Becoming Men for Others Through the Priesthood

By Nikki Pomer
Since coming to work as Assistant Director of Communications at Strake Jesuit, I have been intrigued by the school’s spiritual life. After all, spiritual formation is at the core of what we do. For that reason, it comes as no surprise when one of our own answers the call to be a Man for Others by entering formation to become a priest. This past June, three of our alumni were ordained to the priesthood: Fr. Matthew Donovan, S.J. ’01, Fr. Daniel Nevares, S.J. ’03, and Fr. Christopher Meyer ’09. They visited campus shortly after their ordination and reminisced about their time at Strake Jesuit.

Fr. Christopher Meyer ’09
The priestly vocation, for Fr. Christopher Meyer ’09, started here. “The first time I began to pray in my life, in a serious, semi-consistent way,” he says, “was at Strake Jesuit with Ignatian prayer.” As a freshman, he met Fr. Mark Thibodeaux, S.J., who taught his Scripture class and set the foundation for his vocation to the priesthood.

“The way Fr. Mark Thibodeaux taught us scripture was so convincing to me,” says Fr. Meyer. “I immediately knew that the Bible was so important to the way that I lived and that my faith was the lens that my entire life should be viewed through.” Fr. Thibodeaux had his students journal on different topics, and at the end of the year, he told his class to write whatever they wanted. In his journal, Fr. Meyer finally put into words an idea he had been contemplating: “I am considering the priesthood.” About 16 years later, on June 4, 2022, at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Fr. Thibodeaux vested Fr. Meyer at his ordination.

Fr. Daniel Nevares, S.J. ’03
Fr. Daniel Nevares, S.J. ’03, began thinking about the priesthood in junior high. “God consistently nudged,” he says. “I like to describe it as a gentle nudge. It doesn’t go away until you address it. It doesn’t go away until you do something about it.”

Fr. Nevares recalls his relationships with theology teachers Mr. Tommy Romano and Mr. Mark McNeil. He looked up to their faithful, joyful, and selfless examples. In Mr. McNeil’s theology class, one of his classmates asked, “Mr. McNeil, you’re super smart. Why do you teach here?” And Mr. McNeil said, “Here I can make a greater difference. I can make a greater impact on high school minds versus college minds.” Such selflessness inspired Fr. Nevares.

Fr. Matthew Donovan, S.J. ’01
While growing up, Fr. Matthew Donovan, S.J. ’01, thought the priesthood was mysterious, but remembers always being attracted to it. “There has always been an ambivalence to it because it seemed a little foreign and mysterious, and at the same time, I was surrounded by role models and priests who were not mysterious; they were just human beings trying to serve God and God’s people,” he says. 

Three Alumni Serving God's People
When asked about what their favorite part of the priesthood is thus far, all three of the new priests comment on bringing the sacraments to the people.

Fr. Meyer recalls going with Fr. Thibodeaux to the Sacrament of Reconciliation his freshman year. “I remember I just had an awesome experience in confession; I was so nervous because it had been too long since I’d been to confession. I remember walking out thinking, ‘Wow, I would love to be a priest who gets out of Jesus’ way, like Fr. Thibodeaux does,”’ he says. Fr. Meyer joined our juniors for Kairos 103 and our students mentioned they saw the love of Christ in his eyes in the sacrament.

Fr. Nevares says, “The Sacrament of Reconciliation has been really powerful. It’s the opportunity to accompany people and to see the lightness in which they leave the sacrament and to accompany them in a way that’s so privileged and so personal.” 

“Bringing the mystery of God and the closeness of Jesus Christ to his people” is Fr. Donovan’s favorite aspect of priesthood. One of his first assignments as a priest was to give the Anointing of the Sick and Last Rites to a 100-year-old woman on her deathbed. His Catholic school formation, as well as his formation in the Jesuits, has prepared him for moments like this, where he can meet people where they are and bring them closer to Christ. 

The Making of a Man for Others
All three credit their Strake Jesuit education for helping shape them into the men and priests they are today.

Fr. Meyer is especially grateful to his English teacher Mr. Volding. “I got multiple C’s in his class that were completely justified. I spent the rest of my life writing good papers because nobody pushed me as hard as he did, and I’m so thankful for it. Now, I’m preaching homilies every single weekend and organizing them in a way that I think Mr. Volding would be proud of,” he says.

“I’ve always been a high achiever, and one of the things that Strake Jesuit emphasizes is excellence,” says Fr. Nevares. “In high school, there’s a lot of insecurity and self-doubt. I think coming here I was empowered to know that I’m smart enough, I’m good enough, I’m talented enough, and I’m motivated enough to accomplish very excellent things.”

Fr. Donovan commented on his relationship with the faculty, a few of whom attended his Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Vincent de Paul in Houston. “I was so grateful to see these familiar faces who have formed me and whom I have a such deep affection for,” he says. “They guided and formed me gently in their holy way.”

As of writing, we have 23 alumni who are ordained priests and 10 alumni who are in formation. May God continue to bless our young men as they discern where He is calling them. St. Stanislaus Kostka, patron of Strake Jesuit, pray for us!