Cardinal ordains five transitional deacons for Boston

BOSTON -- On June 4, five men marked one of the most important steps in their journey to the priesthood as Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley ordained them transitional deacons at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

With their ordination, the men enter the first of the three ranks of clerical ministry in the Church and take vows of chastity, obedience, and prayer. The new deacons -- Paul Born, Jose Ignacio Montero, Rodrigo Martinez, Peter Schirripa, and Alphonsus Vu -- will serve in a parish for one year in preparation for their ordination to the priesthood. Among the many functions they may perform as deacons are presiding at baptisms, weddings, and rites of Christian burial, as well as assisting at Mass, proclaiming Gospel readings, and delivering homilies.

As the Mass began, the ordinands processed into the cathedral followed by dozens of priests and deacons and took their seats in front of the ambo. After the Gospel reading, the rite of ordination began as the candidates were presented to Cardinal O'Malley, who elected them for ordination to the diaconate.

In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley noted that the following day was Pentecost Sunday, which is considered the "birthday" of the Church and said that the new deacons were like birthday presents to the Church.

He also noted that the new deacons included two Hispanic men and one Vietnamese man, which he said represented the diversity of the Church in the U.S. and Boston.

"These men, like Samuel, have heard a call in the night and responded with their 'adsum.' 'Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will,'" Cardinal O'Malley said, referring to the first reading of the liturgy.

He said there is "something very original" about the diaconate. He explained that, unlike the roles of priest and bishop, the deacon has no Jewish or pagan counterpart. While the role of the deacon has some similarities to the Levites of the Old Testament, he said, their vocation is very different.

"The glory of this particular office lies in the fact that it's being born of the distinctive 'diakonia,' the quality which Christ modeled and communicated to the ministry of the Church he founded," Cardinal O'Malley said.

He spoke about the Levite and the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Those two religious leaders saw their roles as "primarily liturgical and ceremonial," so they passed by the man left for dead on the side of the road.

"As deacons, you have a sacred function in the liturgy, but the very first role of deacons is to care for the material needs of widows and orphans," Cardinal O'Malley said.

He spoke about the blessing the priest gives the deacon before proclaiming the Gospel: "May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips so that you may worthily proclaim his Gospel."

The cardinal described the blessing as "a beautiful prayer, full of meaning in a challenging way." "Your worthiness depends on your ongoing conversion and fidelity to grace. Your life, the Gospel says, is to bear fruit that will remain. The fruit you produce will be an advertisement for the Gospel and make you worthy to announce the Gospel," Cardinal O'Malley said.

He urged the men to have a special love for the poor and sick. He told them their task is "to promote the culture of mercy in our faith communities," which, he said, was why the role of deacon was created in the first place.

"A deacon is a minister at the table, a minister of the Word and minister of charity," Cardinal O'Malley said.

Following the homily, the men approached the cardinal one at a time and promised respect and obedience to him and his successors. Then, to signify humble submission before God, the men lay prostrate before the altar while the assembly sang the Litany of Saints.

Cardinal O'Malley then imposed his hands on each man, a sign of conferring the Holy Spirit, completing their ordination to the transitional diaconate.

Each of the new deacons received a stole and dalmatic, signifying the office of the diaconate and the deacon's role in the celebration of the Eucharist, as well as the Book of the Gospels, with the instruction to believe, teach, and practice the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Then, the newly ordained joined the cardinal on the altar for the celebration of the Eucharist.

One of the newly ordained, Deacon Paul Born, said it was "a happy day" for them. He was assigned to St. Mary Parish in Waltham, where he has served for the past year.

"Every seminarian goes through a long journey of discernment, and even then, a journey through the seminary. This is the second biggest step along the way," he said after the Mass.

He said that they were seeing the words of the Gospel fulfilled, as they were "trying to let the wheat die that it may be fruitful and trying to give up everything for the kingdom so we may receive a hundredfold as the Lord has promised."