Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted ordained Chris Axline and Kurt Perera to the priesthood June 1, 2013, at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix. (J.D. Long-García/CATHOLIC SUN)
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted ordained Chris Axline and Kurt Perera to the priesthood June 1, 2013, at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix. (J.D. Long-García/CATHOLIC SUN)

Years of study and prayerful reflection, bolstered by the loving support of family and friends, will culminate at 10 a.m., June 28, when Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix ordains three men to the priesthood.

Deacon Keith Kenney and Deacon Scott Sperry have completed their theological studies at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver. Deacon Kevin Grimditch has completed his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Keith Kenney
Keith Kenney

Fr. Paul Sullivan, director of the Office of Vocations for the Phoenix Diocese, said that each man brings a unique set of experiences and gifts to the priesthood. All have spent many years in the seminary and are well-trained, he said.

Deacon Sperry and Deacon Kenney accompanied him on a mission trip to Honduras two years ago. “I dragged those poor guys all over the countryside,” Fr. Sullivan said. “They were giving classes — they are both gifted with being with people.”

Deacon Grimditch represents one of several vocations Fr. Sullivan sees as being the fruit of the adoration chapel at Corpus Christi Parish.

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“That chapel has given us many vocations,” Fr. Sullivan said, referring to Fr. Kurt Perera — ordained in 2013 — and two seminarians, Nathanial Glenn and Justin Meehan. “When we go and spend time with Jesus, He reveals to us our identity, our mission.”

Deacon Grimditch said his path toward priesthood began in high school when a friend’s mother asked if he would help out with the younger students in the parish’s religious education program.

“That challenged me to know my faith,” Deacon Grimditch said. “I started going to adoration and it was really there I was confronted with the truth of the faith.”

Although he admitted he often fell asleep during the early morning adoration hour before school, God went to work on his soul. Deacon Grimditch found a peace and joy there before the eucharistic Lord that was lacking at his high school. Fellow students, he said, were chasing happiness and not finding it.

Scott Sperry
Scott Sperry

“I wanted to bring the peace I found in the adoration chapel to other people,” Deacon Grimditch said.

For Deacon Keith Kenney, there was a eucharistic connection in discovering his vocation as well. He’d spent 10 years in the Navy, traveling widely, then returned to Phoenix where he began attending daily Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish. One day the presider — the future Bishop James S. Wall of the Diocese of Gallup — noted that there were many single men in attendance.

“He said, ‘If you haven’t figured out yet what God wants you to do with your life, part of the reason could be that you’re being called to be a priest,’” Deacon Kenney recalled. He advised them to offer themselves to Jesus after communion and ask what God wanted them to do.

“I had tried pretty much everything else, so I thought, it can’t hurt to make the offering,” Deacon Kenney said. “Once I made that offering, I had a sense of peace about it, a warmness in my heart, and I took that as a yes.”

For Deacon Scott Sperry, the path to priesthood was made clear through his family and parish life.

His father embraced the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil Mass when Deacon Sperry was 15 years old. Watching his father’s conversion process made a strong impression on the teenager.

His campus minister at Seton Catholic Preparatory High School, Trisha Engel, encouraged him to think about the priesthood. Chris Muglia, on staff at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Tempe, noticed his devotion to the sacraments and asked if he’d ever thought about the priesthood.

Kevin Grimditch
Kevin Grimditch

In 2006, his first year of seminary studies, Deacon Sperry was diagnosed with leukemia. Fr. Sullivan, a seminarian himself at the time, recalled what happened next.

“When he got sick it was striking. It was just before my ordination to the diaconate and we were praying up a storm,” Fr. Sullivan said.

Deacon Sperry took a year off to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment and returned to the seminary in 2008.

“They were very supportive while I was away. People would come and say Mass in a hospital room or sit and watch TV with me or just visit,” Deacon Sperry said.

After his ordination June 28, Deacon Sperry will serve at Christ the King Parish, known throughout the diocese for its St. Peregrine shrine for cancer sufferers.

“He will be a priest with a compassionate heart. He is one who has known suffering firsthand,” Engel said of Deacon Sperry.