Four new priests for Peoria Diocese

The traditional post-ordination photo featured the four newly-ordained priests of the Diocese of Peoria on the balcony of the Bishop’s Residence on May 25, 2024 with those who have had responsibility for overseeing their vocational formation. From left, Father Chase Hilgenbrinck, vocation director of recruitment; Father Nick Conner; Father Jack Swoik; Msgr. Halfacre, vicar general; Bishop Louis Tylka; Father Jacob Martini; Father Justin Ramza; and Father Patrick Henehan, vocation director of formation. The Catholic Post Online/Paul Thomas Moore

Four new priests were ordained for the Diocese of Peoria at St. Mary’s Cathedral on May 28. They are Father Nick Conner, 28; Father Jacob Martini, 27; Father Justin Ramza, 57; and Father Jack Swoik, 26.

As Bishop Tylka said in his homily, it was “a great day for the Church . . . as we gather to celebrate the ordination to the priesthood of four wonderful men.”

We supply the work, God the power.” Bishop Tylka quoting Venerable Fulton Sheen on the role of priesthood


At the same time, he reminded the ordinands, “Christ baptizes! Christ forgives! Christ offers His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity! Christ does this not you.”

He then offered them Venerable Fulton Sheen’s description of the priest’s role in God’s plan: “We supply the work, God the power.”

As with the transitional diaconate ordination the week before, this day’s priestly ordination proceeded through the stages of the calling and presentation of candidates, followed by a series of solemn promises.

The promises differed, as the roles differ, with the priestly prerogative of administering the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation being primary variations.

However, the promise of obedience to Bishop Tylka and his successors (and by extension to the Lord) was identical.

Four “go to the mat” for Jesus at their ordination Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on May 25. From left, Deacon Swoik, Deacon Ramza, Deacon Martini and Deacon Conner prostrate themselves in humility and reverence during the Litany of Saints. The Catholic Post Online/Paul Thomas Moore

The candidates prostrated themselves in front of the altar during the Litany of Saints. Then, as they knelt, Bishop Tylka called down the Holy Spirit on each candidate through the imposition of hands on the head of each, after which all of the priests of the diocese who were present in turn laid their hands upon them.

Bishop Tylka then prayed the prayer of consecration, and the former ordinands rose to their feet as priests.

Through the imposition of hands, Bishop Tylka calls down the Holy Spirit upon priest-to-be Nick Conner in the pivotal moment which, coupled with the prayer of consecration, is at the core of the ordination rite. The Catholic Post Online/Paul Thomas Moore

Father Conner, Father Martini, Father Ramza and Father Swoik were then vested with chasuble and stole, and again knelt before Bishop Tylka, this time to have their hands anointed with the oil of Sacred Chrism.

Father Justin Ramza is vested in his priestly chasuble (outer robe) by Father Glenn Harris, of St. John the Baptist in Rapids City. At the reception following the ordination Mass, Father Steve Willard, who was a seminarian with Father Ramza over 30 years ago, received a blessing from the new priest and joked, “He left us – but he came back!” The Catholic Post Online/Paul Thomas Moore


Those anointed hands would soon concelebrate at the altar for the first time, an altar which held chalices that had been brought forward by the new priests’ parents (or brother, in the case of Father Justin Ramza, whose parents are deceased), and given to Bishop Tylka to present to his new assistants in the vineyard.

Father Jack Swoik shares in the Eucharistic prayer for the first time after his ordination. Father Justin Ramza is beside him. The Catholic Post Online/Paul Thomas Moore

As part of his final blessing, Bishop Tylka offered “a word of gratitude to all those who helped to bring us to this moment” – including parents and families, as well as to representatives from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and Mundelein Seminary, to the parishes that had nurtured the new priests’ vocations, and to those who had helped with the preparation and celebration of the ordination Mass.

Saint Mary’s Cathedral was packed to the rafters, and the rafters were ringing throughout the liturgy with music provided by the director of sacred music and organist Jon Kroepel, and the Pontifical Brass.

Bishop Tylka offered ‘a word of gratitude to all those who helped to bring us to this moment’”


The cantor was Carmen McCarthy, and the choir was made up of members from Holy Family, Peoria; St. Mary’s Cathedral, Peoria; St. Michael the Archangel, Streator; and Immaculate Conception, Monmouth. The choir director was Leo Ramer from Immaculate Conception in Monmouth, who has been that parish’s director of music since 1974.

The opening hymn was “O Christ, High Priest Eternal,” with lyrics written by Msgr. Michael Heintz (vesting priest for Father Jack Swoik) to the melody of “O God Beyond All Praising.”

Christ was indeed to be praised, for on this day four men entered St. Mary’s Cathedral as transitional deacons, and left as “a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4).

At a reception at Spalding Pastoral Center after the ordination, Father Jacob Martini bestows his first blessing on his parents, Sherrie and Tom, of St. Patrick Parish in Ottawa. The Catholic Post Online/Paul Thomas Moore


The new priests have been given the following parish assignments by Bishop Tylka:

Father Nick Conner will be parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament in Morton;

Father Jacob Martini will be parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception in Monmouth and St. Patrick in Raritan;

Father Justin Ramza will be parochial vicar for the Catholic Community in Ottawa (St. Columba, St. Patrick, and St. Francis of Assisi); and

Father Jack Swoik will be parochial vicar at Epiphany in Normal.


“The message of hope I have to share is simply that I have encountered the person of Jesus Christ through the Sacraments and desire to lead many others to this same encounter.” — Father Nick Conner

“From the communities in Ottawa, at Bradley, in my summer assignments, from my friends, classmates, teammates, the priests, and most especially my family . . . . It is the ‘yes’ of those before me that led me to say ‘yes.'” — Father Jacob Martini

“As a physician . . . . I did for the body, what I now believe the Lord asks me to do for the soul  — to treat each individual as a person, as they are, where they are — to serve them as their advocate, before our Father, as a freely open conduit of his love and mercy. — Father Justin Ramza

“The highs and lows, ups and downs of the path toward the priesthood are truly worth it because by the end you reach what the Lord has been preparing for you . . . really since the Sacrament of Baptism.” — Father Jack Swoik



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