Meet Our New Priests

Father Joseph Baltz

Diocese: Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Branch of Service: Army
High Schools Attended:
 Rio Rancho High School 
Colleges Attended: 
University of Dallas/Holy Trinity Seminary, Mount Angel Seminary (Current)
Hobbies: Sports, rock-climbing, reading novels, writing a novel

When was the first time you thought you might have a vocation to the priesthood?

5 years old.

Who or what events influenced or inspired you in your discernment journey?

As far as people go, some good priests and a great youth director.  As far as God goes, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was key.

What is your favorite scripture passage, why?

My current favorite verse is Psalm 16:6 from Thursday Night Prayer,
“The lot marked out for me is my delight: welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me.”
This verse carries with it the idea that has got me through my trials, the idea that trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus will never be misplaced and that no matter what is in store for me, I can rest assured as long as I devote myself to doing His will.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ personally?

During my first Life Teen retreat there was exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and we were in Adoration for 1 hour.  I was praying about my vocation at that time and I had never prayed so hard in my life. I was begging God to just tell me if He wanted me to get married or become a priest.  He did not answer my question, but He did speak. I believe it is called a locution. At least three times throughout that hour, I heard a voice speak my name, “Joseph,” nothing more, nothing less.  It was after that when I started taking the Faith seriously and believing in Christ like I never could before.

What were some of the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and share your relationship with Christ and His Church?

The above mentioned.
Another time of Adoration in a retreat.
My first retreat in seminary, when we went to a Carmelite monastery and I was taught how to do mental prayer.
My first retreat at a Jesuit retreat house and I was taught Ignatian imaginative prayer with Scripture.
Most of the convocation retreats of my diocese helped me understand what it meant to be a good priest.
My Theology 1 class on the Liturgy helped me see the beauty of the Mass like I never had before.
My Theology 1 class on the Priestly Heart of Jesus gave me a desire to become a priest like I never had before.
Reading great works of the Saints, like Terese of Lisieux, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Pope John Paul II, Francis DeSales, etc.
Also reading many of the works of C.S.Lewis.

Who are some saints and/or Church leaders who have inspired you?

St. Peter, Paul Miki, Joan of Arc, Terese of Lisieux, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, John Paul II, John Vianney, Thomas Aquinas, and Fulton Sheen

What was your professional and/or academic and/ or military background before applying to be a seminarian applicant?

I joined right out of high-school, but I did work with CAD at my parents’ radiation detection instrument company the summer before I joined.

What was the last book you read? What are you currently reading?

The last book I read was Sword and Serpent by Taylor Marshall, a historical fiction novel about St. George during the Diocletian persecution. I am currently rereading Glittering Vices by Rebecca DeYoung, it is a systematic look at the seven deadly sins and how to identify and overcome them. I am also reading “The Catholic Perspective on Paul,” also by Taylor Marshall, and I am reading the first book of Maccabees.

What is your favorite spiritual book?

If by favorite you mean the one I enjoyed reading the most, then it probably is Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. But if you mean the one that had the most impact on me, then either Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body or John of the Cross’ Living Flame of Love.

Who are your heroes or people you significantly admire?

My previous Vocation Director, Fr. Michael DePalma. He is probably the best priest I know and has taught me what a good holy priest looks like.  I hope that I can be what he is to his flock if I ever become a priest.

How would you characterize your prayer life?

A slow, steady, uncomfortable upward journey from nothing to now.  I go to Mass every day, Confession once a week, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day, and I pray a holy hour every day consisting of a Rosary and Reflection on Scripture.  Externally, I think I am where I am supposed to be, but my main problem is that I often think of prayer as one of the boxes that I need to check off before the day is done; it is difficult for me to really enter into the prayer as an encounter with God, but I am improving.

Father Steven Booth

Diocese: Diocese of Fall River
Branch of Service: Navy
High Schools Attended: Bristol County Agricultural High School, Dighton MA  
Colleges Attended: 
Providence College, Providence RI – B.A. Philosophy
Hobbies:Sports, Outdoor Activities (hiking, swimming, biking/Atving, camping)

When was the first time you thought you might have a vocation to the priesthood?

I had a very fortunate childhood with two parents who loved and cared for each other. They are both strong in the Catholic faith and were deeply concerned that they raise strong, well-adjusted, and capable children. My brothers, sisters and I were taught the value of hard work, courage, and sacrifice. My dad was military and my oldest brother was military. I idolized the military in my toys and games and naturally considered the military as my career. However, in addition to my parents, I also had wonderful examples of priesthood growing up and so in high school, I really began to see the priest as a soldier for Christ whose primary concern was getting people to heaven.  After dating a little, God gave me the grace to make the jump into seminary, where I have been happily working and praying as a seminarian of my hometown diocese for the past 6 years. But it was the last 2-3 years that I started having recurring thoughts and prayers of serving as a chaplain.

Who or what events influenced or inspired you in your discernment journey?

I was ultimately inspired by God but through the inspiration of my parents, one of my brothers, and several priests. In high school, I also spent a fair amount of time in Mass and Adoration where I know God acted directly upon my heart.

What is your favorite scripture passage, why?

This is a difficult question, for obvious reasons but I like John 3:16 for its powerful synthesis of the four gospels. “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” St. Paul tells us to always be ready to give an account for our hope. This passage from St. John is that reason. God came back for us when we were imprisoned by a debt we couldn’t pay.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ personally?

I was introduced to Jesus through my parents. Seeing their relationship with the Lord subconsciously convinced me that the faith is real and a relationship with Christ is something to be valued.  So I began to pray seriously as a kid, and Our Lord responded generously.

What were some of the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and share your relationship with Christ and His Church?

Growing up my two best friends weren’t Catholic and I can remember the moment when I first realized that we didn’t believe the same thing. So I started asking why and even reading up on my faith. As I grew older I began to take the faith on personally. Mass and Adoration were the two activities that most helped me develop my relationship with Christ.

Who are some saints and/or Church leaders who have inspired you?

My confirmation Saint is St. Lawrence of Rome. He inspired me through his love for the poor, loyalty to the Pope, and his good sense of humor, even in the face of suffering.

What was your professional and/or academic and/ or military background before applying to be a seminarian applicant?

I entered the seminary right out of high school so I don’t have much of a professional background. Before high school and into my first year I help my brother with his tree business. I dragged brush and operated machinery. In high school, I employed as a student worker on my school’s farm. Responsibilities included: harvesting, general maintenance, tending to the animals, operating machinery and other miscellaneous duties. I was also on my town call fire department for my last two year of high school.

What was the last book you read? What are you currently reading?

Well, truthfully the last book I read was a sci-fi book from the Expanses series. But the last spiritual book I read was The Difference God Makes by Francis Cardinal George. I’m currently reading 12 Rules for Life an Antidote to Chaos by Dr. Jordan Peterson.

What is your favorite spiritual book?

Bede Jarrett Anthology edited by Jordan Aumann, O.P.

Who are your heroes or people you significantly admire?

My parents, my former pastor Msgr. Gerard O’Connor, my sister Annmarie and my godfather/uncle Steve.

How would you characterize your prayer life?

I would characterize my prayer life as life-giving. It is the only thing of real value that I actually possess and even still it is a gift from God. My prayer life is a lifelong responsibility which will take constant work, perseverance, and sacrifice. But in turn, it fills me with consolation, meaning, and joy.

Father Daniel Duplantis

Diocese: Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux
Branch of Service: Air Force
Colleges Attended:
McNeese State University, Saint Joseph Seminary College
Hobbies: Taekwondo, music

When was the first time you thought you might have a vocation to the priesthood?

Since I was 4 years old. I would play mass and look at vestments in catalogues. The seed of the vocation was there ever since.

Who or what events influenced or inspired you in your discernment journey?

My journey was influenced by my first pastor who really had the fire of the priesthood and gave me one of his stoles when he left our parish. My next pastor was like a grandfather to me and his witness served as great inspiration. As far as military, both of my grandfathers were airmen and my uncle is about to retire from active duty in the Army at the rank of Major. He said the military needs more priest and that as a seminarian I should look into that path. I was in JROTC for my first two years of high school holding the positions of company commander, battalion CSM, and Battalion Adjutant finishing my tenure as a C/Captain. I had to quit because of scheduling conflicts with band.

What is your favorite scripture passage, why?

Psalm 144 because it is great scripture for martial artists and always sets the tone for me in praying about military chaplaincy.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ personally?

I really came to know Christ personally at my Confirmation retreat in 11th grade. The retreat broke down my walls and doubts and it was there that I really accepted that I quite possibly have a priestly vocation.

What were some of the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and share your relationship with Christ and His Church?

Besides the Confirmation retreat, I went to Medjugorje last summer which really gave a new dimension to my spirituality with the Blessed Mother. I’ve also taught CCD in my parish and in my diocesan Catholic schools.

Who are some saints and/or Church leaders who have inspired you?

The two saints that really influenced my discernment have been Saint Benedict of Nursia and Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

What was your professional and/or academic and/ or military background before applying to be a seminarian applicant?

Before seminary I had been a music education major working as a band librarian.

What was the last book you read? What are you currently reading?

The next to last book that I read was Be Thou My Vision by Bishop David Ricken and my current reading is Jesus of Nazareth pt. 2 by Benedict XVI

What is your favorite spiritual book?

The Priest is Not His Own by Fulton Sheen

Who are your heroes or people you significantly admire?

My spiritual director, my Taekwondo instructor, my bishop, my parents and grandparents.

How would you characterize your prayer life?

My prayer life includes all five hours of the Divine Office, daily mass, daily holy hour which is comprised mostly of lectio, and monthly confession.

Father James Dvorak

Diocese: Diocese of Victoria in Texas
Branch of Service: Navy
High Schools Attended: Columbus High School
Colleges Attended: University of Dallas
Hobbies: Play guitar, hunt, fish

When was the first time you thought you might have a vocation to the priesthood?

I was in 8th grade, in my CCE class.

Who or what events influenced or inspired you in your discernment journey?

My aunt who was my 8th grade CCE teacher, and the local diocesan vocation camp retreats.

What is your favorite scripture passage, why?

Psalm 36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Too often I fall short of recognizing God’s constant and steadfast love in my life. He never abandons me; I need to be constantly reminded of that. The imagery of taking refuge under God’s wings, keeps us ever close to God’s loving protection.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ personally?

During my 8th grade year, I began volunteering my time with organizations like Habitat for humanity and in that I was able see a deep love of serving others, just as Christ did. Also, in conjunction with that I was introduced to Eucharist exposition, where I really began to pray and seek the will of God.

What were some of the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and share your relationship with Christ and His Church?

I have been on a few prayer (some silent) retreats in between the semesters of seminary. Also, I have walked ‘El Camino de Santiago,’ a religious pilgrimage.        

Who are some saints and/or Church leaders who have inspired you?

St. John Vianney, St. Thomas Aquinas

What was your professional and/or academic and/ or military background before applying to be a seminarian applicant?

I entered seminary immediately following high school. I was a collegiate seminarian for 4 years and am currently a 1st year theologian.

What was the last book you read? What are you currently reading?

I have read Deep Conversion/ Deep Prayer by Thomas Dubay S.M. I am currently reading Jesus of Nazareth Part II (Holy Week) by Pope Benedict XVI.

What is your favorite spiritual book?

The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann

Who are your heroes or people you significantly admire?

Fr. Dan Morales (vocation director & the priest that baptized me).  My Aunt Adeline (8th Grade CCE Teacher)

How would you characterize your prayer life?

A deep intimacy with Christ that still desire to grow in his richness of Truth and love. I faithfully prayer the Liturgy of the Hours, minimally (with consistency) Morning and Evening Prayer.    I pray a Holy Hour in Exposition to the Blessed Sacrament at least once a week at 6-7am.   I pray a rosary a few times a week while walking outside. I attend Mass daily (and I always altar serve when I am at my home parish).

Father Miguel Flores-Perez

Diocese: Diocese of Austin
Branch of Service: Army
High School Attended: William H.Taft High School 
Colleges Attended:
Christendom College, University of St. Thomas
Hobbies: Home repair/remodeling, Marksmanship shooting with friends.

When was the first time you thought you might have a vocation to the priesthood?

In 1997, before attending Christendom College, I did consider the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood and thus wanted to better discern this calling at a good Catholic college.  While at Christendom, the calling to the priesthood was always in the back of my mind. but I was also open to marriage and sometimes grappled with a desire to serve in the military as my father had done. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 sealed the deal for me as far as military service, but did not put an end to the calling to the priesthood that I still felt.  The 8.5 years in the U.S. Army gave me the opportunity to see life in a different light and to seriously consider God’s will for me. I decided to leave the U.S. Army and finish my undergraduate degree as well as to seriously discern God’s will. While at the University of St. Thomas, I finally came to the conclusion that I had to give the priesthood/seminary a chance and to discern if this was truly God’s will for me.

Who or what events influenced or inspired you in your discernment journey?

Growing up in a military family I was obviously exposed to the life of numerous Catholic military chaplains and remember well their generosity and devotion . While at Christendom College, I befriended one of the chaplains there who was also from Texas and had served as a Navy Chaplain for over 20yrs. Fr. Kind would always recollect about his life in the fleet and how those years where some of the best years of his priesthood. Fr. Kind has been one of the influencing forces behind my calling to the priesthood and in particular to the military chaplaincy. Christendom College produced many vocations to the priesthood and in May of 20111 was reacquainted with a former classmate of mine who had joined the Father’s of Mercy in Auburn , Kentucky. Fr. Tony Stephen’ s is the vocations director for the Father’s of Mercy and he has motivated me spiritually and has been an excellent spiritual advisor.  These two priests have been the motivating factor for my current desire to enter the seminary for the specific purpose of serving the Archdioceses of the Military Service.

What is your favorite scripture passage, why?

John 1 : 1 -18. The Christology in those verses are very beautiful and tell of not only who Our Lord is, but the purpose of the Incarnation and the gratuitous gift of grace offered to all so as to “become children of God.” The love of God towards his fallen creatures takes on a new meaning here.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ personally?

Through His Church, Sacraments, Word, and prayer which was passed on to me by His ministers and taught to me especially by my mother.

What were some of the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and share your relationship with Christ and His Church?

Frequent, if not daily, attendance at Mass and reception of the Eucharist has been pivotal to my relationship with Our Lord and His Church. The frequent reception of the sacrament of penance has also played a big part in my spiritual life. The reading and study of scripture has an important part in my spiritual life as well, as does the daily
recitation of the Holy Rosary and chaplet of Divine Mercy . I am also a strong advocate of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Who are some saints and/or Church leaders who have inspired you?

I have always admired the lives of St. Padre Pio and St. John Vianney .When a Navy chaplain gave a talk at Christendom on the life and merits of the Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno, I instantly took a liking to his story as well as the life a nd death of the Servant of God Fr. Emil Kapaun. I was moved by the w ay these priests sacrificed their lives to minister to their flock in such austere and horrible conditions.

What was your professional and/or academic and/ or military background before applying to be a seminarian applicant?

I studied theology at the undergraduate level at Christendom College from 1998-2001, taking two semesters off during that time to work .After my three years at Christendom, I enlisted in the U.S. Army for 8.5 years (May 2002- December 2010) .While in the U.S. Army, I served as an infantryman, grenadier, M-240 gunner, and fire team leader for an Infantry team for three years and was deployed to Iraq for one year {September 2003- September 2004). After being promoted to Sergeant (E-5), I tried out and was
accepted into the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q-Course) in May 2005. The Q-Course is the training pipeline/program for becoming a U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, more commonly known as the Green Berets. While in the Q-Course. I studied medicine since I was training to become a Special Forces Medical Sergeant (everyone on an A-Team has a specialty) . I graduated from the Q-Course and earned my Green Beret in March 2008 as an 18 Delta. I was deployed to Afghanistan for 7 months with my Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (A-Team) in 2008 .I served on a Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravo (S-Team) from 2009 until being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in December of 2010. In January of 2011, I resumed my theology studies at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas and earned my undergraduate degree in Catholic Theology in August 2012.

What was the last book you read? What are you currently reading?

Sounds of Silence…a monk’s journey by Fr. Benedict Kossmann.  Currently reading The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux translated by John Beevers; The Rite: The making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio; starting the book of Isaiah for Advent.

What is your favorite spiritual book?

The Book of Psalms as well as the Gospel’s of St. Luke and St. John.

Who are your heroes or people you significantly admire?

Pope Benedict XVI for his passion and zeal for God’s Church, and Mother Angelica for her holiness and wisdom.

How would you characterize your prayer life?

I would characterize my prayer life as the most important part of my day. Daily Mass and reception of Holy Communion are at the heart of my daily prayer life. I go to daily mass at 07:00 or 12: 00. I pray the Liturgy of the Hours when I awake and before going to bed, followed by the reading of scripture and prayer. Weekly reception of the sacrament of penance has had a drastic effect on my prayer life and I have come to love this sacrament immensely. The recitation of the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy are an important part of my prayer life as well. On Fridays or Saturdays, I will spend an hour in Adoration before the Blesse d Sacrament.

Father Adam Marchese

Diocese: Diocese of Orlando
Branch of Service: Army
High School Attended: Winter Springs High School 
Colleges Attended:
St. John Vianney College Seminary
Hobbies: Cooking, movies, sports

When was the first time you thought you might have a vocation to the priesthood?

I started my discernment when I was 21.

Who or what events influenced or inspired you in your discernment journey?

I was asked to be a volunteer for the youth group at my home parish, but my job interfered.  When I asked God how I could serve His Church, I heard a simple question on my heart, “why not become a priest?”

What is your favorite scripture passage, why?

I’ve never put much thought to that question, but I love the New Testament canticles we pray at Evening Prayer. My favorite being Colossians 1:12-20. It is a reminder for me that we are called to return to the father, and that through his son we are forgiven.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ personally?

I consider myself a “re-vert” to the faith. I’m a cradle Catholic, but I didn’t take my faith seriously until I was 18. The short version is, I opened myself up to a conversation with God, with the help of some friends, and what came with that was undeniable.

What were some of the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and share your relationship with Christ and His Church?

I moved to Palm Beach from Orlando and joined a Young Adult group that helped me to develop my faith. A friend from that group invited me to pray in the Blessed Sacrament chapel regularly and to attend daily Mass a few times a week.

Who are some saints and/or Church leaders who have inspired you?

I have developed a close relationship with St. Maria Goretti, Bl. Pier Giogrio, and the Servant of God Fr Emil Kapaun.

What was your professional and/or academic and/ or military background before applying to be a seminarian applicant?

I studied theology at the undergraduate level at Christendom College from 1998-2001, taking two semesters off during that time to work .After my three years at Christendom, I enlisted in the U.S. Army for 8.5 years (May 2002- December 2010) .While in the U.S. Army, I served as an infantryman, grenadier, M-240 gunner, and fire team leader for an Infantry team for three years and was deployed to Iraq for one year {September 2003- September 2004). After being promoted to Sergeant (E-5), I tried out and was

As I mentioned, after High School, I attended culinary school where I received an Associates degree in culinary arts. While in High School, I was part of an Army J.R.O.T.C. program.

What was the last book you read? What are you currently reading?

The book that I’ve been slowly reading over the past few months is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The book that I have most recently completed is De Diligendo Deo by St. Bernard.

What is your favorite spiritual book?

I have a collection from St. John of the Cross that I pray with fairly regularly. In particular, his commentary on the living flame.

Who are your heroes or people you significantly admire?

Going back to High School, my J.R.O.T.C. instructors played a large part in my life and I consider them to be secondary fathers to me. I also have a high regard for Fr Emil Kapaun.  His service models what I believe to be an idea officer and chaplain.

How would you characterize your prayer life?

I believe I have a strong prayer life. Daily prayer consists in Mass, a Holy Hour, and regular recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. This is made readily available at the seminary.

Father Timothy Mergen

Diocese: Diocese of Madison, WI
Branch of Service: Air Force
High School Attended: Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart
Colleges Attended:
U.S. Air Force Academy, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
Hobbies: Sports/Outdoors, Reading, Aviation

When was the first time you thought you might have a vocation to the priesthood?

2nd Grade

Who or what events influenced or inspired you in your discernment journey?

Eucharistic adoration, daily Mass on base, and a strong Catholic men’s group all helped lead me toward the priesthood.

What is your favorite scripture passage, why?

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:16-18). It spells out God’s will for us all so simply: joy, prayer (relationship), and gratitude all done with, in, and through Christ Jesus.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ personally?

Through the Sacraments in general but most deeply through reception and adoration of Jesus Christ truly present in the Holy Eucharist.

What were some of the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and share your relationship with Christ and His Church?

Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the Rosary, Catholic men’s group events (gatherings, conferences, pilgrimages, etc.)

Who are some saints and/or Church leaders who have inspired you?

Mary, St. Peter and St. Paul, St. John of the Cross, St. John Paul II.

What was your professional and/or academic and/ or military background before applying to be a seminarian applicant?

Special Operations Pilot

What was the last book you read? What are you currently reading?

Last: Paul, a New Covenant Jew: Rethinking Pauline Theology by Brant Pitre. Currently: What Every Catholic Should Know: Mercy by Daniel Moloney

Who are your heroes or people you significantly admire?

The Saints.

How would you characterize your prayer life?

Foundational. I cannot imagine life itself apart from its foundation in the relationship of prayer with Jesus Christ.