Life experience, religious training and early ministry assignments culminated in the ordination of two members of the Siena community in their respective faith traditions.
Jennifer Dorsey, Ph.D., professor of history, was ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church on December 13 at St. Boniface Church in Guilderland. Fr. Roberto “Tito” Serrano, OFM, was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood on December 5 at the church he attended as a high school student in Phoenix.
The Rev. Dorsey – or Mother Jenn – felt she had been drawn to the ministry of her church from a very young age. Now, as an ordained priest, she will celebrate the Eucharist and perform other sacraments and ministries.
“You hear about people who are spiritual but not religious? I was always both, very much so,” she said. “I always loved the Episcopal Church.”
Born and raised in New Jersey, it was during her graduate studies at Georgetown University that she felt the first callings to pursue ministry in the Episcopalian church.
“Different people are called to serve their faith in different ways - it may not necessarily be as a minister. I felt I needed to pursue that calling.”
After she moved to New York in 2008 to accept her teaching position at Siena, she entered the formal years-long discernment process, the study for a master’s degree in ministry and the accompanying internships. Her ordination Mass was celebrated by the Rt. Rev. William Love, bishop of Albany. (Dorsey was ordained by him as a transitory deacon in June 2020.)
Dorsey will not be formally assigned to a local parish; rather, she will be what is termed “supply clergy,” filling various ministry needs throughout the 19-county Albany diocese. Her first assignment was to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Amsterdam.
“It was lovely to be able to step in for them, so they did not have to go without a Christmas Eve service.” She joked that the parishioners were “very forgiving” of her newness with the liturgics.
The Altamont Enterprise recently hosted a podcast with Dorsey about her faith journey.
“I encourage anyone who feels strongly called to ministry to discuss their call with their clergy,” she said. “It’s very spiritually enriching and very satisfying to share this experience with people who are as excited about their faith as you are.”
Fr. Tito’s ordination Mass was celebrated by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix at St. Mary’s Basilica, the church associated with St. Mary’s High School, where Fr. Serrano graduated. Concelebrating with the bishop were Fr. Julian Davies, OFM, and Fr. Mark Reamer, OFM.
“It was great having the ordination in Phoenix because I was able to have people in attendance who were an important part of my development during my teenage years,” said Fr. Tito. “Former teachers and coaches who I admired, as well as family and friends, were able to attend."
Although the ongoing pandemic limited in-person attendance, the live-streamed ordination Mass was viewed by many of Fr. Tito’s friends and acquaintances throughout the world, including his previous ministry sites throughout the U.S.
“I was nervous until things got started. My mother was beside herself with excitement. She was so happy and cried a few times during the Mass. My sister told me she was proud of me, which meant a lot,” he said.
On Jan. 3, Fr. Tito celebrated his first Mass at Siena’s Chapel. He has been part of the campus community since last summer.
“We have to continue to remember and look back at 2020 and to learn from our experience – to grow from it, to make the priorities that became relevant to us in such a unique situation a part of our new selves as we continue to grow and move forward,” he said during his homily. “Let priorities old and new come together so that we can grow and be better today than we were yesterday so that eventually we can become who we truly are in Christ.”
Before joining the Franciscan formation program, Fr. Tito – whose parents both grew up in Puerto Rico – worked in fitness and other private sector jobs. He joined the Franciscans in 2011, made his first profession in 2013, and professed his solemn vows in August 2019.
“I want to grow in my religious priesthood. There are many things I would like to do in the future – perhaps go to a foreign mission. Who knows what the future holds?”