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LOWELL -- Taking the last major step in a long journey towards priesthood, 14 men were ordained transitional deacons in the presence of family, friends, fellow seminarians, clergy, and religious during a standing-room-only Mass April 14 in Immaculate Conception Church in Lowell.
"Today, we're celebrating not just the quantity of this class -- this is the largest class we've had in a long time -- but the quality of these wonderful men, who are giving their lives to the service of God," said Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley in his homily.
Ordained during the Mass were Deacons Joseph Almeida, Maciej Kazimierz Araszkiewicz, Corey Bassett-Tirrell, Marcos Enrique, Timothy Paul Hynes, Przemyslaw Kasprzak, Brother John Edward Koelle OFM Cap., Brian Peter O'Hanlon, Mark Teodor Olejnik, Francis Huy Duc Pham, William Henry Robinson, Carignan Langlois Rouse, Victor Luna Vitug II, and James Paul Wargovich.
The deacon, from the Greek word "diakonos" meaning servant or minister, is the first of three ranks of ordained ministry in the Church. Among the many functions they perform in parishes, deacons may preside at baptisms, weddings, and rites of Christian burial, as well as aid the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel, and deliver homilies.
The 14 men will serve for one full year as transitional deacons before being ordained priests.
Referencing Pope Francis' recent Apostolic Exhortation, "Gaudete et Exsultate" ("Rejoice and be Glad"), in which the pope "repropose(s) the call to holiness," Cardinal O'Malley said that the Church "sees baptism as a call to holiness, but certainly ordination is a radical call to holiness."
"In today's world more than ever," he said, "people are looking for holiness in the life of the ministry, so that they can believe in the sacraments and accept the Gospel," the cardinal told the ordinands. "Your holiness must be the attractive face of the Church."
Deacons are "ministers of God's mercy," said Cardinal O'Malley. Adding that in their new role, they "must discover the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer, understanding their anguish and bringing relief."
It is when we feel compassion for others that "all distances vanish," he continued.
The community "will be delighted if you're engaging and witty preachers, extraordinary organizers, and super successful fundraisers, and can serve as administrators" said the cardinal. "But, what we really want and need is for you to be holy."
Cardinal O'Malley advised the men to pay attention to the "little details," and weave prayer and community into their lives. It is the deacon's calling, he said, to be "a man of unity, of communion, and hospitality."
In today's culture of individualism, "our path of holiness can only bring us closer together as one," he said.
The rite of ordination began following the Gospel reading, when the candidates were presented to Cardinal O'Malley and he elected them for ordination to the diaconate.
Then, following the homily, the men approached the cardinal one-by-one, kneeled, and then promised respect and obedience to him and his successors. To signify humble submission before God, the men lay prostrate in the sanctuary while the assembly sang the Litany of Saints.
Cardinal O'Malley imposed his hands on each man in silence, completing their ordination to the transitional diaconate by praying the prayer of ordination.
The deacons then received a stole and dalmatic, signifying the office of diaconate and the deacon's role in the celebration of the Eucharist, as well the Book of the Gospels, instructing them to believe, teach, and practice the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The rite was concluded with the kiss of peace before the newly ordained ministered the Eucharist as deacons for the first time during the Mass.
Grinning and surrounded by friends and family following the Mass, Deacon Corey Bassett-Tirrell told The Pilot that he "couldn't believe" he was ordained deacon only moments before. "It was surreal," he said, "I'm just so thankful."
"I'm grateful to Cardinal Seán for having put his trust in all of us to go out and serve the people of God," he continued. "It's a remarkable thing that the Lord can work with such insufficient instruments."