May 30, 2008

Humbled to serve others: Deacon Joseph Newton’s call to priesthood came early in his life

Deacon Joseph Newton poses for a picture with his parents, Our Lady of the Greenwood parishioners Larry and Caroline Newton of Greenwood, on May 22 in front of his 1956 Chevrolet pick-up truck, which he is restoring as a hobby. Deacon Newton’s brother, Tommy, and his wife, Ashley, and their children, Joseph and Seth, will sit with his sister, Jessica Fulp, and her husband, Mike, during the ordination Mass on June 7 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Deacon Joseph Newton poses for a picture with his parents, Our Lady of the Greenwood parishioners Larry and Caroline Newton of Greenwood, on May 22 in front of his 1956 Chevrolet pick-up truck, which he is restoring as a hobby. Deacon Newton’s brother, Tommy, and his wife, Ashley, and their children, Joseph and Seth, will sit with his sister, Jessica Fulp, and her husband, Mike, during the ordination Mass on June 7 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

Elevating the Book of Gospels, Deacon Joseph Newton paused reverently then placed the volume of sacred Scriptures on the ambo and proclaimed the Word of God during the archdiocesan chrism Mass on March 18 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Deacon Newton and his Saint Meinrad School of Theology classmate, Deacon Aaron Jenkins, will return to the cathedral on June 7 to be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein. (Deacon Newton answers basic questions below)

Joseph Lawrence Newton’s path to the priesthood has been a 13-year journey in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and Archdiocese of Indianapolis with a side trip to Los Angeles, where he wrote stories for a classic car magazine for four years.

Family members and friends describe him as an intellectual man who loves God and wants to spend his life helping people.

His desire to serve others is exemplified by the fact that he said “yes” to God’s call to the priesthood with love, devotion and enthusiasm.

“Please pray for me and my brother priests” is printed on the back of the holy card created to commemorate his ordination and the Mass of Thanksgiving he will celebrate at 10:30 a.m. on June 8 at Our Lady of the Greenwood Church in Greenwood, his family’s parish.

As he prepares for his ordination, Deacon Newton said he is looking forward to his first ministry assignment as associate pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.

“I like the diversity of parish life,” he said. “I feel very humbled by the thought of ministering to people who will share their journey to God with me. I have great respect for the religious, lay ministers and laity who make up the Church. Their dedication to serving the Church is just phenomenal and so inspiring. … Even in my limited ministry experience, I have met many holy people. They’re walking saints, and I’m humbled by how beautiful it is to see the Spirit working in them.”

God’s call to the priesthood came early in his life, Deacon Newton said, when he helped Father Robert Thorsen and Father Thomas Bolte at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sharonville, Ohio, as an altar server.

“It was always an honor to be named a server in my parish,” he said. “Being an altar server was quite a rewarding experience. Even better was teaming up with my younger brother, Tommy. We served for the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass from the time we were in the fifth grade until I was about a sophomore in high school.”

While serving at Mass, he recalled, “I would watch the priest, especially during the eucharistic prayers, and think, ‘I want to do that when I get older.’ In those two priests, I saw the priesthood as a life-giving vocation, as a happy, satisfying, rich and fulfilling life.”

After the Newton family moved to Greenwood in 1992, he started discerning whether he was called to the priesthood during his senior year at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.

His paternal grandmother, Roseanna Newton, a devout Catholic, encouraged him to pursue the priesthood.

“We spent a lot of time discussing what it means to be a priest,” Deacon Newton said. “She helped me arrange a meeting with the vocations director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”

On June 8, he will offer his Mass of Thanksgiving for his late grandmother.

Benedictine spirituality has been an important part of the final years of his seminary formation, Deacon Newton said, and he is grateful to the talented monks who helped prepare him for ordination.

Most of his Saint Meinrad teachers are internationally known professors and authors, he said. “It’s an excellent place to be trained [for the priesthood], a balanced, warm and inviting community. I especially enjoyed my courses on the sacraments and canon law.”

Clinical pastoral experiences during the summer months also helped prepare him for a life of service to God’s people.

“The life of a priest is a life of gratitude,” he said, quoting Benedictine Father Mark O’Keefe, the outgoing rector of Saint Meinrad School of Theology.

“It’s a life of giving thanks to God for the gifts of the priesthood,” Deacon Newton explained, “and a life of giving thanks to others for all that they are. You have to be thankful to God before you can serve in God’s name. You have to be thankful for the gift of the priesthood, which is one of the most important gifts that God can bestow.”

In his free time, Deacon Newton enjoys doing mechanical work on his 1956 Chevrolet pick-up truck as well as reading, especially papal books and priest autobiographies.

“The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his book A Priest Is Not His Own, states, ‘Truly, if the priest is to be more than a functionary, then the priest is called to love and serve and be transparent,’ ” Deacon Newton said. “God calls us out of our weakness to serve out of our weakness, which is both humbling and honoring at the same time. … I know that I’m doing what God wants me to do—serve him and provide the Eucharist—so ordination will be a very joyful and grace-filled time for me.”

Father Eric Johnson, archdiocesan vocations director, said Deacon Newton is very generous, attentive and empathetic.

“Joe is keyed in to the needs of others,” Father Johnson said, “and very committed to the priesthood. I believe he will be a good priest, and a blessing to this archdiocese and to this presbyterate. I’m very much looking forward to having both Joe and Aaron [Jenkins] join us with their ordinations this summer.”

Our Lady of the Greenwood parishioners Larry and Caroline Newton of Greenwood said they are very proud of their firstborn son and respect his decision to serve God and the Church.

“Joe is a very giving person,” Caroline Newton explained. “There isn’t anything that he wouldn’t do for you. I know that he will make a great priest.”

Their oldest child was named for his paternal grandfather, she said. “I have a locket I received on the day he was born that says, ‘In the child lies the fulfillment of the mother’s dream.’ I still wear the locket, and will wear it for his ordination Mass.”

Larry Newton described his son as “a super kid” who is intelligent and multi-talented.

“I always figured that Joe would do something great with his life,” he said. “I thought maybe he would be a doctor or attorney or priest. We share a love of old cars, and he’s a very good mechanic. He taught some of the other guys at the seminary how to do basic repairs on cars.”

The Newton family is very close, said Jessica Fulp, the youngest sibling. “Joe is a great brother, a great person, and always gives great advice. He’s so excited about his [priestly] ministry.”

Msgr. Frederick Easton, vicar judicial of the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal, and Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf, pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish, will help Deacon Newton put on his priestly vestments during the ordination Mass.

“He genuinely wants to help people,” Msgr. Easton said. “He’s a very positive thinker, has strong ideals and is always looking for ways to promote his own spiritual life.”

Benedictine Father Kurt Stasiak, who teaches courses on the sacraments at Saint Meinrad School of Theology, said Deacon Newton will be an excellent priest and talented homilist as well as a skilled organizer and problem-solver.

“He can organize just about anything,” Father Kurt said. “He’s been a tremendous asset to the seminary community during his whole time here, and especially this past year in terms of physical facilities when we were moving into a newly renovated residence hall.”

Benedictines emphasize finding God in the ordinary events of daily life, Father Kurt said. “Joe works so well in day-to-day routines. He’s very practical. He’s down-to-earth. He can get things to happen, to get things done, and he’s a very faithful person. ‘Ora et labora,’ which means ‘prayer and work,’ captures Joe to a ‘T.’ He will give a fine homily, very practical and helpful, then a half-hour later he will be fixing your car then a half-hour after that he will be counseling someone.

“At Saint Meinrad, we’re really proud once again of both of our ordinands [for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis] this year,” Father Kurt said. “Aaron and Joe are both fine men. I think they’re a great addition to the presbyterate and are alumni that we can really be proud of.”

Deacon Joseph Newton

Age: 32

Hometown: Greenwood

Home Parish: Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood

Parents: Larry and Caroline Newton

Education: Roncalli High School in Indianapolis; Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio; Saint Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad

Ministry assignments as seminarian: Student chaplain at Methodist Hospital, with residence at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis; St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis; Archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal, Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis

Favorite book: Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Cardinal John Henry Newman’s autobiography

Favorite saint: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Favorite Scripture verse: Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood.”

Favorite prayer or devotion: Liturgy of the Hours and the rosary

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