Seminarian to receive Holy Orders on Aug. 14
Friday, Jul. 31, 2020
SALT LAKE CITY— On Aug. 14, the Cathedral of the Madeleine will be the site of the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, as Deacon Dominic Sternhagen is ordained a priest by Bishop Oscar A. Solis.
Deacon Sternhagen’s road to the priesthood started 21 years ago, when he entered Westminster Abbey in British Columbia. The abbey is a community of Benedictine monks that was established from the Abbey of Mount Angel in Oregon, where most of the Diocese of Salt Lake City’s seminarians are enrolled.
“I have been walking this path for a while, and what it has meant has changed radically over the years,” Deacon Sternhagen said. “My first experience of the call [to the priesthood] was the desire to consecrate my life fully to God, and afterwards to serve others.”
The fullness of the priesthood call has always been “following the example that Christ himself left us. Because priesthood in its essence is a total consecration, akin to marriage. It is not a 9-to-5 job,” he said.
After 12 years of study in preparation to be a priest with the Legion of Christ, Deacon Sternhagen realized that he was being called to a different path. He undertook a year of pastoral work in Philadelphia, then called the Diocese of Salt Lake City’s vocations office to ask about serving in Utah.
The deacon, who speaks Spanish, was assigned first at St. Joseph Parish in Ogden, and then at St. Mary Parish in West Haven. His experiences at those parishes led him to accept the invitation to continue his studies at Mount Angel Seminary, in preparation for becoming a diocesan priest.
The path he has followed for his vocation has taught him that the Catholic priesthood is a call to love, he said.
“A love that does not limit itself to one spouse or family, or try to split itself between Church and home, but a love that, like Christ’s own, reaches out and embraces all of Christ’s people, and all people,” he said. “A love that, like Christ’s own, pours itself out. It is a goal, one this poor instrument will never reach, but one that I have striven to prepare myself for and will keep striving toward.”
Along his path of life, Sternhagen has faced some challenges but also many joys.
“I am always my own greatest obstacle; and the only accomplishment that one can boast of is being able, just a little, hopefully, to get out of God’s way and let him work,” he said adding that he had loved every step of his journey.
“Not only in spite of, but because of the hardships and the obstacles – they have all been allowed by the Father to get me to where I am today! My only hope is to be an instrument to bring people to Christ. Everything else is vanity. Ordination is not the end, or an end, it is a beginning, and it is a long hard road. But if I can help even one person draw nearer to the Lord, it will all have been worth it,” he said “I am ready to let God act through me; I am ready for God to take over.”
Deacon Sternhagen will be a good priest because of his deep faith, said Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general. “Faith is a gift, and he has been richly gifted with faith through his family, first of all, and then by all the educational and religious opportunities that he has been exposed to in his early years of formation.”
In addition, “the deacon impresses me as a very good person with common sense. People relate to him easily, and he to them,” Msgr. Bircumshaw said.
After his ordination, Deacon Sternhagen will be assigned to the Cathedral of the Madeleine as parochial vicar.
“The cathedral is simply beautiful,” he said. “I am very thankful for the opportunity to be part of that. I am looking forward to participating in all the beautiful liturgies. ... I am excited to be able to serve.”
Because his ordination will take place while the social distancing requirements imposed because of the pandemic are in place, attendance at the celebration will be limited. However, that is just another sign that “Our Lord only allows evil to bring greater good,” Deacon Sternhagen said. “We have to hold that thought. ... Now more than ever, we are all in this together, despite the distances.”
WHAT: Deacon Dominic Sternhagen to be ordained a priest
WHEN: Friday, Aug. 14, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Cathedral of the Madeleine, 309 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Attendance will be limited to the invited family and friends of Deacon Sternhagen, and the priests of the diocese. The ceremony will be livestreamed on the cathedral’s YouTube channel, cotm.tv.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no reception will be held.