Five members of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province, three with ties to New Orleans, will be ordained to the priesthood in two separate ordination liturgies. Jesuits W. Penn Dawson, Jason C. LaLonde, Michael J. Wegenka and David C. Paternostro were scheduled to be ordained on June 9 in St. Louis; Fernando Luis Barreto Mercado will be ordained on July 28 in Puerto Rico.
One of the new priests, Father Paternostro, will be assigned to Immaculate Conception Church in New Orleans this summer. Two of the others have served in New Orleans during their formation: Father LaLonde taught for three years at Jesuit High School and Father Dawson taught at Loyola University College of Law.
The ordinands are among 27 new Jesuit priests to be ordained in the U.S. and Canada this year.
Father Paternostro, a native of League City, Texas, graduated from Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston and attended Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, for one year before entering the Jesuit novitiate in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, in 2005. His father is an alumnus of Jesuit High School in New Orleans. He earned both a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in philosophical research from Fordham University in the Bronx, New York.
During his years in New York, he also helped with the theater program at Cristo Rey High School. From 2011-14, he taught and served as an assistant theater director at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida. He completed a master of divinity degree and a licentiate in sacred theology at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. He also established the theater program at Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco.
Ordained a deacon in October 2016, he served at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Berkeley. During his Jesuit formation, Father Paternostro studied Spanish in Managua, Nicaragua; learned French in Paris; and traveled with Tampa Jesuit High students to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.
Father Dawson, a native of Tampa, attended the University of Florida in Gainesville and received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1984 and a law degree in 1987. He then practiced as a trial lawyer at Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen in Tampa for 23 years, eventually becoming a partner. While studying for the permanent diaconate, he felt he might have a vocation to religious life and entered the Society of Jesus in 2009. After earning a master’s degree in philosophy in 2013 from Loyola University Chicago, he taught courses on torts, legal ethics and legal philosophy for two years at Loyola University New Orleans.
Father LaLonde, a native of Lakeland, Florida, earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee in 2002, majoring in English and history. During college, he developed an interest in music and hosted an opera program on FSU’s public radio station. After graduation, he worked in arts administration for the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico for two seasons and for the Sarasota Opera in Florida for a year. He then attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, earning an MBA in 2005 while also working for a software company in marketing.
He entered the Society of Jesus in 2007. He did his experiential formation in New Orleans, where he taught English, Latin and Greek at Jesuit High School; during that time, he also accompanied students to World Youth Day in Brazil in 2013 and on a service trip to Panama in 2015.
The Jesuits are a Roman Catholic order of priests and brothers founded nearly 500 years ago by St. Ignatius of Loyola. With more than 16,000 priests, scholastics and brothers worldwide, they are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church.