Deacon Dionesotes found path to priesthood led through a garden

Deacon Daniel Dionesotes presents the oil for the Sacred Chrism at the Chrism Mass this year at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. He will be anointed with the oil at his ordination May 27. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

By Paul Thomas Moore l The Catholic Post

It was a tipping point in Deacon Daniel Dionesotes’ decision to become a priest and happened a decade ago as he took in the beautiful garden surrounding St. Joan of Arc Chapel at Marquette University in Milwaukee, where we was enrolled in business studies.

It suddenly dawned on him: “I don’t really want to go down this business path that I thought I wanted to go down.”

Deacon Dionesotes will celebrate his first Mass at Holy Trinity in Bloomington on Sunday, May 28, at 10 a.m., and will offer the homily. A public reception will follow.

And then the question popped into his head, “Well, what if I become a priest?”

The question wasn’t totally new to him, but it was the first time he’d discerned an answer. Previously, he’d felt “no sense of calling, no reciprocation.” This time, though, “It was as if in that moment God was saying ‘Yes, that’s exactly what I want for you.’”

He admits that sometimes he has run away, “but the call never ran from me.”

In hindsight, he discerns his vocation began to bud when he was confirmed. His sponsor, who also happened to be his maternal grandfather, Dick Kunasek, had a devotion to St. Paul, and he gave his grandson a little biography of the saint’s life.

Seeing his grandfather’s passion for the “Lion of Christ,” he said, “planted a seed that initially I was not quite aware of.”

But over the years, as he reflected on “the zeal of St. Paul’s missionary impulse and deep knowledge of Scripture” he could see the workings of the apostle’s intercession in his own life, particularly during his college and seminary years.

The early stirrings of his call were also reinforced by the priestly example of Msgr. Doug Hennessy, a senior priest of the Diocese of Peoria, who was pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Bloomington when Deacon Dionesotes was training as an altar server.

“I remember I was absolutely terrified my first day of altar serving — absolutely terrified.” To his great relief he discovered Msgr. Hennessy was “very gentle, and very patient, and wasn’t harsh toward any mishaps or errors.”


Deacon Dionesotes also cited the influence of Father Timothy Hepner, vocation director for the Diocese of Peoria, when he was discerning, and now pastor of Immaculate Conception, Monmouth, St. Patrick, Raritan, and chaplain, St. Augustine Newman Center at Monmouth College.

He credits Father Hepner’s encouragement with getting him involved in Totus Tuus, the weeklong summer camps the Diocese of Peoria offers for children in parishes across the diocese.

Following his ordination this Saturday, May 27, there will be a private reception for Deacon Dionesotes’ close family and friends at his home parish of Holy Trinity in Bloomington. He will celebrate his first Mass at Holy Trinity on Sunday, May 28, at 10 a.m., and will also offer the homily. A public reception will follow.

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