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Seven take final step toward priesthood

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SOUTH END – Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley began his homily at the Jan. 29 ordination to the transitional diaconate, not by addressing the men to be ordained, but by thanking those who had supported their response to God’s call.

“We are so grateful to their families, friends, rectors, faculty, seminarians, parish priests — all of those who through their prayers encouraged these men,” the archbishop said.

Deacons Robert J. Cullen, Joseph J. D’Onofrio, Benjamin T. LeTran, David S. Marcham, Thomas S. Rafferty and David A. Shoemaker were ordained for the Archdiocese of Boston and Deacon Roy R. Witucki was ordained for the Diocese of La Crosse. Two other classmates — Deacons Robert Poitras and Jason Makos, who are currently studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome — were ordained to the transitional diaconate on Aug. 21 at St. Patrick Church in Watertown.

The transitional diaconate is the final step before ordination to the priesthood.

Archbishop O’Malley went on to speak about the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Luke recounts the tale of Philip, a deacon, who brought the Word to an Ethiopian.

“The deacon then breaks open the Word of God for him,” the archbishop said. “You men as deacons and later as priests will have the same task — to proclaim the Good News about Jesus.”

The power of the Word led the Ethiopian to grow to love Christ and ask to be baptized by Philip after “what must be the shortest RCIA program on record,” the archbishop recounted.

“There’s no greater service that we can give someone than to lead them to God — to break open the Word, to baptize them in the death and resurrection of the Lord, to give them that joy that comes from knowing Christ — the joy that surpasses all other joys,” he added.

“Ordination is a gift from God to those who are willing to make a gift of their abilities in humility and love,” he continued. “To be a real deacon one must have a desire to serve with all that implies — hard work, a healthy dose of humility, a sense of loyalty, an identification with the One Whom we serve.”

Archbishop O’Malley urged the men to be good and faithful servants who are humble, loyal and chaste. He also called on them to remember why they make these promises at ordination.

“I hasten to remind you that you’re not renouncing a wife and children for me, you’re not promising to pray the breviary everyday for me, nor is it for me that you are making a promise to obey and, even the more challenging at times, to respect,” he said. “You are doing all of this for the greatest master in the world — Jesus Christ.”

The archbishop told the men that the Lord is their inheritance and sacrifices for Him would be rewarded.

“No matter what sacrifices we make, no matter what pain we experience, no matter how weary we become, Jesus Christ is worth it — in fact He deserves more,” he continued.

The archbishop concluded by thanking the family and friends of the candidates and urging all Catholics to promote vocations.

“Every Catholic who loves the Church, loves the Eucharist, must be a vocation promoter,” he said. “Vocations are everyone’s business.”

After the homily, the deacons made promises to live lives of charity, be celibate, proclaim the faith and conform to the example of Christ. Then, each approached Archbishop O’Malley, knelt before him and promised respect and obedience to him and his successors.

During the litany of the saints, all seven men lay prostrate. Then, they each participated in the laying on of hands and were presented with vestments. They also received the Book of Gospels.

“God is continuing to bless the Church with these men,” Father Oscar Pratt, director of the Vocations Office for the archdiocese, said after the Mass.

Father Pratt said he hopes that more and more people — both religious and lay Catholics — will become involved in promoting vocations at the parish level and throughout the archdiocese.

Many friends and family members came to share in the joy of the newly ordained.

Cathy Rafferty, Deacon Rafferty’s sister-in-law, said the Mass was “inspirational” and she was glad her children were involved in presenting the gifts.

“It helps to reinforce values,” she said.

Deacon LeTran’s parents came from Vietnam just for the ceremony, said Van Le, Deacon LeTran’s niece.

She said she appreciated participating in the ordination as a family.

Ann Annis, a friend of Deacon D’Onofrio said she also enjoyed participating in the “emotional” service.

“It was a complete honor to be here,” she said.

Deacon D’Onofrio said the ordination ceremony was more influential than he thought it would be.

“Jesus Christ works for you in the sacraments,” he said. “I’ll figure out the fruits of it somewhere down the road, I’m sure.”

“I asked the archbishop if we could do it again,” Deacon Shoemaker joked, adding that the ordination was a powerful experience.

Deacon Shoemaker also said he is eager to serve the Lord and His people.

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