11 men move closer to priesthood with ordination as transitional deacons

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BOSTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley ordained 11 men, coming from all three of the archdiocese's seminaries, to the transitional diaconate during a Mass on May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

The diaconate is the first of the three ranks of clerical ministry in the Church and before being ordained to the priesthood, a man must first be ordained a deacon. Deacons can assist at Mass, proclaim Gospel readings, deliver homilies, and preside over baptisms, weddings, and rites of Christian burial. Transitional deacons typically serve in a parish for one year in preparation for their ordination to the priesthood.

The bilingual ordination Mass took place at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The newly ordained deacons are Giovanni Infante and Gabriel Hanley from Redemptoris Mater Seminary; Barry Mongeon and John Tanyi from Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary; and Marcelo Ferrari, Matthew Harrington, David Joanis, Christopher Letizia, David Pineda, Hung Tran, and Jeremy Wagner from St. John's Seminary.

The rite of ordination began after the liturgy of the Word. The candidates were presented to Cardinal O'Malley, who elected them for ordination to the diaconate.

"Today we truly celebrate the catholicity of our Church," Cardinal O'Malley said in his homily, after greeting the assembly in both English and Spanish.

He expressed his appreciation for the growing number of Catholics and vocations from the African and Vietnamese communities, represented by Deacon Tanyi and Deacon Tran, respectively. He acknowledged that Africa is the continent that has experienced the greatest increase in its Catholic population over the last century, from two million Catholics in 1900 to over 170 million today. Deacon Tanyi's mother and members of the Cameroonian community were present to see him ordained.

"May God's grace help us to be a Church, where different peoples are united in one mind and one heart in Jesus Christ," Cardinal O'Malley said.

The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, described how the first deacons were selected after a dispute between the Hellenic Jews and Hebraic Jews in the early Church. The cardinal said it could be inferred that the men were chosen for the role not only because they possessed spiritual qualities, but also because they spoke Greek, "a huge pastoral need" among the Hellenic Christians in Jerusalem.

Cardinal O'Malley also spoke about his own time as a deacon serving the growing Hispanic community in Washington, D.C., and stressed the importance of supporting Hispanic ministry in the U.S. He pointed out that more than half of the country's Catholics under the age of 30 are Hispanic, and 70 percent of those under 18 are Hispanic. He took the opportunity to urge the ordinands and clergy to study the Spanish language.

"It's easier than Greek, and it leads to appreciate and celebrate the culture and the religious traditions of our Hispanic brothers and sisters in the Church," the cardinal said.

He spoke at length about the connection between the deacons' liturgical roles and pastoral service. He said that part of their task is to connect their works of mercy with the Eucharist.

"Your preaching needs to be confirmed by the works of mercy. Your task is to help promote a culture of mercy in our faith communities. That's why deacons were created in the first place," Cardinal O'Malley said.

Following the homily, the ordinands each approached the cardinal and promised respect and obedience to him and his successors. Then, to show their submission before God, they lay prostrate before the altar while the assembly sang the Litany of Saints. Cardinal O'Malley then imposed his hands on each of them, a sign of conferring the Holy Spirit, completing their ordination to the transitional diaconate.

Each of the new deacons received a stole and dalmatic, signs of the office of the diaconate and the deacon's role in assisting at the celebration of the Eucharist. They were also presented with 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 to assist in the celebration of the Eucharist.

In addition to the Archdiocesan Festival Choir and Instrumentalists, directed by cathedral Music Director Richard Clark, music was also provided by the Redemptoris Mater Seminary Choir, as well as a Vietnamese choir consisting of many women religious and seminarians from different dioceses.