Two men were ordained on June 11, 2011, as priests for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind. They had known each other all their lives because they grew up in the same family. Father Terry Coonan, 31, and his older brother, Matthew Coonan, discerned that they both had the same vocation to the priesthood. They are now both busy parish priests, and Fr. Terry Coonan, pastor of St. John Baptist Church in South Bend has the added responsibility of being a high school chaplain. He spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
How did you discern your vocation?
It was a really long slow process — much different from my brother, who always said, “No, I’m not going to be a priest,” then all of a sudden changed very rapidly within a few months and confidently decided to become a priest. For me, it was always like, “This is a possibility in my life, but I don’t know if that’s really what God wants or what I want.” Going to seminary was the only way to start to answer that question.
What was it like being ordained with your brother?
Being able to make that journey together and receive the sacrament of Ordination together was a really beautiful blessing and a gift for me — just to know the priesthood really does bind us and unite us as brothers. We talk about our fraternity as priests in the diocese. It’s really special to have a brother-priest who’s literally a brother.
Do you and your brother ever collaborate?
We get see each other quite a bit. He’s a priest at a parish 30 minutes away, so we’re still close. We see each other in work-related ways, and of course at home. One of the fun things we get to do is a basketball game between the priests of the diocese against the seminarians. It’s fun to play basketball with my brother like I used to as a kid.
How did you become acquainted with Legatus?
There was a Legatus member in my first parish assignment in Granger, Ind., but he had to drive to Grand Rapids every month for the meetings. It came to the point where he was talking to the bishop about bringing Legatus to our diocese. Then the bishop called me and asked me to be the chaplain. I like the fact that Legatus has a really simple format: Let’s bring people together who have this common ground in their work life and faith life. It’s beautiful to see how they do it — eat, pray, have the sacraments available and listen to a good speaker who encourages us in the faith.
How has Legatus impacted you as a priest?
Just getting to hear other chaplains’ ideas and their experiences has been beneficial. Over the past five years as a priest, I’ve constantly been growing and adapting the way I communicate the Gospel, particularly in my homilies. There are various things in Legatus that have helped me reflect on the way I prepare and deliver my homilies. The Legatus speakers have also contributed to the way I reflect on that.
Do you have any hobbies?
I am a guitar player. I often listen to Christian music and classical music. I’m trying to teach myself a little bit of piano now. Besides those things, it’s mostly sports. I like basketball. I played soccer when I was in college seminary and I still play soccer with the high school kids. I try to have my fun, get my exercise and stay sane that way.
BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.