Meet the Men at the Bishop Fallon Oblate Pre-Novitiate in Buffalo, NY

Provided by Fr. Alejandro Roque, OMI




Bishop Fallon Residence on the Grounds of Holy Angels Parish in Buffalo, NY

Mateusz Mark Garstecki 18 years old (US Citizen)garstecki

Mateusz was born on July 7, 1998 in Naperville, IL, the son of Polish American father and a Polish Émigré. Soon after his birth they moved to Warrenville, IL where he grew up. During his early childhood years, they would travel, along with his other siblings to Poland, to visit his mother’s parents and extended family. For him it was important for he realized that his family was large. When he was in the fifth grade they moved to San Antonio, TX where he has lived the rest of his time until now. Mateusz is now 17 years old and just graduated from High School with top honors. He took part in the Come and See Program we had here in Buffalo back in October 2015 and had looked forward to enter our Prenovitiate Community since. He currently is the youngest member of our Community.


hernandezMark Anthony Hernández 26 years old (Mexican American – US Citizen)

Mark was born on August 13, 1990 in San Antonio, Texas and was raised in Eagle Pass, Texas. Mark comes from a family of migrant workers. His grandparents and parents would travel from the Texas border to Wisconsin and Montana during the summer months to work in the fields and work as laborers. His mother became a high school teacher for individuals with Special Needs and his father became the Assistant Supervisor for the Texas Department of Transportation. Mark is amazed at the struggles his parents have faced in order to open many doors for him and his two older brothers.

Mark began his studies at Texas A&M University. This experience would prove to be a time that would strengthen his relationship to Jesus Christ. During his sophomore year he displayed an interest in seeking to hear the voice of the Father with a listening heart. With the guidance of Fr. Jim Loiacono, OMI he was encouraged to visit Lebh Shomea; a House of Prayer led by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It was here where Mark recounts having a personal encounter with Christ. It was after this retreat Mark remembers telling God, “Whatever it is you want for me, that is what I want to.”

Mark graduated with a Bachelors of Administration in Finance and a minor in Music. He began working in banking and after two years achieved the position in corporate and investment banking that would streamline him to a secure and comfortable lifestyle. It was also here where God began to speak to Mark’s heart through the Book of Haggai, Chapter 1. Although initially Mark thought he was called to make a difference in the world of banking he soon realized that God had greater plans for him than he could have envisioned. As a leap of faith Mark resigned from banking and began to venture into the investment of his lifetime; the investment in living the gospel. This desire led Mark to experience a missionary encounter in Lima and Cusco, Peru. Shortly after, he began working at Casa Juan Diego for one year as a Houston Catholic Worker. It was here where Mark learned the value of Matthew 25:31-46; for he experienced beauty in serving Christ in the abandoned, lonely and forgotten.

During this experience, Mark entered fully into his roots. He began to see the beauty of where he comes from and an embrace of his culture. This breakthrough also allowed him to see the Oblates as part of his roots and heritage. He decided to take a step forward in his vocational journey after a Come and See to Buffalo, New York. It was here where he felt the call to “Let go” of his insecurity, doubts and fears. It was here where he decided to “Let God” lead him by the hand.

Zachary Michael Hines 28 years old (US Citizen)hines

Zachary was born on March 21, 1988 in a small town, population 1,000, called Balsam Lake, WI. His parents gave him a loving home and had the experience of rural America, while on the weekends the tourists from the Twin Cities would flock their small town bringing the culture of urban America. He went to study at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire and it was there where he first really experienced counter cultural values than those of his own. In this process he sought help and people who would bring meaning into his life as a young adult and it’s when he began to look into the Celibate Lifestyle.

He met Fr. Harold Fisher and, through a process of spiritual direction with his decided to come to a Come and See Program here in Buffalo and was accepted into our formation program through the recommendations of good missionary men.

Derrick James Huestis 22 years old (US Citizen)

huestisDerrick was born on March 19, 1993 in Blackfoot, Idaho to a well educated Catholic Parents. His father is an Atomic Chemist and his mother a Middle School Teacher. He also has an older sister. Their families were from other parts of the Midwest so he recalls traveling many times in the years between Idaho, Montana and Oklahoma… including Europe. He attended Idaho State University where he was specialized in “Computer Science and Robotics” as well as “Spanish” as a second language. Not feeling fulfillment, Derrick entered the National Guard and has served ever since as an active recruit. In the October 2015 he came to our Come and See Program in Buffalo and that experience made him hungry to try something new. So, since he left here, he decided to experience another culture and put his Spanish into practice. So he moved down to Tijuana, Mexico so as to live and work closely to our Missionaries there assisting him in his discernment to a call to Religious Life and Priesthood.

Jonathan David Kilgannon 31 years old (Canadian Citizen)kilgannon

Jonathan was born on July 26, 1984 in Varanasi, India, where his Canadian parents studied East Indian Philosophy at the Hindu University in Varanasi (His parents were always practicing Roman Catholics). Once they finished their studies, they went to live in Germany as a toddler for a short while. Eventually the family settled in Edmonton, Alberta CA. Once his Father received his Education Degree, the family moved to Edson, Alberta, where Jonathan and his two younger sisters were homeschooled by their parents. In that rural setting, the family enjoyed a different type of life, being close to Nature and to the Mountainous setting of local environment, riding horses, hiking, etc. Also, Classical musical was very important in their life as well as their Catholic Faith. When he was ready for higher studies, Jonathan went off to the University of Alberta where he earned a Bachelor of Music with Distinction degree and later on received a Doctorate in Music from the Université de Montrèal.

Jonathan has been discerning his Missionary Call for a few years, but especially became more intense when he took off for a year of travel in Europe and decided to check out the OMI’s. It is there that he was sent to be connected with the Lacombe Province and now has been cleared by their Provincial to enter our Formation Program here in Buffalo as part of the North American Region.

zayamoeHenry Zayamoe, 22 years old (Myanmar citizen w/ Legal Residency in the US)

Henry, one of our vocations from the Mission Center Community here in Buffalo (Our Lady of Hope Parish), was born on August 3, 1993 in Mobye on the Southern part of Shan State, Myanmar (Burma). The population of Catholics in that part of the world is less than 1%, yet his family has been Catholic always! Due to persecution of Catholics and Christians by their Socialist government, his father was threatened with imprisonment and eventually left for refugee camps in Thailand. working very hard, he was able to gain entry for his Family into Thailand and soon was given permission to enter the US, here in Buffalo as a Refugee. Henry, being the oldest son, had to take the role of the man of the house in the Camps, where they lived for a period of over 5 years, finally being allowed to resettle here in Buffalo with their Father. In 2015, Henry received his High School Equivalency Diploma and is currently attending Erie County College (ECC) where he was studying Architecture, although Religious Life and Priesthood have been close to his heart. Henry is also one of the leaders of the Burmese Community here in the Buffalo Area and the US Region. He is extremely active in assisting other refugee families get established here in the United States.

Lázaro Ángel Leal  24 years old (US Citizen)leal

Lázaro was born on March 12, 1992 in Harlingen, TX but lived all of is life in Brownsville… your hometown! He is the son of a Mexican-American couple from the Valley who were married by an OMI Priest some 27 years ago. Both parents are in the educational field and his Dad is a teacher at a local Brownsville Middle School. The whole family are practicing Catholics, so Lázaro’s life has always involved him with Church activities, especially Youth Groups.

Lázaro’s big opportunity to move out on his own came when he entered O.L. of the Lake University for his advanced studies. It is there that he begins to relate to the OMI’s especially Fr. Dan Ziegler, OMI and Fr. Charlie Banks, OMI. He has a BA in Religious Studies and Theology. He came to the “Come and See” Program in Buffalo the year before I came (2013-2014) and really enjoyed his experience with the fellows here. For some reason, he lost sight of Charlie Banks afterwards but with Dan Ziegler at the school he was able to connect once more to our Program. He is doing quite well in our Prenovitiate Community is popular among all the guys, Oblates and Seminarians.

ayyobiAmir Ayyobi  29 years old (Hispanic/Persian/American -US Citizen)

Amir was born on July 29, 1986 in Houston, Texas to a Mixed-Marriage couple Muslim (Father) / Catholic (Mother), yet was raised according to our traditions, Catholic. Even with such a difference of religions, Amir had a well balanced home, particularly with the presence of his Maternal Grandmother who was his support all during those formative years. He felt the call to the priesthood when he was around 12 years old and it has been always part of his life. When he graduated High School, he went to study Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice yet he never quite finished the program. Instead, he went to work in that field. The calling was still there and the fact that they belonged to an Oblate Parish, he began to discern religious life. He went for a visit to our House in Chicago and that was another positive moment in his life… still, he did not enter.

He joined the NAVY and served for a few years in Texas and in South Carolina. While he was there, he became part of the Chaplaincy Program in the Military Diocese and continued his efforts of discernment. As he came out, he realized that what he wanted was to be a member of a Religious Community and this is what brought him this time around. Amir is looking forward to enter our Fallon Community and fulfill his call to this lifestyle.



teko-agboTEKO GALEY TEKO-AGBO, 26 years old (African Born American – US Citizen)

BORN: December 9, 1989 in Togo – West Africa

Home: Alexandria, VA, (migrated 8 years ago). Teko has 3 siblings and parents still living.

Studies: Teko attended Catholic Schools in Togo and was baptized Catholic as an older teenager. He has some college in VA and worked full time. He is a polyglot: Speaks his native EWE and French, took 5 years of German, learned English and Spanish on his own while working in VA and is currently studying Italian and Latin. He became a Naturalized US Citizen on March 9, 2015 in Buffalo, NY. Teko will begin his third year of a 4-year degree D’Youville College here in Buffalo this fall. His major is Philosophy.

Summer Experience: Teko did a three-week Mission Experience in Zambia.

BRIAN PATRICK BERNHARDT, 20 years old (German/Irish American – US Citizen)bernhardt

BORN: February 9, 1996 in Normal, IL

Home: Bloomington, IL near Springfield. He has 3 older siblings and parents are both alive. His father is a doctor, son of German Émigrés during the Nazi and Communist occupation. His Mother, a nurse, is a ‘Farmer’s Daughter from Illinois.

Studies: Brian studied in Catholic Schools for his first 12 years and has been always been a brilliant student and very active in his faith. He took four years of High School Spanish and is now trying to learn in our Oblate Mission Center in Buffalo. He will be entering his third year of a 4-year degree program in philosophy from D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. His favorite topic is HISTORY.

Summer Experience: Brian worked part of this summer at the Mission Office in San Antonio, TX and did a three-week Mission Experience in Zambia.

gutierrezJERRY A. GUTIERREZ, 33 years old

BORN: January 5, 1983

Home: Paterson, NJ. His parents brought Jerry as a small child to the US. He has 2 brothers.

Studies: Jerry has attended Catholic Schools for his first 12 years as well as some college. Still he was always active in is Salesian Parish as DRE & other important posts. Jerry is fluent in English and Spanish and a very good student. He started his third and final year for a Philosophy Degree Program at D’Youville College will be able to graduate in May, 2017.

Summer Experience: Jerry did some Summer School Course work this past May-June and is currently working at MAMI and at the Shrine of OL of the Snows in Belleville.machnicki

THOMAS SEBASTIAN MACHNICKI, 19 years old (Polish/Canadian Citizen)

BORN: August 12, 1997 in Toronto, Ontario Canada

Home: Thomas grew up living in Toronto and Mississauga, which he currently calls home. Yet for the last few years, he spends his summers in Poland at his Grandmother’s home. His parents are both Émigrés from Poland and have been able to raise Thomas and his younger sibling, Peter, to be fully bilingual and bicultural. Thomas is a vocation from the Oblate Assumption Province (Polish) in Canada.

Studies: He has attended Catholic Schools in Canada all of his life. On Saturday’s, he would also attend “Polish School” so as to be able to learn his Polish culture more deeply. Thus, Thomas is fluent in English and Polish languages. This past year he has been taking conversational Spanish and has been doing quite well in his new tongue. Thomas is a very bright student, has time to be very active in ministry, take walks in the hill country and be a very good Community Person. He will be starting his second year of a 4-year Philosophy Degree Program at D’Youville College and has been doing summer programs so that he might be able to graduate sooner.

Summer Experience: Thomas did some Summer School Course work this past May-June online, while living in Mississauga and Poland. He also did some work at the OMI Novitiate in Poland for his Province and currently and went on pilgrimage in prior to attending World Youth Day.