St. Joseph Cathedral, 50 Franklin St. in downtown Buffalo, will be the setting for the ordination of two men to the Roman Catholic priesthood, and the ordination of 10 men to the Sacred Order of Deacon on Saturday, September 19 at 9:30 a.m. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the ordination celebration was postponed from its original date of June 6.
Deacon Emminger grew up in a very Catholic household in the Town of Tonawanda, where his father, Joseph, is now Town Supervisor. Both his parents were very active at St. Amelia Parish. The family always attended Sunday Mass, where Chris was an altar server. He also attended St. Amelia's School and later St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute. But it wasn't until after college that he began discerning a call to the priesthood.
"My father was the first one to bring up the priesthood to me." Deacon Emminger said. His great uncle, Msgr. Joe Hassler, was a priest in the diocese. Joseph Emminger said that he saw a lot of the traits that Msgr. Hassler had, in his son Christopher. Deacon Emminger said he would think about it, but he had other goals in life. He had plans to join the military, then to become a police officer for the Town of Tonawanda.
After graduating from Buffalo State College with a criminal justice degree, Deacon Emminger began work in the Town of Tonawanda Parks Department while waiting to hear back on a job in his chosen field. He would often maintain the baseball diamonds alone, where he had time to think. "This was the first period of my life when I wasn't dealing with any kind of classwork and I actually had time to think, what do I want to do?" he said.
He spoke to Father Leon Biernat, a family friend and former vocation director, who told him about the Response Group at Christ the King Seminary, where men can discern their vocation call. When he finally got the job offer he was waiting for from the New York State Department of Corrections, Deacon Emminger turned them down to enter Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora. "I had to give the seminary at least one year to figure out if I am called to the priesthood," he said. "I never looked back."
When the pandemic began in March, all the seminarians were sent home and Deacon Emminger moved back in with his parents. During Holy Week, both he and his father contracted COVID-19.
Deacon Emminger had a mild case, but his father's health was much worse. "It was scary. My father and I were sick at the exact same time." Because of his position as town supervisor, Joseph Emminger did several interviews with local media. One of the news organizations described Christopher as his '31-year-old son who lives at home.' "I laughed." Deacon Emminger said, "Can we get a little context as to why I'm at home right now,"
When the virus had cleared his system, Deacon Emminger moved into St. John Paul II Parish in Lake View where he spent his diaconal year. Now, ready to face the next step on his journey, Deacon Emminger reflects on something Pope Benedict XVI said during an early audience. "'Each one of us is willed, each one of us is loved, each one of us is necessary.' To Deacon Emminger this quote shows we all have intrinsic value. "We have value due to human dignity that comes with being a child of God." said Deacon Emminger.
At the age of 12, Deacon Denning Achidi knew he wanted to be a part of the long and rich history of the Catholic Church. Born in Cameroon, Deacon Achidi was raised in his father's Presbyterian church. He admits it had little effect on him.
Deacon Achidi decided to attend Catholic Mass with his maternal grandmother and his mother on Sundays. That's when the prayers and hymns and traditions started to resonate with him. He first told his mother that he wanted to become Catholic.
After joining a catechesis program and being received into the Church, he became active as an altar server. Deacon Achidi found the group of teens who helped at the church to be a very fraternal group who encouraged each other in the faith. Spending time in a vocations group at the parish helped him decide to become a diocesan priest. He spent time in a high school seminary in Cameroon, until his family relocated to Washington, D.C.
After college, Deacon Achidi moved to Buffalo to do his pre-novitiate studies at D'Youville College in 2012. Then in 2015 he moved onto Christ the King Seminary to continue his studies and pursue the life of a diocesan priest. Following ordination, Reverend Emminger will be assigned to St. Stephen's Parish, Grand Island as a Parochial Vicar for a three-year term.
While attending the seminary Deacon Achidi witnessed the Church, as well as the Diocese of Buffalo and the seminary itself, come under scrutiny due to abuse accusations. He never turned away, instead he turned to Christ Himself with a 'what would Jesus do' attitude. "This is time to be a good witness. And this is the time to encourage people that there is hope." said Deacon Achidi.
Deacon Achidi is proud to not only be a member of the faith, but an active servant of the Lord and His people. "I hope to be a true servant, to serve people." he said. Following ordination, Reverend Achidi will take up his assignment at Queen of Heaven Parish, West Seneca as a Parochial Vicar for a three-year term.
Both Reverend Emminger and Reverend Achidi will begin their assignments on October 2, 2020.
Bishop Scharfenberger will also ordain 10 men to the Order of the Diaconate. Four seminarians will be ordained Transitional Deacons, as part of the process to become an ordained priest. They are Charles Johnson, Michael James Johnson, Ryan Keating and Daniel Richard Ulmer.
Receiving Sacred Orders as Permanent Deacons are Stephen Czarnecki, Stephen Gajewski,, Howard Matthew Morgan, Christopher John Privitera, Walter Samick and Thomas Sutton.
This is a ticketed event. The faithful are invited to join this celebration of ordained ministry in person as well as participating in the live-streamed broadcast at:http://www.youtube.com/SaintJosephCathedral/.
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Buffalo, will confer holy orders (priesthood) on Deacon Christopher Emminger and Deacon Denning Achidi.