Sixteen ordained permanent deacons

BOSTON — The 16 men ordained to the permanent diaconate at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sept. 9 were encouraged by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley to create unity in their parishes.

“From the very origins of the diaconate in the New Testament the deacons have the special role in fermenting unity in the Church,” he told the men during the ordination Mass homily. “The Holy Spirit guided the Church to form the diaconate to help to bridge differences and to bring about unity among God’s people.”

The men ordained are Deacons John A. Brent, Francis B. Dello Russo, Paul A. Dow, George M. Gabriel, James F. Greer, Martin W. Henry, John A. Hulme, Jr., Augustine J. Hwang, Paul A. Lewis, Williams F. Maloney, Daniel C. Nelson, Hon H. Nguyen, Christopher P. Reilly, Carl M. Roberts, Jr., Guy C. St. Sauveur and Richard Seibert, Sr.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley painted a picture of deacons throughout Church history being called to a life of sacrifice and dedication. Deacons must be living examples of the virtues of love, humility, generosity and obedience. They must be good husbands and fathers as well as “heralds of the Sacrament of Marriage,” especially now when the family is in crisis, he said.

In order to do all of these things, they must first cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ and be men of prayer, he added.

“You are called to be intimate friends with the Bridegroom,” he said. “We need deacons who love the Lord and the Church with enthusiasm.”

Deacons must also be servants of the Word, studying Scripture to know God’s words and voice so that they can assist their parishioners.

“Never miss the opportunity to teach the truths of the Catholic faith in season and out of season,” he said. “We need a new apologetics today to help our Catholic people embrace our faith deeply in the face of incessant attacks in our contemporary society. Never waiver in your continuing formation. It will help you to address the difficult questions that trouble our people today.”

Cardinal O’Malley prayed that the deacons would be “like that faithful servant in the Gospel, always ready, always awake with that sense of urgency to be what you are called to be.”

He speculated that the deacons had chosen that Gospel reading in part because they lost a member of their diaconate class, William Reed, on June 30 this year.

“Death has helped us to focus on this reality. We are pilgrims,” the cardinal said. “We are not here forever. We must use this time well.”

“Our joy is tempered by a sense of loss,” he added.

Although Reed did not make it to his ordination, his formation in the diaconate program helped prepare him for the journey to heaven. All of the faithful are on the same journey, he said.

Each of the 16 men who were ordained carried a stone with the inscription “Bill” in memory of Reed, according to Deacon Greer.

They chose a stone because during the four years of their formation, Reed was regularly assigned to speak on days when the liturgy of the hours reading (1 Peter 2) was about the “Living Stone,” he said.

The rite of ordination to the order of deacon began during the Liturgy of the Word. After the Gospel reading the men to be ordained were called forward and elected by the cardinal. Next Cardinal O’Malley gave the homily, which was followed by the examination of each man through a series of questions. The men then promised respect and obedience to the cardinal and his successors.

After all the men completed these steps, they lay prostrate in the sanctuary while the congregation prayed the litany of saints. Their ordinations were complete after each man again approached the cardinal who imposed his hands on him and proclaimed a prayer of consecration.

The deacons’ wives then presented a stole and dalmatic to a priest or deacon who vested their husbands. Next, the deacons were presented with the Book of the Gospels. The rite concluded with the kiss of peace when Cardinal O’Malley and all the priests gathered for the ordination greeted the newly ordained.

The first Boston deacons were ordained in 1976, and an ordination takes place every two years. In the archdiocese, over 300 men have been ordained to the permanent diaconate, and there are currently more than 200 active permanent deacons. Each deacon studies for four years at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton.

Deacon Hwang, the first Korean deacon to be ordained in the archdiocese, said he felt prepared for his ordination because of his formation at St. John’s. Deacon Hwang added that he is looking forward to serving God’s people.

“It is a wonderful experience to participate in the ministry of the Church,” he said.

Deacon Brent agreed, saying, “I am looking forward to being a servant of the Lord, servant of my parishioners.”

Deacon Brent said the ordination was “exciting” and that he took comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit will guide his ministry.

Many of the deacons expressed gratitude for their wives and other friends and family members who helped them prepare for their ordination.

“The support of the community is overwhelming,” said Deacon Russo.

Deacon Russo said that the ordination was the “most powerful experience” he has ever had, adding that he was moved by the experience of ministering communion to his friends and family.

Deacon Greer said that during the Mass he could feel the unity of all of the people gathered in the cathedral.

“It was one big body of Christ,” he said. “It was so alive here.”

His wife, Terri, said that her husband’s formation and ordination as a deacon have helped them grow closer together. Terri added that her faith life has also grown through attending her husband’s classes and meeting monthly with the other deacons’ wives.

“I depend on God a lot more than I ever did,” she said.

Terri said she was glad to witness the men’s ordination, adding that they are a tight-knit group.

“I just felt great love,” she said. “It’s just so amazing to me what they’ve accomplished.”