MADISON -- Their vocational stories are different, but they are both arriving at the same place: being ordained as deacons and next year — God willing — priests for the Diocese of Madison.
Jorge Miramontes and Timothy Renz both approach their ordination this week with some apprehension, but also with a sense of certainty and purpose.
Miramontes said, “I feel more confident in my call as the time for ordination approaches.”
Although he feels unworthy to be a priest, Renz said he is looking forward to his ordination to the diaconate. “I just want to get out there and do the ministry,” he said.
Here are their stories.
Miramontes was born in Mexico City, Mexico, to Jorge and Maria Medina Miramontes. His mother Maria had been born in California, but renounced her citizenship to marry his father. She applied to regain her citizenship and obtained it in 1992.
||Jorge Miramontes and Timothy Renz will be ordained as transitional deacons by Bishop Robert C. Morlino on Friday, May 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison. In recent interviews, they reflected on their vocations, seminary studies, and how they feel about becoming deacons and eventually priests serving in the Diocese of Madison. The public is invited; limited seating.
The family moved to the Madison area in 1994 to help work in a Mexican restaurant started by Miramontes’ aunt and uncle in Dodgeville.
Miramontes himself applied for citizenship and got it five years later.
He eventually obtained an associate degree in graphic design from Madison Area Technical College, where he also took English classes. He worked in graphic design for two years. “It was a decent job, but I wasn’t satisfied,” he said.
Discernment. He attended a series of workshops similar to an Ignatian retreat as he tried to discern what God had in store for him. During those retreats, he said, “I felt strongly called to the priesthood, to my surprise.”
He had a serious girlfriend at the time. He eventually broke up with her, but he still wasn’t ready to take the next step to study for the priesthood.
“I talked to many priests about it, including Fr. Mick Moon. They recommended that I should give it (the seminary) a try.”
Seminary experience. He applied to study for the Diocese of Madison and was accepted. He began his studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit five years ago.
“At the beginning it was an adjustment,” he said of adapting to seminary life. “But I began to adjust and I feel more confident in my call as the time for ordination approaches. I look forward to doing the work of ministry: performing the sacraments and celebrating Mass when I become a priest.”
While at Sacred Heart Seminary, Miramontes has done apostolic work such as prison ministry and service in a hospital, nursing home, and hospice program.
“I really like the seminary. It’s very solid in its teaching in accordance with what Rome is asking for in academics and formation. The staff is superb.”
Family and friends. His family is “elated” about his ordination, said Miramontes. “They’re really happy to have a priest in the family.”
His mother Maria, grandmother Marie Medina, and aunt Lucia Medina often attend daily Mass at the Bishop O’Connor Center and pray for him.
He also has friends in Madison and throughout the diocese. He is a member of the Cathedral Parish in Madison.
“My friends are really happy that I made this decision,” he said. “People are praying for me. They thank me for being a priest. That makes me feel good, but it is also a big responsibility to be a priest. I will have to be a spiritual father and account for souls.”
Priesthood. He said people are already opening up to him and telling him their problems. “It’s neat,” he said.
Miramontes considers priests to be “heroes.” “I admire them so much. Many of them keep working after they retire. Thank the Lord for them. They set good examples for us to follow.”
Deacon placements. This summer he is doing his deacon internship at St. James and St. Joseph Parishes in Madison. He will be able to preach, assist the priest at the altar, perform Baptisms, witness marriages and funerals, be a minister of Communion, and visit the elderly and homebound.
During his last year of seminary studies, he will be serving a deacon internship at St. Linus Parish in Dearborn, Mich., on three of four weekends each month. He is looking forward to his final seminary classes, especially a practicum which provides information on celebrating Mass and the sacraments.
Renz said he thought about the priesthood as far back as the second grade, but didn’t consider pursuing it until after he graduated from college.
He grew up in Jefferson, the son of Jane and John Renz, members of St. John the Baptist Parish there.
Renz obtained a degree in management and human resources at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked for an area paint company in its management training program.
Discernment. “I realized quickly that this wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he said. “I looked at going back to school to be a teacher, but I finally admitted that I should consider trying the seminary.”
He credits his older brother Tom with helping him reconnect with his faith after college. He also talked with his pastor, Fr. Tom Coyle, and he suggested that he meet with Bishop William H. Bullock. “I met with Bishop Bullock for about four or five weeks of discernment. He asked me to go to the ordination of Fr. Michael Radowicz and Fr. Eric Sternberg in 2005.”
Renz said he wasn’t sure about the seminary, but talking with some of the seminarians and experiencing the ordination changed his mind. “By the car ride home, I was convinced,” he said. “The Lord spoke to me.”
Seminary experience. He met Msgr. James Bartylla, the vocation director at that time, and started the process to enter the seminary. He was accepted and began his studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit five years ago.
Renz, too, had to adjust to seminary studies, especially going from a business background to studying philosophy. “It was a big transition,” he said. “Also from living alone to living with other guys was a shock.”
But he has enjoyed Sacred Hearts. “I’ve loved it. It’s a great seminary. I’ve met a lot of great guys.”
His best friend is Beto Espinoza, who was to be ordained to the priesthood on May 22 this year. Renz donated a kidney to Espinoza three years ago.
Renz and his parents planned to go to Detroit for the ordination. Unfortunately, Espinoza’s body rejected the kidney recently. “He’s back on dialysis and looking for another kidney,” said Renz.
However, he has no regrets about donating the kidney to his friend. “There have been so many blessings through the whole process,” said Renz.
“Since the transplant, it made me look more at my health and get in a routine to be more healthy.”
His apostolic work at Sacred Heart Seminary has included working in a ministry for the homeless, teaching catechism classes for second and seventh graders at a local parish, and working in health care facilities.
Deacon placements. His deacon internship this summer will be working with Msgr. Charles Schluter, first at the parishes in Platteville and then at St. Peter Parish in Madison starting July 10, when Monsignor Schluter is transferred there.
He will be working three weekends a month at a parish about an hour north of Detroit during the school year.
Family and friends. He thanked his family for their witness; Father Coyle, “who supported me the whole time”; and Bishop Bullock, “who convinced me that this was right for me.”
Priesthood. Renz said, “Priests stand in the person of Christ. The Lord chooses ordinary men — you can see that in the apostles. All of us are unworthy. Yet we know the Lord will be with us in this.”
Renz said he also appreciates the prayers and support of people throughout the diocese. “So many people say they’re praying for the seminarians. It’s very appreciated,” he said