Meet the Men to be Ordained Diocesan Priests May 13
Colin Easton
Robert Gonnella
May 11, 2017

Rev. Mr. Colin Easton

Rev. Mr. Colin Easton was raised as a Catholic in St. Bridget Parish in Loves Park. His parents, Michael (a retired state police officer) and Amy (a college nursing instructor), taught him the importance of fidelity, devotion, integrity, generosity and sacrifice.

His parents supported him as an altar server and often had priests over for dinner. Over the years, they got to know many wonderful and influential priests.

“My grandfather, William Murphy, was very influential,” he says. “He has gone to daily Mass ever since I can remember, and he has a deep devotion to Our Lady. ... (H)e taught me how to fish, golf, pray, and enjoy life. He showed me what it was like to love and be loved.

“And because we’re an Irish family and tempers can arise, I also learned about forgiveness.”

The idea of the priesthood began when Colin was 15-years-old during adoration at a youth retreat.

“God showed me my life laid out and what He had planned for me,” he says. “But for me, as an American teenager, it was difficult for me to come to grips with the idea that someone else had a plan for me and got to determine which way I went. ... It was a powerful realization — almost a St. Paul moment — but because I am hard-headed, I needed it.”

His surprised parents adopted a “let’s wait and see” mentality and continued to offer their support. Ultimately, the best place for discerning the priesthood is in the seminary.

“In many ways, seminary is like college,” he says. “But it’s also different because it is a time of not just growing intellectually, but also spiritually. Seminary is where one learns about Christ, and where one seeks to come away to listen, be formed, and grow in interior charity that is necessary to be a priest.

“The hardest thing about seminary life — especially since I find it tough to surrender — is realizing that grace does not supplant nature but brings it to completion and elevates it. In other words, the real former of our souls and giver of grace is the Holy Spirit, and we must learn to let the Holy Spirit lead while, at the same time, asking for the graces we need to be molded and formed by God.”

Discerning isn’t always easy. “Time is a big factor in knowing if you’ve made the right choice, which is hard because God’s timing is different,” he says. “But over time, confirmation will come both internally (an inner peace) and externally (from others). It’s also important to remember that we must believe and not wait for absolute assurance because we are afraid to make a mistake. God has the ability to redeem any mistake in the vocational path. I remember God once telling me to not be afraid to make a decision for fear of getting it wrong — that I needed to have confidence in choosing by reflecting on His ability to redeem.”

— Excerpted from St. John the Baptist, Somonauk, Nov. 2016 newsletter

Rev. Mr. Robert Gonnella

I was born and raised as a Catholic, and our faith has always been important to my family.  

When I was a boy, I was an altar server, and I can remember being attracted to the priesthood even from a very young age.  

The first time I really considered becoming a priest was at the beginning of high school.  However, at the end of my senior year, I decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in Mathematics at Aurora University instead.  While there, I matured more in my faith life.  

During the summer before my senior year, it became clear to me that God was calling me to go to the seminary. I applied with the diocese, and I started at St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota in the fall of 2011.

I have spent the last six years studying philosophy and theology and preparing to be a priest of Jesus Christ.  

Now that ordination is only a few days away, I find myself filled with an incredible excitement.  I cannot wait to finally be the instrument of God’s mercy that He has always called me to be.  

I am very much looking forward to living the life of a priest and serving the good people of the Diocese of Rockford!