The Archdiocese of Hartford will be richer by three priests when Archbishop Leonard P. Blair ordains Deacons Glen Dmytryszyn of Wethersfield, Eduar Gutiérrez-Tovar of Tarqui-Huila, Colombia and Eric Manuel Zuniga of New Britain to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Joseph on May 20.
All three men were ordained as transitional deacons a year ago and have served at various parishes in the archdiocese. They finished their priestly studies at their respective seminaries in time for their ordination to the priesthood.
“They all bring very different talents to the table and they all have a great personal love for the Lord,” said Father Jeffrey A. Gubbiotti, director of the Vocation Office for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Deacon Glen Dmytryszyn
Deacon Dmytryszyn felt the call to the priesthood about 12 years ago while watching Pope St. John Paul II’s funeral on television.
“It was at that point that I realized two things,” he said, “one, the universality of the Church and, two, this very important man and how the whole world paused.” Even though he was raised Catholic, he felt a new conversion, he said. “I was seeing how I could use my life in cooperation with this good thing that’s already happening, which is the Church.”
This was in 2005, while he was in high school in North Carolina. “I met with the pastor and said, ‘I think I have a vocation to the priesthood,’ and then it just kind of took off from there. I applied to the archdiocese and here I am now in my eighth year,” he said.
Deacon Dmytryszyn was born in New Britain in 1991. He was baptized at St. Bridget Church in West Hartford and settled in Wethersfield. He has traveled with his family to several parts of the country. He is a 2013 graduate of Albertus Magnus College in New Haven and is completing studies at St. John’s Seminary in Boston.
He is active on social media and considers it a valuable evangelizing tool. “I think right now in the Church, in the age we’re living in as priests, or even as Catholics, we can really employ the tools that social media give us to reach out to a lot of people,” he said. It offers a way to spread the Gospel “in a way that it meets people where they are at, but also continues to say the same truth, the same saving truth of Jesus Christ, of God’s mercy, that he is love. And in doing that, we are exercising our ability to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is the news of mercy and redemption.”
One of his favorite Gospel stories is the wedding feast at Cana. “That shows us the powerful intercession of Mary, and it shows us how we can always go to Mary and she always leads us correctly to her son Jesus,” he said.
He said he is looking forward “with great joy” to serving the Church of Hartford.
Father Gubbiotti described Deacon Dmytryszyn as a very good preacher and person who loves to teach the faith. “He’s had a whole host of different assignments in the time he has been with us. I think he’ll be a great priest,” Father Gubbiotti said.
Deacon Eduar Gutiérrez-Tovar
Deacon Gutiérrez-Tovar, 28, said he never really struggled with a vocation. At about age 15, in 2004, he knew he wanted to become a priest.
“I just wanted to help in the church in my home parish and I asked the pastor if he would allow me to help him celebrate,” he said. When he was 11 or 12 years old, he was inspired to be an altar server because his friends in his parish, San Antonio de Padua in Tarqui-Huila, Colombia, were doing it. He served in small villages within the town, and his pastor, Father Miguel Angel Luna Trujillo, asked him, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”
It got him thinking, and he attended conferences. By age 15, he made the decision to enter a major seminary.
He entered Maria Inmaculada de Garzon Seminary in Colombia in 2006. In 2012, he emigrated to the United States and began studies within the Archdiocese of Hartford, taking a full year of ESL classes before attending Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.
“For sure I’m going to use social media and the myParish app,” he said when asked about his evangelizing style.
But he also believes he can reach people on a more personal level. “I just try to be familiar with everybody, try to be very close,” he said. “I’m sure that everybody knows who Jesus was, for sure, but the important thing is that what we have to do as a priest is to say, ‘You know about him. Well, let me tell you more.’”
He is a fan of soccer, Colombian singer Silvestre Dangond and pepperoni pizza. More importantly, he loves St. Joseph and the writings of Pope Benedict XVI.
“Pray for us,” he implored. “Pray for more vocations in the Archdiocese of Hartford, because for sure we need more seminarians, we need more priests, we need more nuns. Those who are in the pews need to pray for us.”
Father Gubbiotti said of him, “Deacon Eduar is originally from Colombia and he’s learned English very well and is prepared to engage in ministry here in the archdiocese. He has a very energetic desire to share the love of Christ with the Church.”
Deacon Eric Zuniga
Deacon Zuniga, 33, was born in New Jersey, a son of Mexican immigrants. The family moved to New Britain in 1980, and Eric and his brother Omar went to Sacred Heart School.
“I think I always had the calling [to the priesthood], but I was in denial,” he said. “I always said, ‘No, I want to get married and have a family. I wouldn’t be a good priest.’”
After receiving his first Communion, he was allowed to be an altar server, an experience he enjoyed. “We would do our half hour of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and that was something I really loved,” he said.
He graduated from Sacred Heart in 1989 and joined the National Guard. He served for six years while attending Central Connecticut State University, earning a business degree in 1998. He worked in the corporate world for a few years, but felt something was missing in his life.
He had heard about the apparitions in Medjugorje, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he asked his brother to go on a pilgrimage with him. Omar hesitated, but finally agreed after Eric prayed to the Blessed Mother. They made the trip in the summer of 2001.
“There was so much peace. I never felt so much peace,” he said. “We went to Mass every day. There were so many priests saying Mass in so many languages.” He said it reawakened his desire for a spiritual life.
Still, he wasn’t ready — not until tragedy struck.
“My brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2005. We took care of my brother during the year that he was sick, and he passed away in March 2006,” he wrote in a biographical essay. During those painful days, many priests helped Eric and his family to deal with Omar’s sickness and death. They helped Eric to see “what is important in life: a life of serving others and God by embracing the cross and living with a sense of purpose,” he wrote.
He entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in 2011.
Deacon Zuniga said the Church needs more people in religious life. “Faith is not just a Sunday deal,” he said. “It’s part of the everyday activities at school or work. There’s always a way of having Jesus present.”
Father Gubbiotti said of him, “Deacon Eric Zuniga is a very kind man, someone who has a great love for the Lord, love for people, and he’ll be a great priest.”