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Father of two, former businessman and librarian become priests in Fargo

.- The bishop of Fargo urged his three new priests Saturday not to be afraid to proclaim the truth of the Gospel or to lay down their lives for the people entrusted to their care.

Bishop Samuel Aquila ordained three men to the priesthood June 5 before 400 people at the Cathedral of St. Mary.

The three men have come from diverse backgrounds and each have lived a unique faith journey to the priesthood.

The youngest of the three, Fr. Robert Pecotte came to the priesthood after a dramatic conversion from an irreligious life, he told the Grand Forks Herald.

Pecotte, 33, was born in Oakland, California. By his mid-20s, he had a successful business and was living “the average American life” but he realized that he wasn’t happy.

One night, when he was out with friends, he said he had “an encounter with God.”

“Time stopped. My life played out before me,” he told the Herald, “and then I had a choice: whether to live the life of the world or decide that night to live for God."

He decided to give away his business to an old friend and to retreat to a Trappist monastery for eight months.

The bishop of Fargo contacted him there and offered him a spot in the seminary, where he began his studies in 1997.

The young priest credits his conversion and journey to the priesthood to years of prayers by his mother, who as present at the ordination.

Fr. William Gerlach, 41, grew up in St. Paul. He was an active lay person. He had worked as a librarian at North Dakota State University for 10 years before receiving a call to the priesthood.

Gerlach had simply asked former Grand Forks priest, Fr. Jim Ermer, about becoming a priest one day, and they followed it up together.

Fr. John McGinnis was a father of two for 40 years before following a call he had first heard as a young man.

The 67-year-old spent a career as a social worker and psychotherapist in Philadelphia. He married and raised two children, then divorced his wife, later receiving an annulment.

“We just call him ‘Father Father’,” laughed his daughter, Christina, who attended the ordination with her brother. She told the Herald that she has never seen her father happier.

The Diocese of Fargo has ordained 58 men in the last 10 years and expects to ordain four more next year. But Bishop Aquila has underlined that there is still a great need since some parishes that had three priests now have only one.

The bishop plans to announce parish closures in the upcoming months. About 30 rural parishes have fewer than 25 families on the rolls, he said.

There are currently 84,000 people in 158 parishes in the Diocese of Fargo, and 109 active priests.

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