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Archives Three to be ordained to priesthood May 29

May 26, 2021

By Darcy Fargo

OGDENSBURG – The Diocese of Ogdensburg will have three new priests on Saturday, May 29, as Bishop Terry R. LaValley will ordain three men, Deacon Matthew Conger, Deacon John Ojuok and Deacon Fernando Solomon Jr., to the priesthood at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting the seating capacity in St. Mary's Cathedral, the ordination can be watched via livestream at www.rcdony.org/ordination at 11 a.m. The ordination Mass program will be available at the same link shortly before the ordination.

Deacon Matthew Conger
“In some ways, it’s sort of surreal, I suppose” said Deacon Conger of the upcoming ordination. “I’ve been in seminary for nine years now. I’ve always had to get ready for school in August. Now, I’ll be staying in a parish, and I’ll be a priest. It’s a very exciting time, but I’m a little nervous. This will be a whole different way of life, a whole different part of who I am and who I’m becoming. Everything I’ve been working toward, everything I’ve felt called to is coming to fulfillment.”

Deacon Conger said his last year of seminary and especially his work in a parish has helped prepare him for his priesthood.

“I’ve learned quite a lot,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to be assigned to Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Buffalo. That experience taught me a lot – the different things priest face, the questions that come at you when you least expect them. And it taught me a little bit about being a priest in the world today. Being a transitional deacon, not everyone knows you’re not ‘father’ yet. They ask questions. The questions are amazing! I don’t always have the answers. Something I’ve learned, though, is that I can look them up, and I can try to give good answers. I’ve also learned that doing a lot of Masses can be tiring.”

Deacon Conger said he’s looking forward to his future ministry and life as a priest.

“The big thing I’m looking forward to is finally being able to say Mass,” he said. “And I’ll be able to bring all the sacraments to people. As a deacon, I can baptize, bury and marry, but now I’ll be able to celebrate Mass and bring Christ to people in the Eucharist. It’s overwhelming when I think about it. When I’m there at Mass, especially as a deacon when I’m kneeling during the words of Consecration, that’s going to be me in X amount of months or, now, X amount of days. It’s overwhelming, but it also brings me a lot of peace, and it’s fulfilling.”
He also looks forward to bringing Christ’s mercy to others in the sacrament of reconciliation.

“It’s also a little nerve wracking,” Deacon Conger said. “I’ll be the one sitting behind the screen and hearing somebody pouring their heart out to Christ seeking forgiveness. I’ll be the mediator bringing that peace and forgiveness to them. Christ didn’t come to judge. He came to bring mercy. I’m not there to judge, either. I’m there to bring mercy. It’s so important.”

Deacon Conger said he looks forward to growing in his priesthood as he moves through his first assignment as parochial vicar at Holy Family, St. Anthony’s and St. Patrick’s in Watertown.

“I’ll be transitioning from seminarian to being Father Matt,” he said. “I’ll be learning how to serve a parish. We go to parishes every summer as seminarians and deacons, but it’ll be different now as a priest. Before, I could say, ‘go talk to father.’ Now, I will be ‘father.’ Instead of being involved in a parish for two to three months, I’ll get to grow with the community and suffer with the community – experience all parts of life in a parish. I’ll be learning my role as a priest.”

Deacon Conger said he looks forward to working with Father John M. Demo in Watertown and getting to know that community better.

“I’m looking forward to serving, and I’m ready to serve the people of the North Country and be their priest” he said. “I’m ready to take on my ministry. I come to serve and not be served.”

Deacon Conger said he appreciates the support he’s received from the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

“The people of the North Country and the Diocese of Ogdensburg are the most supporting and loving people you’ll ever meet,” he said. “As seminarians, they pray for us, support us and are so generous with their time, money and everything. It’s wonderful and it’s my honor to give back to them in the future.”

Deacon Matthew Conger is a life-long resident of Ogdensburg. He recently completed his last year of theology at Christ The King Seminary in the Diocese of Buffalo.

Deacon John Ojuok
“It’s a good feeling, a really good feeling,” said Deacon Ojuok as he approaches his ordination date. “The call to the priesthood started for me when I was still a little child. It has taken a while to get here. From minor seminary to now, it’s been almost 14 years. It’s exciting! All my gratitude to God! His timing is the best. I always cherish that. It might not be my time, but it’s God’s time.”

Deacon Ojuok said he enjoyed his time serving as a deacon in Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Orchard Park, New York.

“It was really, really good ministry,” he said. “I did four baptisms. The infants were incredible! In some of the photos, they were smiling at me. Some cried, and their parents were really good. I managed to bring two guys at the baptism ceremonies back to the Church. They later thanked me, and they are now going to church.”
He also had the opportunity to officiate at a wake and burial.

“The guy was Kenyan, and he came here a long, long time ago,” Deacon Ojuok, also a native of Kenya, said. “He told his people he wanted a Kenyan deacon or priest. They found me, and I participated. It was really good.”

But Deacon Ojuok’s favorite part of his time as a deacon was proclaiming the Gospel.

“It is Christ speaking in your tongue,” he said. “That was the best part.”

Deacon Ojuok said he looks forward to this next phase of his life and ministry, especially celebrating Mass.

“I’m looking forward to celebrating the sacraments as a priest,” he said. “I’m excited and overwhelmed about presiding at my first Mass. It’s really exciting and overwhelming to be a priest. I offer gratitude to God for making it happen.”

Deacon Ojuok also looks forward to continuing to grow in his ministry as a parochial vicar at Holy Cross Parish in Plattsburgh.

“I worked in Morrisonville for summer assignment,” he said. “All the shopping is in Plattsburgh. I’m familiar with the area. I feel like I’m going back to where I worked. I’m excited to be going back to where I was before and not a new place.”

The deacon is eager to get to know the people of Plattsburgh and his new role.

“I’m an open guy,” Deacon Ojuok said. “I’m ready to learn. I’m going out there to learn a lot. As a new priest, I still don’t know a lot. I’m grateful God gave me the gift of being open to learn. I’m going there with that and to learn about what priesthood is about. I’m grateful to be with Father Kevin, who has experience in so many areas. I’m excited to meet the people there – the deacons, parishioners, Father Tojo.”

He said the people of Plattsburgh can look forward to him being “a jovial priest.”

“I’m joy-filled and ready to help in any capacity,” he said. “I’m available. I’m ever-smiling. I hope to play soccer and volleyball with parishioners, people at the school or college students. I want to share joy and give people something to relate with.”

Deacon Ojuok has been in the diocese since 2016. He has spent time in St. Bartholomew’s in Old Forge and St. Alexander’s in Morrisonville. His home base is St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg. He recently completed his last year of theology at Christ The King Seminary in the Diocese of Buffalo.

Deacon Fernando Solomon Jr.
“I really cannot believe it’s happening,” said Deacon Solomon about his upcoming ordination. “Of course, I’m a little bit nervous. Sometimes, I tell myself, ‘OK, Fernando! Calm down! You will be fine!’ The nervousness is normal. It’s a big responsibility. I pray, ‘God, you put me here. Be with me till the end.’”

Hailing from Quezon City, Philippines, Deacon Fernando Solomon, Jr. is serving a pastoral year in the parishes of St. Patrick’s in Port Henry, Sacred Heart in Crown Point and Church of All Souls in Mineville with Father Albert J. Hauser.

“I really learn a lot from Father Al,” he said. “Physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally – I learned from him. I was really touched by the people here in Port Henry. They are so nice, so kind. I wish they would assign me here for a couple years. I’m really preparing myself. I will miss this place, Father Al and the parishioners. I really had a great experience here.”

Deacon Solomon, who has experience ministering to the deaf and individuals with developmental disabilities, hopes to continue drawing on those experiences as he moves forward in his ministry.

“I’m looking to try to be a successful priest by serving the diocese,” he said. “Of course, I’m planning to employ my faculties with American Sign Language to assist the deaf and those with special needs here in the North Country. I want to serve this diocese for the rest of my life.”

Deacon Solomon said he hopes to continue to grow in his ministry in his first assignment as parochial vicar at St. André Bessette Parish in Malone.

“I’m really a bit nervous,” he said. “It’s really a big responsibility to say the Mass. That’s the big thing I need to learn more. I keep practicing and learning. I want the people in Malone to know that I’m a friendly person, a welcoming person. I try to be friendly to all. I try to be with the people, talk to people.”

Deacon Solomon said he was first introduced to the Malone area back in 2012, when he first toured the diocese while serving with an order.

“Back in 2012, when I started to know and meet some of the places of the diocese, Father Bryan (Stitt) gave me a tour of the diocese, and I saw Malone then,” he said. “It’s like I’m going back to where I started.”

He also noted that he looks forward to learning under Father Steven M. Murray.

“I need guidance from the expert,” Deacon Solomon said.

Before coming to the diocese, Deacon Solomon earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and master’s degree in divinity in the Philippines.


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