On June 8, alumnus Nicholas Blank was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Arlington surrounded by friends, family, and fellow alumni priests. The moment was the high point of Fr. Blank’s life, but also the finale for a summer of ordinations in the Christendom community. With Fr. Blank’s ordination, the total number of alumni priests now stands at 91 — an incredible milestone for the college which has only been offering its time-tested Catholic liberal arts education for 41 years.
Fr. Blank, a member of the Christendom Class of 2013 and the eldest of 9 siblings, first came to the college already open to the priesthood. Homeschooled for his elementary and high school education, Fr. Blank was deeply affected by his experience as a participant during the college’s Experience Christendom Summer Program, which he attended in the summer of 2008. He was especially drawn to the virtue and goodness found in the male counselors during the program, particularly Matthew Rensch. He decided to enroll in the fall of 2009, with the combination of daily prayer in the college’s chapel and the friendships he formed along the way encouraging him to apply to seminary shortly after graduation.
Now, he is the 91st alumni priest and also the 17th alumni priest in Christendom’s home Diocese of Arlington, helping to generously give back to the Diocese that has supported the college all these years. The other alumni serving the Diocese of Arlington are Fr. Carroll Oubre, Fr. Tom Vander Woude, Fr. Joseph Kenna, Fr. Bjorn Lundberg, Fr. Noah Morey, Fr. Matthew Zuberbueler, Fr. Steve McGraw, Fr. John Heisler, Fr. Vincent Bork, Fr. Kevin Beres, Fr. Michael Taylor, Fr. Kevin Walsh, Fr. Francis Peffley, Fr. Joseph Farrell, Fr. Christopher Tipton, and Fr. Denis Donahue.
His former summer program counselor, and mentor, Matthew Rensch ‘11, was at the ordination ceremonies – now as Fr. Matthew Rensch of the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, the 79th alumnus priest who was ordained in 2016 – and was the priest that Fr. Blank asked to clothe him with his vestments during the ordination ceremony.
Fr. Matt Rensch and Fr. Nicholas Blank.
Outside of Arlington, four other alumni were ordained as priests this summer. Fr. John Killackey ’11 was ordained a priest in the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter on May 24, joining seven other FSSP alumni vocations from the college, including Fr. Gerard Saguto, Fr. Joseph Portzer, Fr. Thomas Longua, Fr. Chris Pelster, Fr. Daniel Heenan, Fr. Zach Akers, and Deacon David McWhirter.
Classmate Fr. John Mark Solitario was ordained just a day after Fr. Killackey, on May 25 at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC. Fr. Solitario ‘11 studied with the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph after graduation, and now serves in that province (which covers from Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio, northward to Maine) as a priest. He is only the second alumnus to be ordained a Dominican priest.
Fr. Steven Wood, a classmate of Fr. Blank’s in 2013, was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Sacramento, while Fr. David Frank ‘12 was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Together, these five alumni will now bring Christ to the world, sharing the same love and joy that they brought to Christendom with so many others. Many other alumni will soon follow them, with Deacon Peter McShurley ’14 and Deacon Miguel Flores-Perez ’01 recently ordained to the diaconate, set to join the alumni priesthood ranks next summer. Brother John McFadden, OSB, will be ordained as a transitional deacon in the fall at Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma, while another 20 men are studying for the priesthood in seminaries across the country.
Christendom may have been founded primarily to form young people to become lay apostles, but the college’s passionate Catholicism has resulted in hundreds of religious vocations over the past 41 years. These priestly vocations are the latest in a great tradition, one that will surely continue for years to come.