Meet Our New Priests

Father Mark C. Bristol

Diocese: Brooklyn
Branch of Service: Navy
Rank: LTJG
University/ Seminary Attended: 
Franciscan University of Steubenville, Steubenville, Ohio
Saint Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, New York
High School Attended: Atlantic Community High School, Delray Beach, Florida
Hobbies: Swimming, traveling, singing, playing the bass guitar, going to concerts, seeing Broadway musicals, and visiting museums and historical sites

When was the first time you thought you might have a vocation to the priesthood?
When I attended a Life Teen Mass at my parish, a young priest who had been recently ordained celebrated the Mass. When I heard him preach and celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass I could relate to him and picture myself being up there one day.

Who or what events influenced or inspired you in your discernment journey?
My father; the Chaplains who served me while I was stationed in Gaeta, Italy; and the lives of Servant of God Father Vincent R. Capodanno and Msgr. Bernard J. Quinn

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I converted to Catholicism when I was 16 years old.

What is your favorite scripture passage, why?
“No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him” (RSV 2 Tim 2:4).

How did you come to know Jesus Christ personally?
When I was eight years old I went to a Protestant summer camp and asked Jesus to come into my life.

What were some of the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and share your relationship with Christ and His Church?
World Youth Day 2005, Catholics Seeking Christ, and the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius

What influence did Pope John Paul II have on your vocation?
When Pope John Paul II died, I was present in Rome at his funeral and, at that time, I was still running away from God. While I was standing there in the midst of over a million people from all over world, I heard the Lord say in my heart, “What happened to that fire that was in your heart for me and my Church when you first became Catholic?” I repented that day and made a promise to myself to go on a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in hopes to rekindle that flame. When I went to World Youth Day that flame was rekindled and I realized that God was still calling me to priesthood.

What was your background before the Seminary?
I enlisted in the Navy right after high school as an Information Systems Technician and was stationed onboard the USS Mount Whitney in Gaeta, Italy. I spent five years on active duty and 4 years in the Navy Reserve. While I was in the Navy Reserve and attending college I was recalled to active duty and deployed to the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Africa) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

What is your favorite spiritual book?
Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

Who are your heroes or people you significantly admire?
Pope John Paul II because he survived the loss of both his parents, the perils of war, persecution because of his faith, and an assassination attempt. Despite all of the tragedies and suffering in his life, he was still full of joy and love for God, life, and humanity.


Father Thomas Philip O’Neill

Diocese: Archdiocese of Hartford
Branch of Service: Air Force
Hobbies: Music, reading, movies, sightseeing
College/ Seminary Attended:
Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia
Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland
High School Attended: Vicenza American High School, Vicenza, Italy

When was the first time you thought you might have a vocation to the priesthood?
I started thinking about a vocation in 11th grade in high school, then again and more seriously my junior year of college. After the intensity of it in college, I decided to actively pursue it.

Who or what events influenced or inspired you in your discernment journey?
I have been inspired by my experiences with the sacraments, especially in Mass and before the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Donald Planty, the Chaplain at Christendom and my spiritual director, was an inspiration to me, and especially Fr. Jerzy Rzasowski of the U.S. Army whom I have known for many years.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
Non-military folk are usually surprised to hear that I have lived in many different countries over the course of my life.

What is your favorite scripture passage, why?
Matthew 16:24 “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” It’s a passage that distinctly caught my attention when I was discerning back in college. It really embodies the spirit I want to foster in my formation and motion toward priesthood, namely that of simplicity and sacrifice.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ personally?
I was born and raised Catholic by practicing parents. Attending a Catholic liberal arts college was the first major step I took to learning the Faith for myself. Over the years I have had many wonderful religious experiences, particularly in Mass and reconciliation, but also in recitation of the rosary.

What were some of the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and share your relationship with Christ and His Church?
In High School days I attended two of the European Catholic Youth Conferences (ECYC). Those experiences of being in a close group with many Catholics of my age prompted me to go to Christendom. I have made several retreats also.

Have any saints or Church leaders particularly inspired your discernment journey?
My favorite saints right now are St. Thomas Aquinas for his brilliant thought, and St. Joseph and St. Therese of Lisieux for their complete surrender and obedience to God

What was your background before applying to be a seminarian applicant?
College Graduate

What is your favorite spiritual book?
Story of a Soul by Therese of Lisieux

Who are your heroes or people you significantly admire?
My parents for all the work they have done and sacrifices they have made to raise and provide for my siblings and me. The men and women of the Armed Forces, especially the Chaplains for the many sacrifices they make in the name of a greater cause. I also admire so many of the saints for the strength they showed and willingness to go to whatever lengths in the name of serving the Lord.


Father Daniel Joseph Swartz

Diocese: Columbus
Branch of Service: Navy
Rank: Ensign
Hobbies: woodworking, trail guiding, travel, literature
Team Sports: Soccer, volleyball, ice hockey, tennis, paintball
College/Seminary Attended: 
Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania
Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio
High School Attended:
Bishop Watterson High School, Columbus, Ohio

When was the first time you thought you might have a vocation to the priesthood?
I first started thinking about the priesthood probably around the age of 10 when I began altar serving at my local parish.

Who or what events influenced or inspired you in your discernment journey?
Perhaps the events that have had the most lasting impression on me have been those that involved seeing a priest in action. I have a great admiration and respect for the power of the priesthood, not just the sacramental nature of the priest, but the priest’s personal ability to teach, show compassion, and impact lives.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
People are usually surprised to learn how much of the world I have seen already and some of the positive things I have done. I suppose many people apply a stereotype to what it means to be a seminarian as a kind of docile, stable, and calm man. It seems to surprise people when they hear how much I enjoy adventure and trying new things.

What is your favorite scripture passage, why?
Mark 1:37 – it highlights the innate desire of all of humanity to seek our Lord. This passage is the essence of mission.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ personally?
My relationship with our Lord has been a process, like any relationship. He has always called in different ways at different times, and when I have chosen to listen and obey He has drawn me closer to Him.

What were some of the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and share your relationship with Christ and His Church?
There have been numerous experiences that have helped develop my faith and my ability to share that faith with others. In 2009, I served in Kolkata, India with the Missionaries of Charity. It was a completely foreign environment, language, culture, and climate. I volunteered at an orphanage for severely physically and mentally handicapped children. Needless to say it stretched my skills in ministry and service as it highlighted for me how Christian faith can make an incredible difference in the life of a person. A second occasion was when I took off a year from college in 2011-2012 and served as a missionary in Europe. This encompassed every kind of ministry style imaginable from street evangelization (simply walking up to people and talking to them about faith and religion) to serving as a tour guide to pilgrims to working with the poor and destitute.

What was your background before applying to be a seminarian applicant?
I have worked a variety of jobs before seminary. I was a paintball instructor, actor, and counselor at a summer camp, a trail guide in western Canada for a group called People to People, a house painter, a stone mason’s apprentice, and a lifeguard for seven years.

What is your favorite spiritual book?
My favorite spiritual discourse is likely Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s autobiography.

Who are your heroes or people you significantly admire?
Men who embody a kind of jack-of-all-trades spirit catch my attention for some reason. Figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Blaise Pascal all inspire me on some level. Also, any man who displays an unusually large amount of gumption or outright courage has my respect; Ernest Edwin Evans comes to mind.