Every Christian is unique because the Holy Spirit inspires something new and original in each…
Fathers, sons and and the shared gift of holy orders
If someone calls the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado, and asks for Father Wertin, they might need to give a little more information.
Do they want Father Carl Wertin, director of vocations and pastor of Christ the King Parish in Pueblo? Or do they mean his brother, Father Matthew Wertin, vicar for the New Evangelization?
Or maybe they’re looking for the two priests’ dad, Father Henry Wertin, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Grand Junction.
There aren’t many fathers and sons in the priesthood, let alone a priest who has two sons who are priests. Another son, Henry Jr., had entered then dropped out of seminary.
Father Henry, 68, began his vocational journey decades ago at a Benedictine abbey. Plans changed when he met and married a young woman named Mary Beth and became a chiropractor instead of a monk. Their shared faith life led him to become a permanent deacon in 2000. His wife died four years later from a traffic accident, and he started thinking about the priesthood after he finished raising the youngest of their 10 children. Father Henry was ordained in 2016.
Father Matthew, 42, had already been ordained in 2006. His vocation was influenced by his parents’ strong faith and how sacrificial they were in their vocation of marriage and parenting.
“They made the idea of service quite natural, that whatever I was going to do was going to be in service to others,” Father Matthew said. “Being Catholic has always been important, and family has always been important, so it made it easy to find our place in the world.”
Father Carl, 35, was ordained to the priesthood in 2015.
“Our parents openly supported whatever we chose to do in life, but there was a clear communication that the priesthood was an option for us,” he said. “I was always observing my parents’ faithfulness, too.”
Father Matthew helped to vest Father Carl at his ordination, and the brothers both vested their father. At the time, Father Matthew as interim vocations director was asked the required question: Do you find this man to be worthy?
“I don’t know if my father made a facial expression or what, but there was some laughter,” he said.
The three men have served together at chrism Masses and ordinations. The two sons, with their dad assisting, also concelebrated Mass at another brother’s wedding.
“It’s absolutely a blessing to be the father of two priests,” Father Henry said.
Kevin Hostutler felt the call to be a deacon early in his life. He was in high school when his father, Jim, was ordained in the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, in 1986, so he was familiar with a deacon’s life. The spiritual and sacramental life he later experienced at Franciscan University in Steubenville was, he noted, “a huge mover” in that direction.
“It was just a matter of when, not if,” he said. “I had my life with my wife, Colleen, and our five kids, and I was an employer for my own software company. There were a lot of demands, and what helped me to get through them was to break down the discernment into pieces, and should I even apply? I looked at it as smaller increments.”
In May 2017, he was ordained a deacon in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, with his father serving at the Mass. Deacon Kevin, 48, is currently assigned to St. Louis Parish in Clarksville, Maryland.
“Our vocations give us a joint sense of faith,” said Deacon Jim, 78, who now serves at St. Patrick’s Catholic Community in Scottsdale, in the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona. “He’ll send me his homilies, and he keeps me up to date on what’s going on.”
Deacon Kevin loves to preach and baptize.
“I just enjoy bringing babies into the Church,” he said. “It’s a nice way to evangelize. I’m doing some catechesis with families who are coming into the Church from various points in their lives. I’m also preparing couples for marriage.”
The COVID pandemic affected Deacon Jim’s ministries.
“I’ve been doing a lot of funerals and working with people who are mourning,” he said. “I think that’s my calling to be with them.”
He lost his own brother to COVID a year ago and almost didn’t make it himself in November. He was close to going on a ventilator, and the doctors asked if he wanted to be resuscitated if he died.
“My son, Mark, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, said, ‘Dad, I need you,’ so I started fighting,” Deacon Jim said. “I went into rehab when I got out of intensive care and was there until Jan. 26. It was a long struggle.”
Their shared vocations, Deacon Kevin said, give them strong connections in their family life, too. Deacon Jim baptized four of Deacon Kevin’s five children and two of his son Brian’s children. He also officiated at the weddings of Brian, Kevin and his daughter, Sarah. Deacon Jim has three other children — Michael, Stacy and Todd.
Deacon Stan Upah was ordained in July of 2017 in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa. In May 2018, he was deacon of the word in the Mass for his son’s ordination to the priesthood.
“Andy felt the call before I did,” Deacon Stan said. “He felt it in high school, but he went ahead and dated and got on with his life.”
Father Andy started falling away from the Church when he was in college.
“I was going to get married in a Lutheran church in 2005, but I broke that off before the wedding,” he said. “My father kept inviting me back to the Church. He invited me to a men’s conference in 2007 where I heard Curtis Martin, founder of FOCUS, speak about the Eucharist and confession. That was when I kind of had my reversion. Dad didn’t give up on me. By 2009, I was thinking about the priesthood.”
Then at around age 30, Father Andy, now 39, entered formation.
“My dad knew that I was applying, but I didn’t know that he was applying until after he was already accepted,” he said.
He is the pastor of Church of the Nativity in Dubuque and chaplain of Wahlert Catholic High School.
Deacon Stan, 60, owns a farm equipment repair business. He and his wife, Charlotte, have been active in marriage ministry since 2007 and have been on the archdiocese family life committee for years. He’s assigned to St. Michael Parish in Belle Plaine, St. Joseph Parish in Chelsea, and St. Patrick Parish in Tama.
“Being a deacon has made me more in tune with the promptings of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “It has enriched my relationship with my son, but we have always been pretty close anyway. We have a strong relationship in ministry. We bounce our homilies off each other, and share theological ideas.”
The two men have served together at family weddings and funerals, and at other Masses.
“My mom appreciates that we can offer Mass with her and for her, and that we live our faith and preach the Good News,” Father Andy said. “Having faithful family members is a beautiful thing. I have two younger sisters, and one has five kids and the other has three. My father baptized the last granddaughter, and I was her godfather.”
Father Jacob Rouse remembers growing up with “a very Catholic father” who taught him to pray and who encouraged their life within the Church.
“He fostered a vocation in me,” he said. “He told me, ‘You know, son, you can do whatever you want. Just make sure it’s what God wants.”
Father Jacob felt called to the priesthood and is now assigned to Notre Dame Parish in Cresco in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa.
“My father inspired me to be open to God’s plan,” he said. “Then I told him that he should consider becoming a deacon. I like to joke that I beat him to ordination.”
Father Jacob, 30, was ordained in May 2018. In July 2019, he vested his father, Dan, in his ordination to permanent deacon.
“My first Mass was assisting my son at the altar, which was a really cool thing to do,” said Deacon Dan, 57, who manages a video production company and is assigned to St. Patrick Parish in Cedar Rapids.
He joined the Church 25 years ago. His wife, Jayne, is a cradle Catholic. When their boys were growing up, they invited priests for dinner every month “to let them know that priests are people, too,” he said. He also wanted to plant the seeds of vocation, whether God was calling them to single, married or religious life.
He considered becoming a deacon years ago.
“I knew what the commitment of a deacon was, and the boys were still young and we needed to focus on them,” he said. “Jayne and I prayed about it, and things happened in my life that pointed me toward the diaconate.”
He applied when his son was already in the seminary.
“My mother is incredibly proud and happy for us,” Father Jacob said. “When we grew up, my brother and I would be serving and she would be singing and Dad would be reading. There have been Masses where my father and I were serving and my brother was reading, and my mother is perfectly happy to be alone in the pew and to be proud of us all together on the altar.”
His younger brother, Joshua, teaches English and theology at a Catholic high school.
“So we have a Catholic preacher, a Catholic teacher and a Catholic deacon in our family,” Deacon Dan said.
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.