Yankton is in the unique position of having two parishes as well as a monastery in town. There are four priests working in Yankton today, and though they are constantly on the move visiting the sick, taking confession, celebrating the mass and performing weddings, baptisms and funerals, most of us don’t know them very well.

Father Larry Regynski has been the pastor for Sacred Heart Parish for a few years, and Father D’Cruz Nicholas is a recent addition as associate pastor for Sacred Heart Parish. Father Scott Traynor is the pastor of Saint Benedict Parish and Father Odermann Valerian serves the Benedictine Sisters at Sacred Heart Monastery and the students of Mount Marty College.

In this article each of them tells the Press & Dakotan about themselves and their lives before joining the priesthood.

Father Scott Traynor

I was born and raised in the Twin Cities; Eagan which is a suburb of Saint Paul, Minnesota. I attended St. Joseph School in West St. Paul through the 8th grade, then attended Saint Thomas Academy for High School, graduating in 1990.

In High School and College I had many, many part-time jobs during the School year and would work full-time in the summers. Everything from lawn care and snow removal, to Burger King and Pizza Hut, to truck driving for North Star Ice and working at the Eagan Public Library.

I went to Iowa State on a Navy ROTC scholarship where I majored in Computer Engineering. I had summer trainings with the Navy, but never served active duty. My plan was to become a Navy Pilot.

In college I was a gopher for the Dean of the College of Education’s Office and a sound and light technician for the Ames City Auditorium. I credit my experiences working many different jobs and participation in sports growing up as the best human formation experiences of my life in preparation for priesthood.

Also, it was thru many experiences of volunteering from a young age that I began to learn that real and lasting happiness is found in helping and serving others instead of seeking things for myself.

The summer after my sophomore year of College, I ended up volunteering at a Young Life Bible Camp in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, called Camp Castaway. I spent all of July, 1992, at the camp. During that time Scripture (in particular Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians) really came alive for me. I woke up one morning fully convinced 1) that God had a plan for my life; 2) That his plan would make me the most happy in life and 3) That I had never asked God what that plan was, and I should, and I wanted to.

The more I thought about those things the more joyful I became. So, I decided to take a year off of college and do missionary work and ask God to show me his plan for my life. I ended up working with the National Evangelization Teams (NET) Ministries. NET trains 18-30 year olds to conduct retreats for junior and senior high school students in the U.S. and Canada. That was a life-changing experience for me, and it was during my year with NET that I felt God’s call to give my life as a Catholic Priest.

I left Iowa State after my junior year to enter seminary formation. I went to Immaculate Heart of Mary College Seminary for two years and completed a B.A. in Philosophy. For major seminary I attended the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 1996-2000, receiving a S.T.B in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. After Ordination in 2000, I spent two Summers at Catholic University of America to complete a J.C.L. in Canon Law.

I was ordained a Priest for the Diocese of Sioux Falls on June 23, 2000.

Father Larry Regynski

My hometown is Woonsocket, South Dakota. I went to nursing school and when I graduated I worked as a registered nurse at a long-term care facility in Woonsocket. I loved nursing: taking care of residents, their

families, and the camaraderie I had with all the nursing staff. We were a great team.

I see my priesthood as an extension of what I did as a nurse. It’s all about serving God and neighbor. (Nurses do that every day, too!) I was inspired to become a priest by another priest, Fr. Rudy Roxas, who was the chaplain at the college I went to at the time. He was one the happiest, smartest, funniest, and most compassionate priests I have ever known. His personal example inspired me to look closer at becoming a priest.

After working for a couple years as a nurse, I entered seminary to see if it was something I could do the rest of my life. After I went to seminary, it reconfirmed God’s call to serve him as a priest. I kept working as a nurse during the summer months of my seminary years, but I finally had to turn in the stethoscope when I was ordained. I still have my nursing license on inactive status.

I have been a priest now for 23 years. It has been a joy to get to know so many people and be a part of so many lives, both in joy and sorrow.

Father D’Cruz Nicholas

I am from a small town called Kurseong, in the foothills of the Himalayas, about 400 miles north of Kolkata (the city where St. Mother Teresa founded her head quarters) in India.

I studied in a Jesuit Catholic school and a Jesuit College in India.

I joined the seminary after my high school. I volunteered at the house for the poor elderly managed by Mother Teresa’s nuns in Nepal for six months.

Volunteering at the house for the elderly with the sisters of St. Mother Teresa had tremendous influence on me. There I learned how to serve and be present to the elderly.

Fr. Gerard Van Wellingham, a Jesuit priest from Canada, used to be my school Principal. He was a counselor, a great educator, a humble person and a man of wisdom and courage. He had a great impact on me and my faith. Following his example I wanted to be a missionary and also have an experience of serving the poor. He helped me in my discernment to join the seminary.

Odermann Valerian

I was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Dickinson, North Dakota. I lived on a ranch in Billings County, where, as they say “learning to drive before walking was the norm” (I am) the oldest of seven.

After years of work on the ranch and several years of college, I joined Assumption Abbey in Richardton, North Dakota. I had attended a prep school there run by the monks. I had an early interest in the priesthood also.

It seems I grew into a “triple call.” The monastic call became the foundation for all, but the calling to serve in the sacramental ministry of a priest came first, only after contact with the monks did I see myself being a priest in the Benedictine context, and a call to educate — I’ve been involved in educating at one level or another throughout the years — in Bogotá, Colombia, (14 years) at the secondary level and many years at university level in the states.

I get the most satisfaction looking back at the early Bogotá years, when the Benedictine community went ahead with a plan to construct a school to serve the local barrio—a social outreach which continues today to educate 100s of youth, giving them a chance to envision a life that was beyond the wildest dreams of their parents.

I try to never stop growing; live without regrets.

Father Valerian has bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Math from St. Martin’s University in Olympia, Washington; a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana; a master’s in Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, and a doctorate in Education in Instructional Leadership from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.