By GREG HARDESTY     5/29/2024

The Diocese of Orange will mark a couple of milestones June 8 with the ordination of two priests.

Deacon Cole Buzon, who grew up in Brea and La Habra, will be the first Filipino American to be ordained a priest in the Diocese of Orange.

And Deacon Greg Walgenbach, director of the Life, Justice and Peace and the Mission Office for the Diocese, will become the first married priest in the Diocese of Orange through the Pastoral Provision.

Deacon Cole, a graduate of St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, currently is serving at St. Angela Merici Catholic Church in Brea. Effective July 1, 2024, he will be assigned to San Francisco Solano Catholic Church in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Deacon Greg will remain as director of the Diocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace and the Mission Office. All are invited to attend the ordination to the Sacred Order of Priesthood, to be presided over by Bishop Kevin Vann, on Saturday, June 8, at 10 a.m. at Christ Cathedral.

For FAQs or more information about the Ordination or Pastoral Provision, visit rcbo.org/priesthood.

During an introduction statement at Santiago de Compostela parish last summer, Deacon Cole began by jokingly sharing with the congregation the event that started him on his journey to become a priest.

“So, there was this girl…,” Deacon Cole began, eliciting chuckles from the faithful.

He then proceeded to explain when, as a young boy, he was surprisingly greeted by his first crush.

But, being terrified of girls, he ran away.

Technically, Deacon Cole’s journey to the priesthood began in earnest when he was a student at Brea Olinda High School.

But as a young boy before then, he never took his Catholic faith seriously.

As a first-year high school student, Cole golfed and wrestled, skateboarded with friends, went on vacations with his family, then at the age of 15, things took a turn for the worse.

He struggled immensely with depression and anxiety. He isolated himself at home. His mother, Teresita, got him professional help. Still, he felt very sad for a long period of time.

His late grandmother, Aurora, a devout Catholic who helped raise him, soon visited him in a dream.

When he awoke, he recalled that she had constantly reminded him to pray to God as a young boy. So for the first time in his life, Deacon Cole began to pray with a sincere heart. Then the floodgates opened. He immersed himself into the ministries at his home parish, St. Angela Merici in Brea.

By 2017, when he was working as a dental hygienist after earning an undergraduate and master’s degree in healthcare administration from West Coast University, making a nice living but feeling unsatisfied, a dinner conversation with a priest, Fr. Loc Tran, convinced him to enter the seminary.

“He genuinely told me that I would make a really good priest,” recalled Deacon Cole, who had just given a talk at a retreat.

The topic?

Dating and love.

In his talk, Deacon Cole read a poem he had written addressed to young women called “You Don’t Need a Boy,” which includes these lines:

Now I leave you with one final note, something I know is hard for girls to accept:

You don’t need a physical person with you, to know that your heart is kept. There is this man, His name is Jesus, who is with you everywhere you go, Who loves you and cares for you so much, that He died for you, in order for you to know…”

Deacon Cole is eager to begin his life as a priest.

“I’m really excited, honestly,” he said. “Seven years in Seminary to become a priest is worth the wait.”

Fr. Thomas Naval, the pastor at Santiago de Compostela in Lake Forest, who hosted Deacon Cole at his parish last summer is also thrilled.

“Finally, we are gifted to have a Filipino American priest,” Fr. Thomas said. “Our parish family experienced his joyful presence and touching homilies on several occasions,” Fr. Thomas recalled. “We have kept him in our prayers since and are filled with joyful anticipation for his priestly ordination as Filipinos in our Diocese.”

Fr. Peter Ho, pastor at St. Polycarp in Stanton, had Deacon Cole as an intern at his parish.

“He’s a wonderful and prayerful man,” Fr. Peter said. “He’s well-loved by the people of St. Polycarp. He was very active and immersed himself in every ministry that was assigned to him.”

At St. Polycarp, Deacon Cole got involved in the faith formation and confirmation programs as well as youth ministry.

“Our young people truly loved him,” Fr. Peter said. “They wanted to be around him, because of his deep faith. His faith sharing during the Liturgy of the Word was awesome. His messages were clear and inspiring.”

Deacon Cole also participated in St. Polycarp’s pastoral council as well as liturgical and priestly meetings. He also accompanied priests to the anointing of the sick and the blessing of homes.

“Knowing that he is the first Filipino American priest ordained in the Diocese of Orange makes all of us at St. Polycarp very proud of him,” Fr. Peter said. “We cannot wait to have him come back to St. Polycarp to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving with us. It will be an honor for the parishioners to greet and to call him ‘Father Cole.’”


The June 8 ordination comes three days after Deacon Cole’s birthday. More than 50 of relatives will be in town, some flying from the Philippines, Canada and the East Coast.

“My mother is one of eight,” Deacon Cole laughed.

Deacon Cole took up surfing while at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. His favorite surf spot in Orange County is Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.

As a priest, he aims to embody, the Spanish reference for a priest, “El Cura” which means, “The Doctor of The Soul.” Deacon Cole concluded, “Through Priestly Ordination, it’s an honor to become the healing hands of Christ.


Deacon Greg Walgenbach and his wife and four children have a longstanding tradition of enjoying movie night together.

The director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace as well as the Mission office for the Diocese of Orange, is responsible for choosing what to watch.

“It’s not easy for a family of six to find something that is good and that we can all enjoy in some capacity,” said Deacon Greg, who was ordained a deacon on May 20 at Christ Cathedral. “It’s a very difficult job.”

But Deacon Greg has become an expert in finding the perfect balance when facing the competing needs and interests of others – a skill that, come June 8, will be put to the ultimate test as he assumes two full time vocations:

One as a father and husband, the other as an ordained priest.

“I ask for your prayers that more than anything I will be able to find the time and make the time to be spiritually prepared to be a good priest, and to be ready to serve the people of God,” Deacon Greg said.

“I also ask that you pray for my wife, Claudia, and for our kids that God will fill us with every good grace that we need as a family to move forward in these next steps.”

Deacon Greg has been in the process of becoming a Catholic priest for some time – something made possible through the Pastoral Provision established in 1980 under Pope John Paul II (see rcbo.org/ priesthood/ for more information).

The provision provides a way for former Protestant ministers, including those who may be married, to be ordained Catholic priests in the United States.

Deacon Greg isn’t the first married man in the U.S. to become a Catholic priest, but he’s the first in the Diocese of Orange to become one under the provision.

There are more than 300 married former Protestant ministers, originating from Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian or Methodists backgrounds, who have transitioned to serve as Catholic priests.

“I will be 100% fully committed to being a priest and to exercise and respond to this vocation,” said Deacon Greg, who converted to Catholicism in 2011. “I look forward to trusting God to be able to make this happen.”


Deacon Greg was raised a Baptist and became an Anglican priest before embracing the Catholic faith. His openness towards the Catholic faith began in April 2005, with the death of John Paul II. (Learn more here: https://www.occatholic.com/ministry-director-took-circuitous-journey-to-catholicism/)

“I can remember being up in the middle of the night with my wife to watch the funeral and I was so moved by it,” Deacon Greg recalled. “I had read some of his works and theology, but to see the whole world stop in its tracks to honor this man really began to stir in me (feelings of conversion).”

He added: “It was never any one thing. It was all the things: it was the Holy Eucharist, it was our Blessed Mother, it was the Rosary.

“It was so many saints throughout the ages, it was being in communion with the pope and the bishops, and it was our commitment to the poor and the vulnerable. It was the way the Catholic Church has built up institutions of hospitals and schools and how it has concretely demonstrated that Eucharistic love in the world.”

In addition to the Pastoral Provision of 1980, Pope Pius XII, who was head of the Catholic Church from March 1939 until his death in October 1958, gave special permission for some formerly Lutheran married priests to become Catholic priests after World War II.

And in 1967, Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) wrote an encyclical about the possibility of married priests from other denominations becoming Catholic priests.

In the West, the Catholic Church adopted celibacy as a universal discipline.

The East, however, did not. The Orthodox Churches today continue to hold that men who are already married can be ordained to the priesthood, though unmarried priests cannot marry after ordination.

The ordination of a married man remains an exception and one that is granted only in specific cases involving men who had already been called to ministry in another church or Christian denomination and later came into full communion in the Catholic Church.

Deacon Greg said that the sacramental duties of celibate Catholic priests and married Catholic priests are the same.

“I will be a diocesan priest and so I will serve the bishop and be able to do what other diocesan priests do in the course of their ministry,” said Deacon Greg, who committed to a life of spirituality as a teenager. A Bible school trip to Mexicali, Mexico, proved to be pivotal.

One thing that a married priest can’t do is ever become a bishop, he noted. “I’m just so blessed and humbled and grateful that I’m now able to move forward and be a priest in the Catholic Church,” Deacon Greg said, “and to bring all of what God has done in my life to this point into areas of ministry and now put that at the service of God. “It really is a gift.”