New priests' devotion to sharing the Good News is apparent to family, friends

by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

June 4, 2015

(L-R) Father Ronaldo Mercado, Father Keith Hathaway, and Father Michael Greco, then transitional deacons, are seen waiting for the start of the ordination Mass on May 23 at St. Patrick Cathedral. (Photo by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen / NTC)
(L-R) Father Ronaldo Mercado, Father Keith Hathaway, and Father Michael Greco, then transitional deacons, are seen waiting for the start of the ordination Mass on May 23 at St. Patrick Cathedral. (Photo by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen / NTC)

They say the best gifts come in little boxes. For Mike McKinney, his ordination gift to Keith Hathaway was the box itself.

The retired Air Force officer and woodworker was asked to create a vessel worthy of the antique chalice Debbie and Rob Hathaway purchased for their son, who was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Worth along with Michael Greco and Ronaldo Mercado on May 23 in St. Patrick Cathedral.

McKinney, and his wife, Karen, are close friends and neighbors of the Hathaways but the 75-year-old Mansfield hobbyist had never made a box and didn’t feel skilled enough to accept the challenge. He finally agreed to attempt the project with one caveat: If the family didn’t like the box and it wasn’t used, he wouldn’t be offended.

“It took me 80 hours. I used oak and lined it with red velvet,” said McKinney who was pleased with the outcome. “I was honored they asked me to make it.”

Described as “beautiful,” by Father Hathaway’s mother, the handcrafted gift is padded and includes a slot for the paten. She hopes the family friend will someday craft a similar box for Keith’s older brother, Kevin, who is currently in the seminary.

“We’ve known Keith and his brother, Kevin, since they were little Boy Scouts,” said McKinney who sat with his wife and Hathaway family members during the ordination Mass.  We’ve never been to an ordination or St. Patrick’s before so this is very exciting for us.”

Other guests of the three seminarians, who received the Sacrament of Holy Orders the day before Pentecost Sunday, shared similar sentiments of joy, enthusiasm, and pride. Ronaldo Mercado’s mother, Eufrocina, and sisters Rhodora Melendrez and Pilar Mangubat traveled from the Philippines to witness the family’s only son be ordained to the priesthood. The 42-year-old moved to Vernon, Texas in 2002 to work at Wilbarger General Hospital, but his transformation from medical technologist to priest didn’t surprise his siblings.

“We always thought he might become a priest because in high school he had this fascination with Mother Mary,” Melendrez told the North Texas Catholic. “He was so active in church and filled our house with statues of saints and Mary.”

She believes her brother, Ronaldo, will successfully lead people to God.

“He’s always been a good example to us,” admitted the new priest’s eldest sister. “He’s always reminding us to pray, pray, pray and is really a righteous person.”

Sitting in the front pew of the cathedral waiting for the ordination liturgy to begin, John and Deborah Greco recalled how their son, Michael, 33, once considered a career producing movies or composing music. Discerning a vocation to religious life took some time.

“A lot of things were going through his mind, but the priesthood is what’s in his heart,” said his mother, Deborah. “I know the Lord has called him. He’s devoted to the priesthood.”

The Grecos said their son will be a compassionate, caring priest.

“I’m happy that he’s happy and knows what he wants to do with his life,” added John Greco. “The fact that he’s able to share his gifts with so many people is just icing on the cake. I’d be proud of him no matter what he does.” 

They say the best gifts come in little boxes. For Mike McKinney, his ordination gift to Keith Hathaway was the box itself. The retired Air Force officer and woodworker was asked to create a vessel worthy of the antique chalice Debbie and Rob Hathaway purchased for their son, who was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Worth along with Michael Greco and Ronald Mercado on May 23 in St. Patrick Cathedral.

Published (until 12/27/2031)
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