Bishop J. Mark Spalding will ordain two seminarians for the Diocese of Nashville as transitional deacons at Sagrado Corazon Church at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 27.
This is an important final step before their planned ordination to the priesthood next year.
Nonso Ohanaka and Brent Thayer, both studying at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, and scheduled to be ordained priests in 2022, are looking forward to serving as deacons for the diocese.
“One of the things that hits me the most when I think about the diaconate is being able to be a part of people’s lives even more,” said Thayer. “As a deacon I’m looking forward to the opportunity to preach at Mass,” as well as being able to baptize people into the Church, he said.
Ordained deacons can also witness marriages and lead funeral services.
“I’m looking forward to being able to serve in a different way on the altar,” said Ohanaka. He plans to serve his first Mass after being ordained a deacon at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church. Thayer will serve his first Mass at St. Catherine in Columbia.
Ohanaka was born in Nigeria then lived most of his life in Nashville with his parents and four siblings. “Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a priest,” he said. The example of his parents, and “all the holy people I’ve met along the way,” have been strong examples of committing to a vocation, he said.
The active Nigerian Catholic Community in Nashville has also been an “a place for me to continue to grow in my faith,” Ohanaka said.
Thayer, who was raised in a Catholic family in Syracuse, New York, graduated from Franciscan University. As he began to seriously discern a call to the priesthood, his family moved south to Nashville to be closer to his sister, Sister Mariana, O.P., who had joined the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation. He credits her example as the final confirmation that he wanted to pursue a religious vocation.
The grandson of two World War II veterans, Thayer seriously considered becoming a military chaplain, and was set to split his commitment between serving as a parish priest and ministering to airmen in the Air Force.
Now, he said, “I have discerned out of doing military chaplaincy,” and he will be solely committed to serving in the Diocese of Nashville.
Thayer and Ohanaka are two of about 20 men in various stages of formation, discerning their priestly vocations.
They are the next two men on track to be ordained priests for the Diocese of Nashville. This year, 2021, is the first time in many years that no priestly ordinations are scheduled.
“It’s been a great experience and a blessing” to be a seminarian for the diocese, Ohanaka said. “It’s an opportunity to grow as a person and fall more in love with the Church and the diocese.”