louis, King of France | St. Paul
Parents: Steven and Chany Floeder
Siblings: Vinnie, Louie, Bernie, Lucy, Joey, Charlie, Annie, Jerry, Rosie
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies and Philosophy, University of St. Thomas; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

You could technically say a vocation to the clergy runs in the family. Floeder’s older brother, Fr. Louie Floeder, is pastor of the Church of St. Dominic in Northfield, Minnesota. His uncle, Fr. John Floeder, is director of human formation at The Saint Paul Seminary. Another uncle, Anthony, is a permanent deacon candidate with the seminary’s Institute for Diaconate Formation. But Deacon Floeder points to his parents, nine brothers and sisters and the rest of his family as equally instrumental in his journey toward priesthood. “Each one of my family members has been an inspiration for me in one way or another at different points in my life,” he said. “All of them are striving to be saints in their unique vocations, and that fills me with great joy. I would use St. John Paul II’s words in describing my family as ‘a school of love.'”

nicholas gawarecki saint paul seminary

Deacon Nicholas Gawarecki

Diocese of Winona-Rochester

Hometown: Stewartville, Minnesota
Home parish: Pax Christi | Rochester, Minnesota
Parents: Chris and Julie Gawarecki
Siblings: Andrea, Adam, Joseph
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Theology, Benedictine College; Bachelor of Science in Paralegal, St. Mary’s University (Minnesota); Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, University of Minnesota; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

While pursuing different fields of study and eventually working as a law clerk, Gawarecki always felt a persistent tug toward the priesthood. “Eventually, I knew I had to pursue it,” he said. “I think the greatest need in the local Church — as it always has been — is for men and women to live a life of holiness. For me, that means seeking holiness and a life of prayer as a priest. The people look to the priest as an expert in prayer. Consequently, I think the church needs priests living a life of deep prayer. In our diocese, the need is to inspire the laity to live their faith and to evangelize.”

2024 Saint Paul Seminary priestly ordination schedule

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

10 a.m. Saturday, May 25 | Cathedral of St. Paul

  • Deacon Brent Bowman
  • Deacon Philip Conklin
  • Deacon Francis Floeder
  • Deacon Derek Gilde
  • Deacon Sean Mulcare
  • Deacon Michael Panka
  • Deacon Alexander Rasset
  • Deacon Ryan Sustacek
  • Deacon Nicholas Vance
  • Deacon Christopher Yanta
Diocese of St. Cloud

10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 1 | St. Mary’s Cathedral (map)

  • Deacon Daniel Ruprecht
  • Deacon Kevin Soenneker
Diocese of Winona-Rochester

10 a.m. Saturday, June 8 | Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka (map)

  • Deacon Nicholas Gawarecki
  • Deacon Brian Klein
  • Deacon Joshua Miller
Diocese of Des Moines

5 p.m. Friday, June 21 | St. Ambrose Cathedral (map)

  • Deacon Luisito Cabrera

derek gilde saint paul seminary
Deacon Derek Gilde

Deacon Derek Gilde

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: River Falls, Wisconsin
Home parish: St. Mary’s | Stillwater, Minnesota
Parents: Ronald and Rochelle Gilde
Siblings: Christopher, Stephanie
Education: Bachelor of Social Work, University of Wisconsin-River Falls; Master of Social Work, Augsburg College; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

Gilde converted to Catholicism in 2017 after growing up in a faithful, loving, devout Lutheran family, he said. A deep zeal to “tend to the corporeal needs of human brokenness in the world” led him to a 15-year career as a social worker. But he’d always had ministry in the back of his mind. “In the process [of conversion], the holy fire of wanting to bring Christ to the community in a more concrete way unexpectedly struck me once again,” Gilde said. That led him to seminary, and now to the priesthood — where he hopes to continue to serve those most in need. “Having a background in Social Work and Mental Health, I have a natural interest in learning about the inseparable relationship of faith and human integration. I would be excited to host talented Catholic speakers, make helpful resources known, and even empower and support talented people to use their skills and faith to better meet the needs of the community.”

hjalmar gudjonsson saint paul seminary
Deacon Hjalmar Gudjonsson

Deacon Hjalmar Blondal Gudjonsson

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: Reykjavik, Iceland
Home parish: All Saints | Lakeville, Minnesota
Parents: Kristin Blondal and Gudjon Baldursson
Siblings: Three
Education: Bachelor of Sacred Theology, Angelicum; Master of Laws in Civil Law,  University of Bifrost; and Bachelor of Science in Commercial Law, University of Bifrost; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

Originally from Iceland, Gudjonsson finished formal seminary formation last spring and spent this year learning and working in a parish setting. His formation included serving Mass for Pope Francis in Rome. “It was a great honor to have represented the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis at the papal altar in Rome,” Gudjonsson said then. He hopes his ministry after ordination will continue to have an international-universal focus. “I see the greatest need to be able to minister and support more Spanish speaking people in the archdiocese,” Gudjonsson said. “It is important to have more priests learning Spanish to meet those needs.”

brian klein saint paul seminary
Deacon Brian Klein

Deacon Brian Klein

Diocese of Winona-Rochester

Hometown: Wells, Minnesota
Home parish: St. Casimir | Wells, Minnesota
Parents: Tim and Bev Klein
Siblings: Jamie, Eric, Nicole, Amber
Education: Bachelor of Science in Economics, St. Olaf College; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

Before entering seminary, Klein worked as a credit analyst. He also taught seventh grade faith formation during the evenings. During one stretch, the classroom full of rambunctious middle schoolers “felt like a train wreck,” Klein recalled. “But I was praying one night before class and realizing that even in the midst of the seeming failure and difficulty, I simply wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” That love for sharing the Catholic faith blossomed into a calling to the priesthood, where Klein is “excited to teach prayer and walk with people as they discover how God has created them to have a unique friendship with Him and others.”

josh miller saint paul seminary
Deacon Joshua Miller

Deacon Joshua Miller

Diocese of Winona-Rochester

Hometown: Waseca, Minnesota
Home parish: Sacred Heart | Waseca, Minnesota
Parents: Gregory and Karen Miller
Siblings: Four sisters
Education: Bachelor of Science in Geospatial Information Science, United States Military Academy at West Point; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

Miller transferred to The Saint Paul Seminary from Mundelein Seminary in the Chicago area. Before that, he served as a field artillery officer in the United States Army. “While I was an Army officer, I recognized a desire in my heart to be more than just a leader and officer,” Miller said. “I had many conversations with my subordinates who needed a chaplain, and I could only offer them myself as a boss. I felt the desire to be more of a spiritual father to them rather than just a boss.”

sean mulcare saint paul seminary
Deacon Sean Mulcare

Deacon Sean Mulcare

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: Forest Lake, Minnesota
Home parish: St. Peter | Forest Lake, Minnesota
Parents: Tim and Cheryl
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies and Philosophy, University of St. Thomas; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

Like many other young Twin Cities men who enter seminary, the seeds of Mulcare’s priestly vocation were planted and nurtured at Extreme Faith Camp, a weeklong Catholic summer camp in Wisconsin for middle school students. Mulcare also had the example and tutelage of Bishop Donald DeGrood — then Fr. DeGrood, who was pastor at Mulcare’s childhood parish. “I am incredibly excited, humbled, and grateful to God along with so many people that I will be ordained a priest this May,” Mulcare said. “Something that has felt so far away for so long has finally come, and I am filled with excitement and gratitude. I am especially looking forward to walking with people individually especially in the sacraments of confession and anointing of the sick. Being with people and being invited into their lives at times in their lives when they are suffering is such a privileged place to be.”

michael panka saint paul seminary
Deacon Michael Panka

Deacon Michael Panka

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: New Prague, Minnesota
Home parish: St. Nicholas | Elko New Market, Minnesota
Parents: Paul and Candice Panka
Siblings: Justine, Cassandra, Joseph, Andrew, Celine, Brendan
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Latin and Classical Languages, University of St. Thomas; Master of Arts in Catholic Studies, University of St. Thomas; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

Panka’s parents and six brothers and sisters had a profound impact on his journey to the priesthood. “My father is man of great integrity and quiet strength,” Panka said. “My mother is a woman of almost fiery devotion.” You can see both in Panka, who carries himself with humble dignity. But ask him about the future of the Church and his priesthood, and out comes the side of him he inherited from mom. “One of the greatest needs amongst Christians both here and throughout the Western World is the need for what I might call an imaginative recalibration,” said Panka, who worked as a middle school history and Latin teacher before entering the seminary. “By and large, this means finding ways of helping people develop in themselves a well-ordered imaginative landscape, one within which they can properly situate both the supernatural status and mission of the Church, as well as those other natural institutions — for example, the family — which modern society more and more frequently either denigrates or seeks to destroy.”

alex rasset saint paul seminary
Deacon Alex Rasset

Deacon Alex Rasset

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: Buffalo, Minnesota
Home parish: St. Francis Xavier | Buffalo, Minnesota
Parents: Patrick and Rita Rasset
Siblings: Anne, Liz
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Catholic Studies, University of St. Thomas; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

During middle school, Rasset’s best friend invited him to join the youth group at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Buffalo, Minnesota. “This was a pivotal catalyst in my relationship with the Lord,” Rasset said. So was the example of his childhood pastor, Fr. Dave Hennen — a Saint Paul Seminary alumnus. “Having been encountered by the living God and having great priestly witness, when I felt the Lord’s call on my heart to be a priest, it was not long before I decided to enter the seminary right after high school.” Eight years later, Rasset looks forward to working with young couples and focusing on marriage and family ministry. “I’m saddened by how few marriages there are each year in so many parishes. Whether people are foregoing marriage altogether or getting married outside of the Church, there is a great need here. The Lord has made marriage and family an indispensable and beautiful institution where He desires to encounter His people and make present His own love in this world. I want to help proclaim this message of the goodness and dignity of the family and how important of a vocation it is.”

daniel ruprecht saint paul seminary
Deacon Daniel Ruprecht

Deacon Daniel Ruprecht

Diocese of St. Cloud

Hometown: Eden Valley, Minnesota
Home parish: Assumption | Eden Valley, Minnesota
Parents: Dan and Julie Ruprecht
Siblings: April, Lisa, Rosie
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Accounting, St. John’s University (Minnesota); Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

An avid fisherman, Ruprecht recently gave a homily at the seminary where he compared topwater lure techniques for bass to building virtues like patience. “I enjoy fishing both from a boat and through the ice,” Ruprecht said. “I have spent much time fishing prior to entering seminary, and have already used it to connect with parishioners.” Ruprecht reverted to the faith while working as a public accountant, then eventually heard God calling him to become a priest. One source of inspiration: his niece, Aurora. “I see her goodness, but I also see the brokenness of the world. I want the world to be a better place, a place where she can thrive, a place more full of the truths that the Catholic Church professes. Priests promote these truths. This has inspired me to work hard to prepare for this ministry.”

kevin soenneker saint paul seminary
Deacon Kevin Soenneker

Deacon Kevin Soenneker

Diocese of St. Cloud

Hometown: Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Home parish: St. Paul’s | Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Parents: Jerome (deceased) and Alice Soenneker
Siblings: : Judy, Karen, Michael, Deb, Dale, Keith
Education: Marketing and Sales Management, Alexandria Technical College; Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, University of St. Thomas; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

It’s been quite a journey for Soenneker from small-town Minnesota boy to potential Catholic priest. His mother raised him and six siblings by herself after Soenneker’s father passed away. When he was in his 20s, Soenneker was engaged to be married. He didn’t enter seminary until he was 42. And it all gave him experiences he believes will allow him to relate to his parishioners after ordination. “In John 10:10, Christ states that he came so we can have life and have it abundantly,” Soenneker said. “This is the invitation Christ offers. Our lives are not to be lived so that we just get through the workday and return home and worship on Sundays. We are to live the joy of being heirs to God’s kingdom through an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. It is through this lens that we can live life ‘abundantly.'”

ryan sustacek saint paul seminary
Deacon Ryan Sustacek

Deacon Ryan Sustacek

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: St. Michael, Minnesota
Home parish: St. Michael | St. Michael, Minnesota
Parents: Steven and Jennifer Sustacek
Siblings: Rachel and Raelin
Education: Master of Arts in Catholic Studies and Philosophy, University of St. Thomas; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

Sustacek had it all planned out. Go to college, compete on the swim team, earn a nice scholarship, become a math teacher, get married, have a family. But when he went to visit the college he planned to attend, he was “shockingly underwhelmed,” he said. Instead, he felt a tug to enter college seminary. “This tug felt like a spiritual pocket dial. I certainly was being called to look, but I was like, ‘does God actually know who He is calling? This can’t be correct.'” On the contrary, Sustacek said, throughout seminary formation “the Lord has made it abundantly clear via His peace and His Church that this is where He wants me.” But he’s still had — and will have — plenty of opportunities to teach. In seminary, that included serving as the head coach of The Saint Paul Seminary flag football team in the annual Rector’s Bowl against his other alma mater, St. John Vianney College Seminary.

nick vance saint paul seminary
Deacon Nick Vance

Deacon Nick Vance

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: St. Paul
Home parish: Transfiguration | Oakdale, Minnesota
Parents: Deacon Christopher and Leila Vance
Siblings: Theresa, Christopher, Elisa, Natalie, AnnMarie
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies and Communications and Journalism, University of St. Thomas; Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology, The Saint Paul Seminary

Vance is one of 13 seminarians from his archdiocese becoming priests this year, including 11 in formation at The Saint Paul Seminary. “It was certainly a surprise to me and my classmates to see such an abundance of vocations,” Vance said. “We’ve joked about there being ‘something in the water,’ but I am amazed that we pretty much all came here from different backgrounds and ways of ending up here; in His wonderful designs, the Lord brought us all here together at the same time. I recall this moment in the life of St. Francis of Assisi, when he exclaims in wonder at the plans of the Lord as others join him in the mission: ‘the Lord gave me brothers!’ It has been such a joy to go through seminary with them, and I look forward to fostering many years of priestly fraternity together as we work in the vineyard.”

christopher yanta saint paul seminary
Deacon Christopher Yanta

Deacon Christopher Yanta

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Hometown: Maple Lake, Minnesota
Home parish: St. Timothy | Maple Lake, Minnesota
Parents: Joseph and Tracy Yanta
Siblings: Naomi, Katie, Matthew, Alice, Peter, Bernadette
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, University of St. Thomas; Master of Divinity, The Saint Paul Seminary

Yanta first served Mass in second grade and “felt like the Lord might be calling me to serve Him in this way. That feeling never really went away.” Like most priests, he’s most looking forward to celebrating the Eucharist, but also to providing a vehicle for an important part of the spiritual life it’s easy for laymen and women to neglect. “I think the greatest need of our local Church is the lack of silence, that quiet space where we meet God,” Yanta said. “I plan on preaching about the necessity of silence in our daily lives as well as offering retreats throughout the year that will provide opportunities for the people of God to enter into that silence.”

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