Santa Clara Univeristy's Jesuit School of Theology is proud to announce the ordination of 10 new priests. Get to know each of them below.
Fr. Richard J. Fichtinger, S.J., 35, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. He attended Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis and converted to Catholicism during his senior year while a parishioner at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church. In 2004, Fr. Fichtinger received a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He first learned about the Jesuits during a college course on social justice, but the idea to join the Society would not manifest itself until later. Following college, Fr. Fichtinger worked for two years as a youth and family counselor with an organization that works to solve conflicts in young adults and families. In May 2005, he began to research vocations online and was drawn to the Jesuits because of their emphasis on education, parish ministry and working with people at the margins. Entering in 2006, Fr. Fichtinger was sent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota as a novice and did youth parish ministry and elementary and middle school counseling. He was next missioned to study philosophy at Loyola University Chicago and then headed to the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, where he served as a school counselor, coached football and taught theology. Fr. Fichtinger traveled to MAGIS and World Youth Day in Brazil in the summer of 2013 and in 2014, enrolled at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, earning both a Master of Divinity degree and a Master of Theology degree. Ordained a deacon in October 2016, he ministered at the Newman Hall-Holy Spirit Parish at the University of California, Berkeley, preaching and helping with Bible study, sacramental preparation and retreats. He currently serves on the board of Loyola High School in Detroit. After ordination, Fr. Fichtinger will be assigned to Saint Thomas More Catholic Community in St. Paul for one year. His first Masses as a priest will be celebrated at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee and Saint Thomas More. (Wisconsin Province)
Fr. Rodolfo (Rudy) Casals, S.J., 42, was raised in Tarrytown, New York, where he attended Catholic grade school at The Transfiguration School. His family later moved to Wappingers Falls, New York, and finally to Columbia, Tennessee, where he went to Columbia State Community College for a year. He then accepted an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, graduating in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in physics and a minor in Spanish. Fr. Casals began his Navy career in Japan, serving for five years as a surface warfare officer on the USS Dubuque, USS Juneau and USS John S. McCain. He next served as the 22nd Company Officer and instructor at the Naval Academy, earning a master’s degree in leadership education in 2004. While working with midshipmen at the Naval Academy, the dream of becoming a priest, which Fr. Casals had considered when he was younger, returned. He began to realize that God was calling him, which was both exhilarating and terrifying. Fr. Casals began meeting with a Jesuit spiritual director and decided the Jesuits were the right choice because of their mission to go where needs are greatest. After a final year in the Navy as a recruiter in West Des Moines, Iowa, he joined the Jesuits in 2006. As a novice, Fr. Casals volunteered as a chaplain in various hospitals and jails. He went on to study social philosophy at Loyola University Chicago, graduating with a master’s degree in 2011. He next taught physics for two years at Xavier High School in New York City, followed by a year as a chaplain intern at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Most recently, Fr. Casals was missioned to the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree and served as a deacon and chaplain at San Quentin State Prison. After ordination, he will spend the summer serving at St. Mary of the Assumption+Our Lady of Mount Carmel+St. Benedicta Parish on Staten Island, New York, and in the fall, he will serve at St. Thomas More Parish in Atlanta. Fr. Casals will celebrate his first Mass as a priest at St. Mary’s Church in Yonkers, New York. (USA Northeast Province)
Fr. Luke J. Hansen, S.J., 35, is from Kaukauna, Wisconsin, a small city near Green Bay. His family belongs to St. Katharine Drexel Parish, where he attended grade school. He graduated from Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana, in 2004 with bachelor’s degrees in political science and religion/philosophy. During college, Fr. Hansen played golf, was a resident assistant, was involved in campus ministry and participated in mock trial. After graduation, he joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and spent one year in San Jose, California, working in legal services for mental health patients in the local county jail. Fr. Hansen had thought about priesthood and religious life during college, but it was in JVC, when he got to know Jesuits while living near Santa Clara University, that he began to really imagine living as a Jesuit and serving as a priest. He entered the Society in 2005 and as a novice went on a pilgrimage to the U.S.–Mexico border, so he could listen and learn from migrants firsthand. Next, he went to Loyola University Chicago and received a master’s degree in social philosophy in 2010. Fr. Hansen then spent two years on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota as the volunteer coordinator at Red Cloud Indian School. Missioned next to New York City, he worked as an associate editor at America magazine for two years, where he filed reports from Honduras, El Salvador, the Vatican and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, Fr. Hansen received a Master of Divinity degree and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology. He also served as a deacon and taught a class at a federal prison for women in Dublin, California. During his formation, Fr. Hansen spent a summer doing an internship with the Jesuits’ Legal Cell for Human Rights in India, and he has been very involved in promoting and supporting the leadership and ministry of women in the church. After ordination, he will serve at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee for six weeks and then begin studies for a Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Fr. Hansen will celebrate his first Mass as a priest at the Church of the Gesu and a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Katharine Drexel. (Wisconsin Province)
Fr. Ryan J. Rallanka, S.J., 33, was born and raised in Sacramento, California, where he and his family were active members of St. Anthony Parish. Educated in Catholic schools his whole life, Fr. Rallanka attended Holy Spirit School and Jesuit High School of Sacramento, where he played piano and clarinet in the school’s bands. Fr. Rallanka first encountered the Jesuits in high school and began meaningful friendships with them at Seattle University, where he studied English and sociology. He was active from his freshman year in campus ministry, working on retreats and service trips, including a summer immersion experience in the Philippines. While at Seattle University, Fr. Rallanka also began meeting weekly with a Jesuit spiritual director, who helped him develop his relationship with God and discern his call to the priesthood. After earning double bachelor’s degrees in 2006, he entered the Society of Jesus. During his two years as a novice, Fr. Rallanka worked for three months in a L’Arche community in Tacoma, Washington, where people with and without intellectual disabilities live together as peers, and served at Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Washington, and at St. Andrew’s Mission Church on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton, Oregon. Missioned next to Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, he earned a master’s degree in philosophical resources while teaching catechism classes and directing the English choir at St. Martin of Tours Parish. His next step in Jesuit formation took him to Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, where he taught freshman theology for three years while serving as a spiritual director for the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life program at St. Ignatius Catholic Church. In 2014, Fr. Rallanka was missioned to the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. There, he completed a Master of Divinity degree while serving as a deacon at San Quentin State Prison. After ordination, Fr. Rallanka will begin work at Seattle Preparatory School. His first Mass as a priest will be celebrated with his brother Jesuits at Sacred Heart Chapel on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. (Oregon Province)
Angelo J. (A.J.) Rizzo, S.J.
Fr. Angelo J. (A.J.) Rizzo, S.J., 36, was born and raised in Philadelphia, where his parents instilled the importance of the Catholic faith in him and his five siblings, two biological and three adopted from Ethiopia. He attended Catholic schools: first his parish’s grade school, St. Albert the Great, and then St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, where he met the Jesuits. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology and philosophy from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania in 2003. After college, Fr. Rizzo returned to St. Joseph’s Prep for a year as a volunteer teacher in their Alumni Service Corps. He then moved to Baltimore and worked at Loyola Blakefield as the assistant to the chaplain and the director of Christian Service for three years, while also earning a master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Loyola University Maryland. At Blakefield, Fr. Rizzo worked with the first Jesuit he ever met when he was a student at St. Joseph’s Prep, Fr. Joe Michini, S.J., who helped him imagine the meaningful relationships he could have as a Jesuit (and who will vest Fr. Rizzo at ordination). He entered the novitiate in 2007 and, as a novice, worked in campus ministry at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He then attended Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, receiving a master’s degree in humanities in 2011. Next Fr. Rizzo spent three years teaching English, religion and Latin and helping coach the mock trial team at Scranton Preparatory School in Pennsylvania, where he lived on the university campus he attended as an undergrad—this time as a Jesuit. In 2014, Fr. Rizzo was missioned to the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree, while also completing coursework for a doctorate in Catholic educational leadership at the University of San Francisco and serving as a deacon at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Oakland. Fr. Rizzo serves on the boards of St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco and St. Elizabeth High School in Oakland. After ordination, he will do dissertation research at Loyola Blakefield and work at St. Ignatius Church in Baltimore. Fr. Rizzo will celebrate his first Mass as a priest at his home parish, St. Albert the Great. (Maryland Province)
Brett B. McLaughlin, S.J.
Fr. Brett B. McLaughlin, S.J., 35, lived in western Massachusetts, Tennessee and Rochester, New York, while growing up. He first started thinking about a vocation to the priesthood way back in eighth grade and credits vibrant parishes and priests who were role models as some of his early influencers. After graduating from high school in 2000, Fr. McLaughlin met the Jesuits at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he became active in campus ministry and, because of a class in Christology, began appreciating the Gospels in a whole new way. During the summer between his junior and senior year, he worked at a Jesuit parish in Connecticut, another confirming step as he continued to discern his vocation. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Fr. McLaughlin fulfilled his ROTC commitment and was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force before serving with a small intelligence unit in Southern England. The desire for a vocation was so strong that Fr. McLaughlin asked to be released from his commitment early, and when that was granted in 2006, he joined the Jesuits. As a novice, he worked as a chaplain at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and studied Spanish in Bolivia. Missioned next to Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, Fr. McLaughlin earned a master’s degree in philosophy in 2011 while working with the RCIA program at Fordham and at St. Barnabas Hospital. At Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, he taught theology while assisting with the Model U.N. Club and the track and cross-country teams. Missioned next to the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, he earned a Master of Divinity degree as well as a Master of Theology while working as a deacon with the young adult group at St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco. After ordination, Fr. McLaughlin will be missioned to St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in New York City and hopes to continue his studies in Christology. His first Masses as a priest will take place at the College of the Holy Cross and, a week later, at St. Joseph Church in Portland, Maine. (USA Northeast Province)
Fr. Jacob J. Boddicker, S.J., 33, grew up in Tipton, Iowa, where his family attended St. Mary’s Catholic Church. He spent two years at the University of Wyoming in Laramie studying archaeology before transferring to the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls to study history. Fr. Boddicker participated in activities at the Catholic student centers at both schools. During his junior year of college, he found he was unsatisfied with his studies and unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. Fr. Boddicker had a sudden realization that only God knew what he should do, and he began to develop a prayer life. When a speaker at a lecture about the history of the church mentioned the Jesuits, Fr. Boddicker felt a push in his heart to find out more. As he read about the Society of Jesus, especially the stories of St. Ignatius and the North American Martyrs, he had a growing sense that God was asking him to pursue life as a Jesuit; he entered the Jesuit novitiate in 2006 after his senior year. As a novice, Fr. Boddicker worked on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming and immersed himself in his studies about the Catholic faith, falling in love with the church. He then went to Saint Louis University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 2011. Fr. Boddicker next spent a year working at the Jesuits’ St. Camillus health care facility in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, followed by two years of teaching at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, where he also was chaplain to the trap shooting team. For the last three years, he studied at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree while serving as a deacon at the Basilica of St. Joseph in Alameda, California. Fr. Boddicker attended World Youth Day in 2013 in Brazil and serves on the board of The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. After ordination, he will spend the summer working at St. John’s Parish on Creighton University’s campus in Omaha, Nebraska, and then work on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Fr. Boddicker will celebrate his first Mass as a priest at the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee. (Wisconsin Province)
Fr. Stephen M. Pitts, S.J., 33, was born in New Orleans and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. Though baptized Catholic as an infant, he attended an evangelical Protestant church with his family during his upbringing. After high school, he went to the University of Oklahoma, where he received bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and computer science and spent his junior year abroad in Kyoto, Japan. At St. Thomas More University Parish, Fr. Pitts was received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil as a college freshman and worked as a student leader in campus ministry during his undergraduate years. His campus minister, an alumna of Boston College, encouraged him to consider the Jesuits because of his interest in education and in working abroad. Fr. Pitts entered the Society of Jesus after graduating in 2006. As a novice, he spent four months at the Casa de Los Pobres, a Franciscan-run soup kitchen in Tijuana, Mexico, an experience that opened his heart to the stories of immigrants. After first vows in 2008, he pursued studies at Loyola University Chicago, earning a master’s degree in philosophy in 2011. Next, Fr. Pitts taught mathematics at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas from 2011 to 2014, where he served as chaplain of the wrestling team, crew team and robotics club, as well as helped with student retreats and faculty formation. At the end of his time there, he and eight of his colleagues completed a two-week walking pilgrimage of Ignatian sites in Spain. This past May, he earned a Master of Divinity degree at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. This summer, Fr. Pitts will spend six weeks in Chiapas, Mexico, doing pastoral work and field research at a Jesuit-sponsored cooperative, Yomol A’tel, that serves indigenous coffee growers. In the fall, he will return to the Jesuit School of Theology to complete a Master of Theology in social ethics while he finishes a Master of Science in international and development economics at the University of San Francisco. Fr. Pitts will celebrate his first Mass at St. John Bosco Church in Harvey, Louisiana, the parish where he was baptized. (Central and Southern Province)
Sean M. Salai, S.J.
Fr. Sean M. Salai, S.J., 37, grew up in Indiana and attended Wabash College, where he served as the editor of the student news magazine and entered the Catholic Church. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history, then worked as a reporter at the Washington Times. He began discerning a vocation to the priesthood and discovered the Jesuits, immediately drawn to their spirituality and sense of balance. He worked briefly for the Boca Raton News before entering the Society of Jesus in 2005. As a Jesuit, he has worked in campus ministry at Loyola University New Orleans and at a L’Arche community for people with intellectual disabilities in Mobile, Alabama. He earned a master’s degree in applied philosophy at Loyola University Chicago, while also teaching at a Latino parish. He taught theology, helped with the band and coached the speech and debate team at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida. He earned a Master of Divinity degree at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, while working as a chaplain at San Quentin State Prison and serving as deacon at St. Isidore parish in Danville. He is also a special contributor to America magazine. The author of two books, including “All the Pope’s Saints: The Jesuits Who Shaped Pope Francis,” Fr. Salai will be assigned as parochial vicar to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in San Antonio. (Central and Southern Province)
Christian Wagner, S.J.
Fr. Christian Wagner, S.J., 45, grew up in the state of Baden- Württemberg in Germany. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Technische Hochschule Karlsruhe in 1994, he went on to earn a master’s degree in biotechnology at the European Biotechnology School of the Higher Rhine Universities in France and a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Basel in Switzerland. Fr. Wagner’s subsequent work in the pharmaceutical industry with GlaxoSmithKline and Abbott Laboratories brought him to the U.S., but after five years, he was searching for a more fulfilling career. The desire for meaningful work took Fr. Wagner to Loyola University Chicago, where he taught biology and began to revisit the idea of becoming a priest, which he’d placed on the back burner since high school. He entered the Society of Jesus in August 2006. As a novice, Fr. Wagner served as a chaplain with the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and later earned a master’s degree in philosophical resources from Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. In a unique experience for a Jesuit in formation, he was missioned to Asia, where he spent two years learning Mandarin in Taiwan and mainland China, followed by another year as a visiting research scientist. In 2014, he was missioned to the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree and completed a three-year spiritual direction course at the Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos, while serving as a deacon at San Quentin State Prison and the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. His first assignment as a priest will be at St. Michael’s Church in Munich, Germany, until August 2017, when Fr. Wagner will return to Berkeley to complete a Licentiate in Sacred Theology. His first Mass will be celebrated at Madonna della Strada Chapel at Loyola University Chicago. (Chicago-Detroit Province)
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