Three await ordination as transitional deacons on Saturday, May 18

Three seminarians of the Diocese of Peoria will make one of the biggest transitions of their lives as they move one step closer to the priesthood through ordination as transitional deacons on Saturday, May 18, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

The Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. by Bishop Louis Tylka. As the diocese desires to accommodate as many of the faithful as possible, and in order to ensure that each of the invited guests have seats, the ordination will be a ticketed event.

The seminarians are all attending Mundelein Seminary at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill.


Ben Schoonmaker

Benjamin (Ben) Schoonmaker, 25, of St. Mary Parish in Rock Island is the son of Kevin and Margaret Schoonmaker and is the middle child of five siblings, with three brothers and a sister. He has been employed previously as a part-time restaurant worker.

During the Rite of Ordination, Schoonmaker will be assisted with his vestments of stole and dalmatic by Father Luke Spannagel, National Eucharistic Preacher and parochial vicar of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sacred Heart, and St. Bernard parishes in Peoria.

Francis Strong

Francis Strong, 25, of St. Andrew Parish in Fairbury is the son of John and Monique Strong and has 10 siblings, with seven sisters and three brothers. Strong too is a middle child.

His work credits include Caterpillar and as a State Farm Center usher, but his most longstanding gig has been working at his father’s restaurant, Pizzas by Marchelloni in Fairbury. Father Paul Carlson, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Oglesby, will be his vesting priest.

Jack Watt

Father Henehan has “pushed me to be better, yet believed in me the whole time.” — Jack Watt

Jack Watt, 28, of Epiphany Parish in Normal is the son of Gerald and Teresa Watt and has one sibling, an older sister.

He said that before entering seminary, a favorite summer job was teaching video game design to teens and children on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. His vesting priest will be Father Patrick Henehan, pastor of St. Jude Parish in Peoria, and diocesan vocation director of formation.

Echoing the feelings of all the ordinands towards those who have helped them toward this big day, Watt said that Father Henehan has “pushed me to be better, yet believed in me the whole time.”


The Mass of Ordination will be available via livestream on the diocesan YouTube channel at






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