Three men ordained as priests for the Diocese of La Crosse
On Saturday, June 26, three men from the Diocese of La Crosse received the sacrament of holy orders from Bishop William Patrick Callahan at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman. Father Arturo Vigueras, Father Timothy Reither and Father Eric Mashak celebrated the momentous occasion with family, friends and people from around the diocese. Many people joined the Mass as they watched the livestream at diolc.org/live. Visit diolc.org/priesthood to watch the full recording of the ordination Mass.
Father Arturo Vigueras
As a young man, Father Arturo Vigueras of St. Peter Parish in Stevens Point heard God’s call to care for His people but resisted becoming a priest. Father Vigueras wanted to care for people in need and initially believed the best way to do God’s work was by working as a lawyer and becoming active in politics.
The son of Arturo Vigueras Gomez and Maria Estrada Figueroa, Father Vigueras has three brothers and a sister. Although born in California, he lived in Mexico with his family until he was 15.
I kept getting all this affirmation when I was looking for a way out. It was the Holy Spirit’s way of telling me where I had to go.” – Father Vigueras
His great awakening to the power of God happened on Nov. 10, 2004.
“I was able to attend a general audience with John Paul II,” Father Vigueras says. “That experience was what got me to take my Faith more seriously. I was standing in the main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica. It felt like time just stopped. He looked at me and asked me what I was doing with my life. He had big piercing eyes that looked at me. It was really fast, and it felt like he kept looking at me. At that moment, I knew something special had happened.”
The next year, Father Vigueras was confirmed as an adult at St. Peter Parish. As he knelt in prayer during the Holy Hour on Holy Thursday before his Saturday confirmation, Father Vigueras reached out to God. “Lord, I would do whatever you would want me to do with my life,” he said. “I do this out of love for you.
I don’t want to do my own thing anymore.”
Noticing Father Vigueras’ Faith and commitment to the Church, the director of religious education asked Father Vigueras if he had thought about becoming a priest. Father Vigueras had thought about the priesthood but had not spoken of the possibility to anyone. Instead, he was focused on getting his master’s degree in law.
“I got really upset at him because I was struggling with it in my own mind,” says Father Vigueras. “He said, ‘I don’t want you to miss out on your vocation.’ A week later, he sent an email asking the same question. I really think God is calling me to be a priest, but I don’t want to do it.”
Finally, God’s call became too strong for Father Vigueras to ignore. Encouraged by family and friends, he entered the seminary.
“I kept getting all this affirmation when I was looking for a way out,” he remembers. “It was the Holy Spirit’s way of telling me where I had to go. It was a very beautiful thing to see how people supported me. I never felt pressure, I felt taken care of and supported by their prayers.”
After studying hard at Mundelein Seminary, Sacred Heart Seminary and St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Father Vigueras is ready to begin his priestly ministry as associate pastor for Holy Family Parish in Arcadia and Sacred Heart Parish in Pine Creek.
“I am looking forward to being able to accompany parishioners in their journey of Faith by being able to take time to learn about how God is working their lives,” says Father Vigueras. “I am also looking forward to sharing the Gospel of Christ by instructing others in the Faith and by administering the sacraments to them.”
Father Vigueras’ goal as a priest is to attain sainthood. “It kind of sounds selfish,” he says. “I have a deep desire to be holy. It’s the way I experience the love of Christ in my life.”
He isn’t searching for accolades or fame. Sainthood would just mean that Father Vigueras made a difference in the world.
Although he thought originally to make a difference he needed to be involved with law and politics, Father Vigueras knows that his priestly ministry can make more of an impact.
“The only way I can change the world is by being a priest and serving God’s people in that capacity,” he says.
Father Timothy Reither
Father Timothy Reither received his gift of Faith from his parents, Gary and Kathy, and started his ministry work as an altar server at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Chippewa Falls.
“I first started thinking about the priesthood when I was just starting high school,” he says. “I was an altar server in my parish and was around the priest on the altar. The seed was planted.”
As a member of the Dead Theologians Society, Father Reither learned about the saints and how they served God. Time in the perpetual adoration chapel deepened his relationship with his Father.
“I would go there and spend an hour in prayer and adoration,” says Father Reither.
“There was an attraction to give my life to God in total service, but there were also a lot of questions that I had—do I want to do this entirely? It was really in adoration that I experienced that peace.”
Father Reither knew when he had his answer, as that sense of peace washed over him. While life outside the chapel was busy and full of distractions, every time he returned for adoration, the sense of peace enveloped Father Reither. He knew that to have that amazing feeling every day, he needed to be a priest.
Looking back at my own call and the uncertainties that surrounded it, I can say God is never outdone in generosity.” – Father Reither
Guided by Divine inspiration, Father Reither began seminary at Immaculate Heart of Mary Minor Seminary in Winona immediately after graduation from high school. Even with his Faith practices in high school, adjusting to the rigor of seminary life took a little time.
“It was a good experience,” Father Reither says. “There was a lot of growth that needed to be done.”
Father Reither’s prayer life required more discipline. The gradual buildup of his devotional life took a year. “I approached it with an open mind and an open heart,” he says. “Building a disciplined life has its rewards.”
His time at minor seminary was an exciting opportunity to be with like-minded people. “I enjoyed the people I was with,” says Father Reither. “Being with people who were intentional about their Faith strengthened mine.”
For major seminary, Father Reither studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. “Being able to study theology at the heart of the Roman Church was powerful,” he says.
For the first time, Father Reither had the opportunity to see where many of the saints lived and worked and died.
“It brought the stories to life,” says Father Reither. “It made it all the more real in my mind.”
Close proximity to the Vatican and Pope Francis gave Father Reither an exciting view of the universal Church. Every summer, Father Reither returned to the Diocese of La Crosse to work in a parish.
“Each parish was a little different,” he says. “I could see the different ways the local church was lived.”
Father Reither is happy to be back in the Diocese of La Crosse. As associate pastor at St. Mary Assumption Parish in Durand, Holy Rosary Parish in Lima and Sacred Heart Parish in Mondovi, he can live his dream and put into practice all he has learned and studied.
“Finally, I can start doing things I have always desired to do—being a bridge to God,” says Father Reither.
For those discerning where God is calling them, he has some simple advice. “Have trust and Faith in God,” Father Reither says. “Looking back at my own call and the uncertainties that surrounded it, I can say God is never outdone in generosity. Delve in and give it full commitment and see where God will go with it. Take that first step.”
Father Eric Mashak
Father Eric Mashak of St. John the Baptist Parish in Cooks Valley heard God’s call as a college sophomore while he was studying business. One of Jeff and Sonia’s 13 children, Father Mashak grew up immersed in Faith and family.
As a young altar server, Father Mashak has many wonderful memories of working with priests. When he was about 10 years old, one day before Mass the priest asked if any server was strong enough to carry the very heavy processional cross.
Father Mashak volunteered. “I flexed my bicep and said, ‘You bet!’” He was thereafter known as the “server with pipes.”
At the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., Father Mashak’s prayer life blossomed, and he heard God’s loving call. “I remember having intense feelings of peace, joy and excitement about the priesthood,” he says.
Being at the altar and celebrating the Eucharist is indescribable.” – Father Mashak
The call continued to grow in intensity. Father Mashak turned to the experts—priests—for guidance. “There was a priest who told me, ‘No one becomes a priest in a day,’” says Father Mashak. “The desire for priesthood just wouldn’t go away and that’s how I knew.”
When it became clear to Father Mashak that business was not where God wanted him, he discerned out of college and entered Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona. The change in his studies was a welcome one, even though he had enjoyed his business classes.
“I did love philosophy. I really ate that up,” Father Mashak says.
Living in community with everyone focused on the Faith was an exciting time for him. After completing his studies at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, Father Mashak went to Italy to attend the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
At every stage of his life, Father Mashak was inspired by the dedicated priests who crossed his path. He is excited for the opportunity to be the same kind of inspiration as an associate pastor for St. Bronislava Parish in Plover as he brings the sacraments to his parishioners.
“I really want to be able to do that for others,” says Father Mashak. “I had a number of really awesome priests that I looked up to.”
It was powerful for Father Mashak to participate in the Eucharist as a deacon, and now as a priest it is even more joyous. “Being at the altar and celebrating the Eucharist is indescribable for me,” he says.
On his journey to the priesthood, Father Mashak was supported and guided by many different people. His parents were supportive and let him make his own choices. Along the way, many people pointed out his qualities that might help him to serve as a priest, observations that were very helpful to him. “That’s part of what made me pause and think that I could be a priest,” says Father Mashak.
He recommends this kind of positive witness as a way to guide more young men and young women to religious life.
For those men thinking about the priesthood, Father Mashak recommends listening for God’s loving call. “The only reason to be a priest would be because God thinks you should be a priest,” Father Mashak says. “If God calls you, do it. The call has to be there. A lot of times the call can take many different forms, including a strong desire. Ask yourself, ‘Is God placing those desires in my heart to shepherd the faithful?’”
Story by Mary Kay McPartlin
Photography by Michael Lieurance
Published in the September/October 2021 Issue of Catholic Life Magazine