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Four men ordained deacons on way toward priesthood
Newly ordained come from Poland, Ecuador and Colorado
By Roxanne King
The deacon represents Christ who came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
So stressed Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., to four men who were ordained deacons April 16 as a step in their journey toward the priesthood.
Archbishop Chaput was the ordaining prelate at the joyous midmorning ordination Mass held at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. Concelebrants included Auxiliary Bishop James Conley, St. John Vianney Theological Seminary rector Msgr. Michael Glenn and Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary rector Father Florián Martín-Calama.
Ordained were Juan Manuel Bonilla, 28, a native of Ecuador; Wojciech Mariusz Gierasimczyk, 31, a native of Poland; and Coloradans Samuel Alan Morehead, 27, and Ryan Cullin O’Neill, 27.
Deacons Bonilla and Gierasimczyk attend Redemptoris Mater while Deacons Morehead and O’Neill attend St. John Vianney. All four men are in formation for the priesthood to serve the Denver Archdiocese. The men attending Redemptoris Mater also receive missionary training and may be sent at the archbishop’s discretion anywhere in the world.
Those filling the cathedral to witness the ordinations included relatives and friends of the men from within the archdiocese as well as from Dallas, Phoenix, Ecuador and Poland.
The beautiful Mass began with a colorful Knights of Columbus honor guard leading a procession of numerous acolytes, deacons, priests and the two bishops. Scripture readings were proclaimed in English and Spanish and included a stirring sung Gospel. Cathedral music director Brandon Spence led the Archdiocesan Chorale in rousing traditional hymns with organ accompaniment, which were interspersed with emotive Spanish-style hymns with guitar accompaniment sung and played by Redemptoris Mater seminarians.
At the start of his homily, the archbishop held up a slim volume with a bright yellow cover for all to see.
“Recently, the Church has discovered a new gift, which I’m holding in my hands,” he announced. “It’s called ‘YouCat’ and is a catechism of the Catholic Church for youth. … As I was preparing for today’s celebration, I thought I’d take a look at ‘YouCat’ … and see what it says about holy orders and the diaconate.”
Reading from the book, the archbishop said, “Someone who is baptized and confirmed can receive moreover a special mission in the Church in two special sacraments and thus be enlisted in the service of God: holy orders and matrimony.”
Holy orders and matrimony are channels through which God pours his love into the world to build up the people of God, the archbishop said.
“The two sacraments have something in common,” he read, “they are directed to the good of others.
“One thing I want you to understand,” Archbishop Chaput explained, “is that the sacraments of holy orders—the ordination of bishops, priests and deacons—is about two things: communion, which is our union with God and with one another, and mission.”
Reading the definition for “deacon” from “YouCat,” the archbishop noted that the term, from the Greek diaconos, means “servant” and is the foundational rank in the sacrament of holy orders.
A clergy rank of the Church in Apostolic times, the diaconate eventually became a preliminary step toward ordination to the priesthood. While it still serves this purpose for men in priesthood formation, after the Second Vatican Council the permanent diaconate was reestablished as an independent rank of holy orders.
Deacons can officiate at baptisms, weddings, wakes and funerals. They can also preach and distribute holy Communion. They cannot consecrate the Eucharist, hear confessions or anoint the sick.
“It’s unusual for the Church of Denver to celebrate the sacrament of holy orders in the season of Lent,” Archbishop Chaput said. But, he added, it’s a fitting time for an ordination as “it’s through Jesus’ service on the cross that we have his gift of salvation.
“So my dear brothers,” he urged, “conform your minds to the cross of Christ, which means generosity. He opened his arms and was nailed on the cross as an act of generous obedience to the Father and a generous (act) of service to his brothers and sisters. The cross is the pattern of all ministry in the Church and should be your pattern as you embrace this vocation through the sacrament of the diaconate today.”
The Ordination Rite started with the four men being called forward and affirmed as worthy of ordination. Upon Archbishop Chaput’s acceptance, the congregation expressed their assent with sustained applause.
Next, the men promised celibacy and obedience to the archbishop and his successors. Then, as they lay prostrate before the altar, the congregation sang the Litany of Supplication, invoking the intercession of the saints.
The gift of the Holy Spirit for the diaconal office was conferred to each of the ordinandi in silence when the archbishop laid hands on each of the men as they knelt before him. He then said the Prayer of Ordination over the group.
In a cheerful moment, the newly ordained received the outward signs of their new office as deacon friends vested them with a deacon’s stole and dalmatic.
The archbishop then empowered them to preach the Gospel.
“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are,” he said as each of the new deacons knelt in turn before him holding a Book of Gospels.
“Believe what you read,” Archbishop Chaput exhorted, “teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
Following the archbishop’s lead, veteran deacons then welcomed each new cleric into their order with a warm embrace.
Drawing applause, the new deacons then took their places in the sanctuary beside the archbishop and assisted him for the remainder of the Mass.
“I can’t believe it,” Deacon Bonilla said after the Mass as friends and family congratulated the newly ordained and took photos with them outside in the cathedral’s Mary Garden. “I see how the Lord is putting in front of me this great mission: to be a sign of service and generosity. He gave me this sacrament to be free to give of myself.”
“I am very happy,” agreed Deacon Gierasimczyk. “I see that God is faithful and fulfills what he began nine years ago when I came to the United States.”
Deacon Morehead said he was “overjoyed.”
“This is a beautiful affirmation of God’s work in our lives,” he said.
“There’s no going back,” said a beaming Deacon O’Neill. “I’m excited to move forward.”