Ordination will open new world for new priest

CROWN POINT – When he was ordained a transitional deacon a year ago, Jacob John Paul William McDaniel expected to spend a busy year finishing his seminary studies and serving the Diocese of Gary as he prepared for his priestly ordination, but no one could have imagined how that year would change leading up to his ordination on Saturday, June 6.
    “Don’t be afraid of change,” is the valuable lesson Deacon McDaniel said he has learned from the global coronavirus pandemic that led to the suspension of public Masses and all other religious services amidst a stay-at-home order that also closed all non-essential businesses and industry while abruptly closing the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary, forcing all students to return home and classes to go remote for the final two months.
    That led to the most challenging thing about Deacon McDaniel’s year. “It was difficult saying good-bye, in many different ways – to classmates, faculty, this parish community (St. Matthias in Crown Point) – not in a way I ever expected,” said the Michigan City native. “We were planning things to give gratitude to all the people who supported me, in addition to graduation events at school.”
    While final arrangements had not been determined by press time, Deacon McDaniel, 28, said he is hopeful that new state guidelines and diocesan directives will allow more than just his parents, Mark and Sharon McDaniel, and his two younger brothers to witness his ordination in person. “I’m hoping that the diocesan priests, fellow seminarians and some close friends can attend. I know the Mass will be livestreamed, too, so that will provide another way for people to watch,” Deacon McDaniel added. 
    The morning Ordination Mass at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary will be a milestone not only for Deacon McDaniel, but for Bishop Robert J. McClory, since it will be the first priestly ordination he will preside over since his own episcopal ordination and installation on Feb. 11.
    Deacon McDaniel said he is most looking forward to several elements of his ordination – lying prostrate in front of the altar while the congregation prays the Litany of Saints, being able to concelebrate Mass with the bishop, and being vested by Father Declan McNicholas, associate pastor at St. Thomas More in Munster, chosen by Deacon McDaniel for that honor.
    While a celebratory dinner hosted by Deacon McDaniel’s family will likely be scaled back, he noted, with social distancing arrangements added, he does intend to celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, at St. Mary in Michigan City, with as many witnesses as the bishop allows.
    He will also celebrate all Masses at St. Matthias in Crown Point, where he served a spring pastoral internship in 2017 and has been assigned since mid-March, the following weekend, at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 13 and 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 14.
    Those liturgies will provide the newly ordained priest with a fast start on what he expects will be his favorite responsibility. “I really look forward to celebrating Mass, preaching and being able to be part of many people’s families and lives,” he said. “I’m excited to share that experience.”
    Deacon McDaniel attended Joy Elementary and Krueger Middle School in the Michigan City area and graduated from Michigan City High School in 2010. He earned an undergraduate degree at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis before entering the Chicago Province of St. Albert the Great Dominican novitiate in Colorado with the intention of becoming a priest/teacher, but left after a year to pursue studies at Mundelein Seminary, earning a master’s in philosophy in 2016, and a master’s of divinity this month.
    While in the seminary, Deacon McDaniel had a summer assignment at Holy Spirit, Winfield, in 2016; the spring internship at St. Matthias in 2017; a language immersion at Baden-Powell Institute in Mexico and a stay at St. Francis Xavier, Lake Station, in 2017, a summer 2018 assignment in clinical pastoral education at Mercy Health St. Mary Hospital, Grand Rapids, Mich.; a fall 2018, weekend assignment at St. Mary, Griffith, and a weekend stint at St. John the Evangelist in St. John this past school year.
    “The first time I thought about the priesthood was in the eighth grade when my maternal grandmother (secretly) signed me up to lector at Mass and I saw my name in the parish bulletin,” recalled Deacon McDaniel. “My maternal grandfather and I shared the assignments until I went to college, and when I was standing at the pulpit, I did think that maybe this is a place where I should be standing.”
    Halfway through his freshman year in college, the teenager had everything he wanted – a chemistry major, a peer mentorship and a job in the chemistry lab. “Yet I was still unhappy,” he admitted. 
    What did bring him peace and happiness was participating in the young adult ministry at his Indianapolis parish, St. John the Evangelist, and working with the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionaries on the IUPUI campus.
By his senior year of college, he started to think about religious life and becoming a teacher while living in a religious community.
    Learning “very quickly what your strengths and weaknesses are” in the seminary, Deacon McDaniel is most grateful for “the community life and fraternity on campus. I expect the friendships with the guys in my class and on my hallway to continue all my life.”
    While this spring has represented a unique challenge, Deacon McDaniel is thankful he was able to respond to it in a positive way. “We all have a role at (St. Matthias) parish,” he said. “I’ve helped with livestreaming Masses and connecting the right people to make it happen, filming the short videos titled, ‘Did You Ever Wonder?’ to explain some of the objects in the church, and co-hosting online Trivia Nights on Tuesdays with our pastoral associate Jackie Gentry.
    “This has been the biggest reminder of what is most important,” he added.