Five to be ordained transitional deacons
Deacon Colin V. Braud
By Beth Donze
When Colin Braud is ordained to the transitional diaconate on May 19, the Archdiocese of New Orleans will mark what is believed to be an unprecedented occasion: the ordination of someone who was home-schooled as a high schooler.
"My mom wanted to try (home schooling) and she was willing to do it,” said Braud, who was educated at his Covington home from grades seven through 12 via the Catholic curriculum Kolbe Academy, a classical model of education that weaves church teachings into courses such as theology, literature and history.
“I liked it, because you could work at your own pace; I could go my own speed,” Braud said. “If you finished your work for the week by Thursday, you could take Friday off. What kid wouldn’t want Friday off?”
To maintain contact with his peers, Braud played baseball and was active in youth groups at his home parish of St. Peter and St. Anselm in Madisonville. The idea of becoming a priest started quietly tugging at him during his three years as an electrical engineering student at Louisiana State University. He attended daily Mass, went to adoration and steeped himself in the sacraments at LSU’s parish of Christ the King.
“I pretty much met all my friends at Christ the King, but even then I would only think about (the priesthood) every so often,” Braud said. “My thinking at the time was, ‘I want to be married; I don’t want to speak in front of people or hear confessions, or get involved in people’s lives.’”
At the 2007 conference of the Louisiana Catholic College Students, Braud was “confronted with the possibility of becoming a priest” after hearing one of the speakers casually mention the idea. To see if it was the right fit, he left LSU after his junior year to enter St. Joseph Seminary College. The change enabled him to meet Christ daily through prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments and daily Mass.
“You come to realize that the focus isn’t on me; the focus is on Christ,” said Braud, paraphrasing the words of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s Gospel: I must decrease and Christ must increase.
“(Vocation) is Christ working through you – you just have to open yourself up to that,” Braud said. “Realizing that ‘it’s not about me’ was freeing.”
Deacon Braud's Biography
➤ Age: 26
➤ Birthplace: Metairie
➤ Home Parish: St. Peter, Covington
➤ Parents: Michael and Deborah Braud
➤ Education: Kolbe Academy home school (2004); three years at Louisiana State University, majoring in electrical engineering, before entering St. Joseph Seminary College (graduated 2009); entered Notre Dame Seminary in 2009.
➤ Favorite Food: Anything seafood or Italian
➤ Tell us something people don’t know about you: I have been brewing my own beer for the past three years. My latest is a milk stout.
➤ Favorite Saint: It’s a toss-up between St. Michael, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Gemma Galgani. All three are so unique in their own way.
➤ Favorite Book (Religious and Non-religious): “The Spirit of the Liturgy,” by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI); “Lost in the Cosmos,” by Walker Percy.
➤ Hobbies: Fishing, watching LSU and Saints football, movies.
➤ Summer Internships: Summer internships at St. Mary Magdalen (2008) and St. Jerome (2010).
➤ Diaconate Internship: St. Joan of Arc, LaPlace
Deacon Travis J. Clark
By Beth Donze
As a youngster growing up in Metairie, Travis Clark got a close-up view of the priesthood in the after-school hours, as his mother was wrapping up her duties as the rectory cook at St. Lawrence the Martyr.
“I was able to see (priests) at more than just Mass and the liturgical functions,” Clark said. “As a result of this I came to see them as friends and looked up to them as role models. They were great examples of what it was like to live a life of holiness and faithfulness to God.”
In the midst of fulfilling the service requirements of his 1997 confirmation at St. Mary Magdalen, Clark was drawn to the outreach ministry of his parish’s Social Apostolate, helping out with simple tasks such as organizing the food pantry and getting food into the hands of those needing assistance.
“I continued doing this long after my confirmation because of the joy I had at being used as an instrument of God’s service,” said Clark, who also took advantage of the opportunity to attend Mass each weekday morning in Rummel’s chapel.
“I found that it was a great way to start the day,” Clark said, noting that his priestly role models were Rummel chaplains, the late Jesuit Father Wayne Roca, and Father Roca’s successor, Father Patrick Wattigny.
As Clark grew increasingly involved in his food pantry work, CYO and in a variety of faith and service clubs at Rummel, a few people began asking him if he thought he might have a vocation to the priesthood.
“I was not completely opposed to it, but it was not on my mind at the time,” he said. “I began to pray about it. I reflected upon all the good things God had done for me, and all the times he made himself known to me in my life. I thought about the priests I had looked up to as a child up until high school and what qualities they had. I thought about my love for service and serving others, as well as my love of Mass, prayer and the Eucharist.”
Clark continued to discern his vocation as a philosophy and history major at the University of New Orleans. He entered Notre Dame Seminary in 2006, despite having what he thought were two shortcomings: a fear of public speaking and a nervousness about leading people in prayer.
“I felt that if this is what God wanted, he would give me the courage and strength to do his will,” Clark said, “and that’s exactly what has happened. Our Lord has continued to bless me ever since.”
Deacon Clark's Biography
➤ Age: 28
➤ Birthplace: Metairie
➤ Home Parish: St. Lawrence the Martyr and St. Mary Magdalen
➤ Parents: Joni and Wayne Clark
➤ Education: St. Lawrence the Martyr and St. Mary Magdalen Elementary; Archbishop Rummel (2001); the University of New Orleans (2006); entered Notre Dame Seminary in 2006.
➤ Favorite Food: Shepherd’s pie, especially the way my parents make it!
➤ Tell us something people don’t know about you: Although I can’t draw and have very little artistic talent, I consider myself to be an animation historian and greatly appreciate the medium of animation.
➤ Favorite Saint: St. Jude Thaddeus, St. Francis of Assisi and St. John Vianney
➤ Favorite Book (Religious and Non-religious): St. Augustine’s “Confessions” and Herodotus’ “Histories.”
➤ Hobbies: Studying and collecting things of the past in order to preserve them for future generations and playing a video game every now and again.
➤ Summer Internships: St. Clement of Rome (2007); Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos (2009); St. Ann Church and National Shrine (2011-12); Spanish immersion program at the seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City (2008); chaplain intern, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, N.C. (2010)
➤ Diaconate Internship: St. Rita, Harahan.
Deacon Gary P. Copping
By Christine Bordelon
1987 marked a pivotal year for Gary Copping, a seminarian who will be ordained a transitional deacon for the Archdiocese of New Orleans on May 19. That was the year Pope John Paul II made his historic visit to New Orleans and Copping traveled to Medjugorje with his parents.
While thoughts of religious life tugged at his heart in high school at Brother Martin and again at the University of New Orleans where he was studying biophysics, Copping said those two events sparked him to attend daily Mass at the Newman Center and seek spiritual direction from Father Thomas Dowling at UNO.
“He instructed me to pray and discern more and to change my reading habits from devotionals to more serious theology,” Copping said of Father Dowling. “It was during this time that I felt the calling to the priesthood, so I went through all the steps from retreats to meetings to interviewing and subsequently being accepted.”
Copping left UNO after three years to attend St. Joseph Seminary College, where he could devote time to religious studies and formation. He earned a bachelor of liberal arts from the seminary and then advanced to Notre Dame Seminary. Over two years, he was active – elected class president, went on a mission trip, did pastoral work in parishes and clinical pastoral education at a hospital in Memphis – but he began doubting his ability to be a priest.
“I didn’t feel like I had experienced life enough, and I wanted to have life experiences,” Copping said.
He took what he thought would be a year off, and, within three years was married with a stepdaughter and, later, step-granddaughters. When his wife Judy died 13 years after they were married, he knew what he would do. After a 17-year hiatus, he was ready to re-enter the seminary.
“I learned humility and more compassion by being married and being able to put something else first,” he said. “In a sense I learned responsibility for myself and others and more understanding. A man learns a lot of insight through his wife.”
This summer as a transitional deacon, he will spend five months applying everything he’s learned intellectually, spiritually and pastorally during his formation at St. Francis of Assisi Uptown.
“I will use this opportunity to grow in my pastoral experiences and learn from my pastor and the people I am ministering to on how to better minister to them.”
Deacon Copping's Biography
➤ Age: 44
➤ Birthplace: New Orleans
➤ Home Parish: Resurrection of Our Lord Church, New Orleans
➤ Parents: Leon and Mary Frances Copping of New Orleans. Copping has three older brothers.
➤ Education: H.C. Schaumburg Elementary; St. James Major Elementary; Brother Martin High School (1985); St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, La. (bachelor of arts in 1991). Xavier University’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies (1991), Notre Dame Seminary (1991-93); Continuing Pastoral Education at St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. (1993); entered Notre Dame Seminary in 2010.
➤ Favorite Food: Anything Italian, especially muffalettas.
➤ Tell us something people don’t know about you: I’m learning to sew.
➤ Favorite Saint: St. Francis of Assisi. I admire him for his simplicity, humility, gentleness and compassion.
➤ Favorite Book (Religious and Non-religious): “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A’Kempis and “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien.
➤ Hobbies: N-scale model trains and collecting theological books.
➤ Summer Internships: St. Francis de Sales (1992). Institute of Priestly Formation (2011).
➤ Diaconate Internship: St. Francis of Assisi, New Orleans.
Deacon Daniel H. Green
By Peter Finney Jr.
Daniel Green has a lot for which to be thankful as he approaches his May 19 ordination as a transitional deacon. On June 16 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Deacon Green will be able to witness the marriage vows of his mother Consuella and her fiance Donnie Lancelin Sr. (Green’s father Laurence died in 2010.)
“The thing that’s most exciting to me is getting to take part in the sacramental life of the church for the first time,” Green said. “I was an altar server, and then as a seminarian I got to take part in the sacramental life, but never in a way in which I was the presider or the person conferring the sacrament. Receiving my mother’s vows will be very exciting.”
Actually, Green’s mother and her fiance were planning to marry last year, but Green spoke up: “I thought y’all would wait until I could do the marriage vows.” Both agreed to wait an extra year for the special blessing.
“Actually, I’ll probably be very nervous,” Green said. “That will be my first marriage, and she not only asked me to receive the vows but to preach. I’m going to be nervous, but I’m also really honored.”
Green says his family’s faith life at St. Philip the Apostle was an important seed of his vocation.
“My family was very active in church,” Green said. “My grandmother (Katherine Florence) and my mom sang in the choir, and my grandmother taught religious education and I would go with her to her classes. We had a very close relationship. Priests came over all the time for family dinners. There was always a presence of priests in the family, as well as women religious.”
Green attended St. Augustine and Loyola University, and in college he took political science and thought seriously about becoming a politician.
“I knew that either I would become a priest or I wanted to go into politics,” Green said. “Probably until my junior year I was thinking about going to law school. But studying political science actually gave me more of a distaste for it than a love. That’s when I was talking to Father Tony Ricard, and he encouraged me to apply to the seminary.”
And now, five years later, he will accept his mother’s marriage vows.
“My mom has supported me since I was a kid, and now I can bring her into this sacramental grace,” Green said.
Deacon Green's Biography
➤ Age: 26
➤ Birthplace: Melbourne, Fla.
➤ Home Parish: Our Lady Star of the Sea
➤ Parents: Consuella Green and the late Laurence M. Green
➤ Education: St. Philip the Apostle, Holy Ghost and St. Peter Claver Elementary schools; St. Augustine High School (2003); Loyola University New Orleans, B.A. in political science; entered Notre Dame Seminary in 2007.
➤ Favorite Food: I love Gulf shrimp and scallops.
➤ Tell us something people don’t know about you: Well, I wasn’t born in New Orleans, but I came here at 3 months of age.
➤ Favorite Saint: I have a great devotion to the Venerable Henriette Delille, since I was educated by the Sisters of the Holy Family as were other members of my family. Though she is not yet a saint, I continue to pray for her beatification.
➤ Favorite Book: “From Slave to Priest: A Biography of the Reverend Augustus Tolton (1854-1897), First Black American Priest of the United States”
➤ Hobbies: Spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy cooking/grilling.
➤ Summer Internships: St. Andrew the Apostle (2008), St. Matthew the Apostle (2009), St. Peter Claver (2010) and a hospital chaplaincy in Houston (2011).
➤ Diaconate Internship: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Belle Chasse.
Deacon Jonathan P. Hemelt
By Peter Finney Jr.
Jonathan Hemelt can remember as far back as second or third grade at St. Robert Bellarmine School in Arabi having thoughts about one day becoming a priest.
“I don’t even know if I said it to anybody, and the thought kind of went away, almost like saying you wanted to be a fireman,” Hemelt said.
The possibility resurfaced when Hemelt attended Jesuit High School and began attending retreats with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans. At the end of one of the retreats, there was a general “altar call” for any young person who wanted to step forward to say he or she was open to a religious vocation.
“It took a couple of retreats for me to have the courage to finally walk up there,” Hemelt said. “I thought it would be tough because I was around all my friends and then I’d go up there and everyone would know it. I thought everybody would look at me differently, but that never happened.”
Hemelt got in touch with the archdiocesan vocation office and began his discernment process, attending a “Come and See” weekend at St. Ben’s, and he pursued his studies there before leaving the seminary college to study psychology at the University of New Orleans.
Then, in 2004, Hemelt’s younger sister Jennifer died in a car accident.
“It was a really difficult and tragic thing, but the faith of my family stood out,” Hemelt said. “It wasn’t despair in our family, which I know happens sometimes, especially for parents who lose a child. One of the things that will always stick with me was that there were eight priests at her funeral. To see how many priests were close to my family stood out to me as a witness of what the priesthood is all about.”
Hemelt said he hopes to have Jesuit Father Tom Madden, a longtime family friend, vest him at the diaconate ordination. He was the campus minister at Loyola when Hemelt’s father was studying theology and Hemelt’s mother was a secretary.
As for the next year of preparation for the priesthood, Hemelt said he hoped to use the time to “come to know and grow closer to the Lord, realizing the awesome responsibility that I am being prepared for.”
Hemelt said he was looking forward to his Mass of Thanksgiving, because his intention is set. He will pray for his sister Jennifer.
Deacon Hemelt's Biography
➤ Age: 30
➤ Birthplace: New Orleans
➤ Home Parish: Our Lady of the Lake, Mandeville
➤ Parents: George E. Hemelt and Susan Smith Hemelt
➤ Education: St. Robert Bellarmine Elementary School; Jesuit High School (1999); St. Joseph Seminary College; University of New Orleans (B.A. in psychology); Our Lady of Holy Cross College (studied marriage and family counseling); entered Notre Dame Seminary in 2008.
➤ Favorite Food: I love a good burger.
➤ Tell us something people don’t know about you: “I play the guitar and the mandolin. The mandolin usually surprises people because it’s very small.”
➤ Favorite Saint: St. Louis Marie de Montfort because of the great devotion to the Blessed Mother that he taught and lived out. Blessed Pope John Paul II took his papal motto, “Totus Tuus” (Totally Yours) from him.
➤ Favorite Book (Religious and Non-religious): “True Devotion to Mary” by St. Louis de Montfort. One of the best non-religious books I have read is “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.
➤ Hobbies: Sports (playing and watching); music (playing, singing and listening).
➤ Summer internships: Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Chalmette (2009); Institute of Priestly Formation (2010); chaplain intern at East Jefferson General Hospital (2011).
➤ Diaconate Internship: St. Pius X, New Orleans.