By Antonina Zielinska
Three men, one from Ghana, one from Haiti and one from the Philippines, officially joined the ranks of the priesthood of the Diocese of Brooklyn on Feb. 24.
Fathers Francis Kwame Asagba, Jean G. Laguerre and Anacleto S. Asebias, Jr., already have been serving the diocese for years, but now will continue their ministry here permanently, promising obedience to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and his successors.
This process, known as incardination, allows a priest to change his diocese of affiliation.
“I’m proud to be part of the clergy of Brooklyn,” Father Laguerre said. “I feel like I’m home.”
“I have the sense of a universal Church and a sense that being a priest is a journey on which you never know where you end up,” Father Asagba said. He believes a priest must answer the call of Jesus to follow the Spirit, which like the wind, is unpredictable in its path (John 3:8).
“I really feel like the Lord is calling me to serve in this part of the World,” Father Asebias said.
Father Asagba came to the U.S. in 1997, six years after his ordination, to do graduate studies in canon law. After ministering in his home Diocese of Accra, Ghana, he returned to minister in Brooklyn in 2006. Since then, he has served at St. Catharine of Alexandria, Borough Park; Our Lady of the Angelus, Rego Park; and St. Francis of Assisi, Astoria. He also served on the diocesan tribunal.
“It’s a very welcoming diocese, with a lot of diversity,” he said.
Father Laguerre was ordained in 1995 in the Diocese of Jacmel, Haiti. He came to the U.S. and worked in the Diocese of Rockville Centre from 1997 to 1999. Then his bishop called him back to Haiti to start up a new parish, St. Michael the Archangel. Having worked there for nine years, Father Laguerre asked his bishop for permission to return to the U.S.
That is when he came to the Brooklyn Diocese and studied Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). In 2010, he began a chaplaincy at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Queens, where he currently works while residing at Most Precious Blood parish, Astoria. He also worked on his master’s degree at St. John’s University, which he earned in 2012.
Father Laguerre said his studies here have made him feel like part of the community. He also said Bishop DiMarzio is so open to people from all over the world, and that he has never seen a bishop quite like him.
Father Laguerre still returns to Haiti about twice a year and calls his family regularly. He said he feels like he is still part of his old diocese. He goes back on retreat and keeps up with news from Jacmel. However, he said he has even stronger ties.
“The Christian family is greater than the blood family,” he said. “For me, the whole Church is my family.”
Father Asebias worked for his home Diocese of Borongan, Philippines, for 25 years since his ordination in 1980. He served in many roles including pastor, episcopal vicar, member of the Presbyteral Council and member of College of Councilors.
“For my silver jubilee, my bishop game me a gift,” Father Asebias said. “He gave me a year of sabbatical.”
Father Asebias was instructed to spend the year outside of the Philippines. So, he lived half a year in Europe and half a year in the U.S. At the end of his sabbatical, Father Asebias asked his bishop for more time. The bishop agreed but only if he would join a parish. That is when Father Asebias called the late Father Mark Calliwan who worked with the Filipino community in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Father Calliwan suggested that Father Asebias apply to spend a year here because Bishop DiMarzio is very welcoming to priests from other countries.
Father Asebias arrived at St. Mary’s Nativity parish, Flushing, in December of 2007. After some time, Father Calliwan advised Father Asebias to make a decision of whether he wanted to return to the Philippines or if he wanted to stay in New York. After prayerful reflection and taking into account that his home diocese is pretty well staffed with many young priests, Father Asebias applied for incardination in 2009.
“I owe much to my parents for the kind of priest I am today,” he said. “They were very zealous in their Catholic faith. They made our home a domestic Church.”
After years of waiting and praying, the three priests were officially incardinated in a private ceremony at the diocese’s offices in Park Slope, and they concelebrated Mass with Bishop DiMarzio in the building’s chapel.