Five new priests stand with Archbishop Henry J. Mansell after a Mass of Ordination to the Priesthood on May 14 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph. From left are Father Diego Jimenez Olaya, Father Anthony Smith, Archbishop Mansell, Father Iain Highet, Father George Mukuka and Father Robert Turner. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)
Father Iain Robert Highet
Iain Robert Highet was born on May 15, 1965, in Toronto, a son of Alexander and Anne-Margaret Highet, who immigrated to Canada from Scotland and reared three children. Though his parents were Presbyterian, he said, his religion as a young boy was hockey.
"I realized that if I played hockey well enough, I didn’t have to go to church," he recalled.
He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Concordia University in Montreal in 1988, a graduate diploma in Montessori education from the Toronto Montessori Institute and a master’s degree in environmental studies from York University in Toronto. He also received a master’s degree in theology in 2008 from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell.
He has lived at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem for more than 20 years.
Father Highet explained that while he was making a film in Montreal, one of the people he was interviewing told him about the Benedictine abbey’s monastic internship program. "When I left the interview, I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’
"The Lord was just leading me," he said. "At the time I was reading [Jesuit theologian/philosopher/economist] Bernard Lonergan, and being prepared for something else. But it was that community of people centered in the liturgy and Gospel, and living in a community that drew me."
After participating in the program to experience the abbey’s "life of rhythm and prayer," he entered the Catholic Church in 1989.
An ecologist by training as well as a potter, Father Highet said that he started a men’s community of oblate (or lay) brothers at the abbey about 10 years ago. But, it was the visit of a Father Vito C. DeCarolis, now retired and living in the Naugatuck area, two years ago that again changed the course of his life.
"He said, ‘Why isn’t this guy ordained?’" said Father Highet. "It was an answer to prayer. I knew I was called to be a priest."
Shortly after, he was invited to be ordained through the Archdiocese of Hartford.
"The Church is a reality of relationships," he said. "That’s how God acts, through other people."
Father Highet said of his journey to the priesthood, "It’s been a great experience. "I’ve come at it in an unconventional way, but I’ve experienced the call of the Lord very clearly.
He completed formation requirements at Boston College and at Holy Apostles Seminary and with the Sulpicians in Washington, D.C.
Father Highet is assigned as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Parish in New Hartford and Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Harwinton, and as a part-time chaplain at the Abbey of Regina Laudis.
Father Diego Alejandro Jimenez Olaya
Diego Alejandro Jimenez Olaya, born on Feb. 18, 1983, in Antioquia, Colombia, and his sister, Paula, were reared in the faith by their parents, Luis Eduard Jimenez and Maria Auxilio Olaya.
"My family is very Catholic," he said, noting that they regularly celebrated the sacraments, prayed the rosary and attended Mass as a family. He also served as an altar server in his parish from age 10 to 18.
At age 15 and while in high school, he entered into a special seminary formation program, studying philosophy, attending conferences and participating in community prayer.
Father Jimenez Olaya attended minor seminary at the Universidad Pontifica Bolivariana in Medellin, Colombia, from 1994 to 2000. For one year, he worked in an Indian mission in the mountains of Colombia, and also taught religious education at the high school level.
He continued his studies at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., and this year at Holy Apostles Seminary.
During his seminary years, he served at St. Louis Parish in West Haven, the Cathedral of St. Joseph, and St. Augustine Parish in Hartford.
"I am very happy because of the people I’ve met and the priests who have inspired me," said Father Jimenez Olaya. "I love working with the faithful to help them grow in their spiritual life, and have had a wonderful time working with the various groups in the parishes where I’ve served. I love this country and I love the people I’ve met."
Father Jimenez Olaya celebrated his first public Mass at St. Augustine Parish in Hartford, to which he is assigned as parochial vicar.
Father George Sombe Mukuka
George Sombe Mukuka was born in Livingstone, Zambia, on March 19, 1968, a son of Francis and Catherine Mukuka. He and his six siblings were raised "in a very Catholic home," he said, where "we went to church together, I was an altar server and involved in my youth group." It was an upbringing, he noted, that fed his vocation.
"Our lives revolved around the Church with daily Mass as a family and in school, and the rosary at home at least twice a week," he said. "My dad was very religious."
A bright student, he attended a Dominican primary school and the Jesuit-run Mukasa Minor Seminary in Choma for eighth to 10th grades – an accomplishment earned by only 20 percent of Zambian students who are allowed to go on to secondary school. His secondary education was completed at the Kolomo Government School, where he passed his exams with distinction.
In 1987, he entered the Dominican formation center in Maseru, the capital of the South Africa country of Lesotho, where he professed simple religious vows for three years.
Father Mukuka earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in the history of Christianity and in philosophy in 1994, a master’s degree in theology in 1997 and a doctorate in the history of Christianity in 2000 – all from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
He taught research methods and South African history at the University of Johannesburg from 2000-08; during that time, from 2004-08, he did postgraduate work at the University of Witwatersand in Johannesburg where he earned diplomas in management and in arts and culture and another doctorate in law and archaeology.
Earning a number of fellowships along the way, he attended Australia’s National University as well as Yale University in New Haven. During that time, he published five books and numerous articles for academic journals and contributed two articles to the
It was in 2009, while he was at Yale, that he applied to the Archdiocese of Hartford. He then completed his seminary studies at Holy Apostles Seminary.
Earnings from his jobs over the years were sent home to help support his family. His father is now retired from a retail shop that he had owned and managed.
"I’m excited and looking forward to working as a priest," said Father Mukuka, age 43. "I hope that whatever I’ve learned will help me be of service to the community and the Archdiocese."
Because they were unable to obtain visas, his family did not attend his ordination; however, he plans to visit them in August.
Father Mukuka is assigned to return to Washington, where he is completing work on a degree in canon law from The Catholic University of America.
Father Anthony John Smith
Anthony John Smith was born on Oct. 6, 1963, in Wiesbaden, Germany, a son of Arthur and Sally Smith. He and his six siblings attended public schools in Ridgefield.
"Our house was very structured in observing the Catholic faith," he said. "We weren’t overly religious, but my parents made sure we went to Mass every Sunday, so we were raised in the faith."
He began to think about the priesthood as a college freshman. "I was away from home for the first time and came across evangelical Christians. It made me think about the faith," he recalled, "and I had this thought: ‘Maybe I was called to the priesthood.’"
After attending Paul Smith’s College in New York, Western Connecticut State University in Danbury and the University of Connecticut, he graduated with a degree in communications and worked in retail sales and graphic design for 10 years before beginning to study for the priesthood.
He started his seminary education at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., in 1995 and continued his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
After returning to the United States in 2001, he took a break, working in sales for six years and as the director of religious education at the Torrington Cluster of Parishes for more than two years.
"I was encouraged to continue thinking about the priesthood, which I did," he said, "and here I am."
He completed his studies at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell shortly before his ordination.
"It’s been a long road," said Father Smith, age 47. "It’s a journey with ups and downs … trying to determine what God’s will is. It’s a matter of saying, ‘Okay, whatever your will is, I’m available.’
"I’m looking forward to being able to do some good in the Church and helping people with their faith journey," he said.
"One of the things that drew me to the priesthood is that there’s such a need," said Father Smith. "It’s a time when people may not want to consider the priesthood, and that was one of the forces for me. It’s a time for people to step up. It’s not always easy, but it’s a necessary response to the times."
Father Smith is serving as parochial vicar at St. George Parish in Guilford.
Father Robert LaMar Turner
Born on Jan. 17, 1985, Robert LaMar Turner II was a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Seymour with his five siblings. He recalls regularly attending Mass and religious education classes at Good Shepherd as well as being an altar server from the time of his first Communion through high school.
"That and the example of Father (Edward) Jaksina was what inspired me to consider being a priest," he said. "Prayer and his example opened me and catapulted me forward. From the time of my first holy Communion, becoming a priest has always been a constant thought," Father Turner said.
After graduating from Seymour High School, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va. He said he began thinking about law school, but the "constant thread, the desire, the drive to consider the priesthood" was still there. "I thought I owed it to God to find out if the Lord was calling me," he said. "So, I contacted the vocations director for the Archdiocese."
After he entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., in 2007, Father Turner recounted, "my prayer life grew and my spirituality deepened. I was able to discover that the Lord was calling me to this great and privileged life."
In the summer of 2009, he studied Haitian Creole at the University of Massachusetts, followed by a 10-day visit to Haiti to immerse himself in the language.
"The journey has been truly wonderful," said Father Turner about his path to the priesthood. "I’ve been truly blessed to walk with the Lord, come to know him more deeply and meet all the people whom I’ve met along the way.
"The world is very noisy," he noted, "but with prayer and being able to listen to the Lord through desires and meeting with people, you hear his voice. There are so many graces that the Lord gives us, and if we’re attuned to them, we come to know his will."
Father Turner celebrated his first public Mass at Good Shepherd Church in Seymour. He is assigned to serve as parochial vicar at St. Margaret Parish in Madison.