May 25, 2018

‘Faithful servant of the Church’: Transitional Deacon Jeffrey Dufresne hopes to share God’s love as a priest

Standing on May 16 in the St. Alphonsus Liguori Chapel in the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis, transitional Deacon Jeffrey Dufresne holds a chalice he received from the archdiocesan archives that he will use in the celebration of the Eucharist after he is ordained a priest at 10 a.m. on June 2 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. The liturgy is open to the public. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Standing on May 16 in the St. Alphonsus Liguori Chapel in the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis, transitional Deacon Jeffrey Dufresne holds a chalice he received from the archdiocesan archives that he will use in the celebration of the Eucharist after he is ordained a priest at 10 a.m. on June 2 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. The liturgy is open to the public. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

When transitional Deacon Jeffrey Dufresne is ordained a priest on June 2 by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, he will be welcomed into a large brotherhood of priests serving across central and southern Indiana.

The next day, then-Father Dufresne will elevate a chalice in a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Monica Church in Indianapolis—a chalice that is a reminder that this brotherhood extends beyond space and time to include priests who served the Church faithfully and died long before even his parents were born.

The chalice that Deacon Dufresne will lift up was first used almost 100 years ago by Father Leo Creeden, an archdiocesan priest ordained in 1920 and who died in 1940.

Father Creeden’s chalice then passed to Father Charles Noll, ordained an archdiocesan priest on June 9, 1940, three months after Father Creeden died. Father Noll served the Church in central and southern Indiana until his death in 1981, eight years before Deacon Dufresne was born.

At some point, the chalice made its way to the archdiocesan archives, which for several years now has given chalices to transitional deacons preparing for priestly ordination on the condition that it will return to the archives when they die.

“Choosing a chalice from the archdiocesan archives was important to me,” Deacon Dufresne said. “It is a reminder that I am called to continue the priestly ministry in central and southern Indiana which began long before me, and will, God willing, continue long after I’m gone.”

Deacon Dufresne has a keen appreciation for priestly fraternity in part because of the close relationships he has forged with archdiocesan priests and seminarians during his time in priestly formation.

Now he is looking forward to drawing close to all the faithful across the archdiocese as he seeks to help them grow in holiness through his priestly life and ministry.

A deepening friendship

Deacon Dufresne’s appreciation of priestly fraternity with the current priests serving in central and southern Indiana is rooted in part in the friendships he has nurtured with many of his fellow seminarians who have been ordained in recent years.

That is especially the case with Father James Brockmeier, associate pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus.

The two have been close friends since they were students at Marian University in Indianapolis, participating together in its San Damiano Scholars program, which seeks to form young adult Catholics for service as lay leaders in the Church. In fact, they were roommates during the 2010-11 academic year.

It was during that time that Father Brockmeier was actively discerning if God might be calling him to the priesthood. Deacon Dufresne had also thought about such a vocation, but not yet with the same seriousness his friend was considering it.

“He got to hear the stories of my going to my first meetings with the vocations director, the times in the process where I was wondering if this was really where I needed to go next,” said Father Brockmeier of his friend. “He was one of those people who really helped me along through it.”

Two years later, Deacon Dufresne found himself in the same place of discernment that his friend had been in when they were roommates. Now the roles of support were reversed, except that, in this case, Father Brockmeier could share his experiences of two years of priestly formation.

“In many ways, Father Brockmeier made my transition into seminary much easier than it could’ve been,” said Deacon Dufresne. “Because he had made a similar transition two years before, I had a sympathetic friend to turn to when the transition was difficult.

“He also invited me into the fraternity of the seminary and the archdiocesan seminarians. He was a great blessing—not many already have a best friend in the seminary community on day one.”

This friendship will deepen when Deacon Dufresne is ordained a priest. And although they won’t spend time with each other like when they were students at Marian, they will both appreciate their close bond.

“Jeff was like a brother to me before we even started to talk about being brothers in the priesthood,” Father Brockmeier said. “Our friendship won’t look the same as it did when we were roommates. But he’s one of those people who, when we get together, we know how to support each other. We can understand each other and where we’re coming from.”

Embracing a ‘daunting vocation’

Some of their conversations in the coming months may be about Deacon Dufresne’s entering into ministry as a parish priest for the first time.

Starting in July, he will begin service as associate pastor of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, which he has called his spiritual home since 2012 when he was a student at Marian.

“It’s a unique opportunity to begin my priestly ministry in a parish that already feels like home, and I am looking forward to serving the community that has done so much to welcome me as a parishioner and helped form me to be a priest,” said Deacon Dufresne, who grew up in Dayton, Ohio.

He will serve with St. Monica’s pastor, Father Todd Goodson, who has come to know Deacon Dufresne when his incoming associate pastor spent time in the parish during his priestly formation.

“Jeff seemed pretty solid to me from the get-go,” Father Goodson said. “He’s a talented young man. He loves the liturgy, and is always very attentive to it. He’s a great guy. I think he’s going to be a great priest.”

Together, Father Goodson and Deacon Dufresne will seek to help the members of St. Monica Parish embrace their baptismal call to live out the faith and proclaim the Gospel in the secular world.

Deacon Dufresne knows that the laity of St. Monica Parish will be empowered to share Christ in the world if he is able to share Christ with them in his priestly ministry.

Although he sees being a special sacramental sign of Christ to them as “a daunting vocation,” Deacon Dufresne nonetheless looks forward to seeking to be Christ’s instrument for them, especially in the celebration of the sacraments.

“I hope that as I celebrate the Mass, hear confessions, anoint the sick, baptize, and minister to the dying, others will not simply experience my personality and hear my voice, but see and hear and know Christ,” he said.

At the same time, he will strive to see the face of Christ in the people that he will serve. He said he began to experience this after being ordained a transitional deacon last year.

“I have been privileged to see the faithfulness of many lay Catholics to attending Mass and serving in various ministry capacities at a time in our culture when many people do not see living the faith as a high priority,” Deacon Dufresne said. “In these moments, the lay faithful show me the face of Christ, who is always faithful to his promises.”

‘A faithful servant of the Church’

Over the past several years, Dr. Richard Stern watched Deacon Dufresne become prepared to embrace the “daunting vocation” of priestly ministry.

A recently retired professor of homiletics at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad where Deacon Dufresne received his priestly formation, Stern sees this soon-to-be-priest as “a faithful servant of the Church.”

“His preaching will intend to move people into a deeper spirituality and a deeper faith,” Stern said. “I think it is important in Jeff’s own set of values to be a competent preacher, not in the sense of being a ‘star’ preacher, but in providing well, thought-out homilies that intend to serve, help, and guide the people of God.”

Deacon Dufresne, 28, will seek to give this guidance in many ways, especially to the growing number of young adults around his age, including Catholics, who are walking away from the faith in which they were raised and now identify with no religious belief at all.

He is hopeful about this challenge in part because of the support he has received for being open to the priesthood from many people who no longer practice the Catholic faith.

“I am convinced that the best way to draw ‘fallen away’ Catholics and others to the true faith is for Catholics to live their vocations faithfully with joy and charity,” he said, “and I hope that I can be such a witness in my priestly ministry.”
 

(Transitional Deacon Jeffrey Dufresne will be ordained a priest at 10 a.m. on June 2 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, 1347 N. Meridian St., in Indianapolis. The liturgy is open to the public. To learn more about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit HearGodsCall.com.)


More about Deacon Jeffrey Dufresne

  • Age: 28
  • Parents: Michael and Jennifer Dufresne
  • Home parish: St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis
  • Education: Chaminade-Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio; Marian University in Indianapolis; Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad
  • Favorite Scripture passage: Luke 24:13-35
  • Favorite saint: St. John Chrysostom
  • Favorite book: Lord of the World, by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson
  • Favorite prayer or devotion: the Jesus Prayer
  • Hobbies: Fishing, playing the guitar, golf

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