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Cardinal ordains five transitional deacons

By Sarah M. Barrett
Posted: 2/6/2009

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Deacons Israel Jose Rodriguez, Huy Hoang Nguyen, Sean Micheal Maher, David W. Gunter and Frank D. Camp were ordained transitional deacons by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley Jan. 31 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The five men, along with Deacon Sean Carey, will be ordained to the priesthood in May. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

SOUTH END -- Five seminarians were ordained transitional deacons on Jan. 31 in a ceremony marking their final step toward ordination to the priesthood.

Deacons Frank D. Camp and David W. Gunter from Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, Deacons Sean Micheal Maher and Huy Hoang Nguyen from St. John’s Seminary and Deacon Israel Jose Rodriguez from Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary House of Formation were ordained by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End.

The new deacons will be ordained to the priesthood on May 23 along with a sixth man, Deacon Shawn P. Carey, who was ordained a transitional deacon with his classmates at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif. on Nov. 8.

The ordination Mass began with the introductory rites and the Liturgy of the Word. After the readings, Cardinal O’Malley called forward each candidate, accepting them to serve the people of God as deacons.

The cardinal then delivered his homily, urging the five men to approach their ministry as the first seven deacons in the New Testament did. Their lives belong to God and must be dedicated to serving him, not to being served, he said.

“People today need someone to break open the word of God with patience and love,” said Cardinal O’Malley, describing the current generation as one of “religious illiteracy.”

“My brothers, your ministry can help prepare the new generations of disciples,” he said.

The word “deacon” means servant, and deacons are called to serve both the priestly ministers during the administration of the sacraments and the people of God through spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Speaking of the Gospel’s commandment to “Love each other in the same way I have loved you” (John 15:15), Cardinal O’Malley addressed the five men, saying that their ministry will only make sense as a loving response to God’s call.

“Today, Jesus is calling you to the greatest love -- the love that consists in laying down your lives for your friends, beginning with your best friend who is Jesus the divine shepherd,” he said.

The cardinal told the ordinands to remember the tribe of Levi which, instead of being given a territory in the Promised Land, the Lord called to be keepers of the Temple in Jerusalem. In this role, they have come to be a symbol of the diaconate, he said.

“Other men might be called to settle down and have a family. The deacons here today will consecrate their lives entirely to ministry and forgo the joys of marriage to be at the service of Christ and the Catholic people,” he said. “The Lord will be their portion.”

“Like the Levites of old, they shall discharge their obligations in the meeting tents, the sanctuary,” he said.

Cardinal O’Malley concluded his homily urging the men to commit themselves fully to the service of God’s people.

“May his message bubble up in your hearts and make you ready to run along the highways to speak to the stranger about the wonderful things of God,” he said.

Following the homily, the men vowed to commit themselves to a celibate and holy life and promised respect and obedience to the archbishop and his successors. Then, in a sign of their submission to God’s will, they lay prostrate before the altar during the Litany of the Saints.

Next, the candidates approached the cardinal individually and were ordained by the laying on of hands as he invoked the Holy Spirit in the prayer of consecration. The men were vested with the stole and dalmatic, garments that signify the office of the diaconate and their role in the celebration of the Eucharist. The cardinal then presented each new deacon with the Book of the Gospels, instructing them to believe, teach and practice the good news of Jesus Christ.

The rite concluded with the cardinal greeting each of the newly ordained with the kiss of peace. The deacons then exchanged a sign of peace with each other and all of the deacons present.

The newly-ordained deacons participated in the Liturgy of the Eucharist that followed.

At the end of the ordination, Cardinal O’Malley offered the new deacons his congratulations and blessing, promising to keep them in his prayers. He also urged the crowded cathedral to pray for vocations to the priesthood.

“Vocations are everyone’s business, so I appeal to all of our Catholic faithful to pray and promote vocations,” he said.

After the ceremony, the new deacons greeted their friends and families.

Thu Nguyen, sister of Deacon Nguyen, said the ceremony was a “very happy occasion” for the family.

“We are very proud of him and how hard he has worked to get to this stage of his life right now -- his spiritual journey,” she said.

Deacon Nguyen described the ceremony, especially the laying on of hands, as “very powerful.”

“When the Cardinal laid his hands on my head I had been chanting ontologically inside, and I felt him praying for me as I pray everyday,” he said.

Nguyen’s classmate, Deacon Maher, said the prostration was the most impressive part of the ordination for him.

“At the prostration, you are handing over your whole life and everything that you are -- your body and soul -- you are handing it all over to God,” he said. “And you are not much, but he makes an awful lot of you.”