Six ordinands lie prostrate during their ordination as transitional deacons at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross April 30. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
SOUTH END -- For the first time in decades, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley ordained a second group of seminarians in one calendar year to the transitional diaconate at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
On April 30, Deacons Jason Giombetti, Pablo Gomis Gonzalez, Godfrey Musabe, Wellington DeOliveira, Joel Santos and William Sexton took their last step before being ordained priests of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Beginning with this ordination class, transitional deacons will serve for one full year before being ordained priests. This marks a change from the previous years' policy under which men were ordained to the transitional diaconate in January and became priests in May of the same year.
"You will be deacons of the Jubilee of Mercy," Cardinal O'Malley told the men in his homily. "You will have a full year of gathering experiences as deacons to store in your well for your priestly formation."
The rite of ordination began with the Liturgy of the Word, in which Deacon Stephen LeBlanc, transitional deacon set to be ordained a priest later this month, sang the Gospel. Following the Gospel, the candidates were presented to Cardinal O'Malley, and Father Antonio Medeiros, rector of the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary of Boston testified that the men were ready to receive Holy Orders.
In his homily, the cardinal noted that the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, details the creation of the deacon in the early Church.
He joked that in those days the deacons were all either Hebrew or Greek speaking, "but we have six different flavors here representing the catholicity of the Church," referring to the fact that each of the men hail from different nationalities.
Deacons were "the extension of the Church's authority beyond the Twelve," he explained. Calling them an "inspiring model," the cardinal underscored the deacon's role as "models of responsive and non-defensive listening."
"Just like the first deacons were ordained to reestablish unity and peace within the community, you too must be men of reconciliation and unity," he said.
The cardinal then turned his attention to the Gospel reading.
"In today's Gospel," he said, "Jesus declared that the hour has come -- the tension is resolved."
"Jesus' hour is the hour of his death and suffering, but it is also the hour of his victory and glorification. It's the hour when the Good Shepherd lays down his life so that there can be one flock and one shepherd."
"Jesus is about to be slain, but the hour of his death is his lifting up, his self-gift for the life of the world," he continued. "Those who wish to come to eternal life must, like him, be prepared to lay down their lives in self-gift."
"The definition of deacon is, of course, servant. Your vocation is like that of your Master's: to serve and not to be served," he said. "Like Jesus, you must express the mercy of the Father toward all those who are poor, hungry, homeless, sick, lonely, in prison and forgotten... the people on the fringes who are the protagonists of Jesus' Gospel. You must meet them with eyes of compassion and gather them in one flock."
"You are being ordained in the Jubilee Year of Mercy," Cardinal O'Malley stressed. "May mercy be the hallmark of your ministry as deacons, as later as priests."
The cardinal then told the assembly that April 30 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1996 massacre of 36 seminarians at the Buta Seminary in Burundi. During the civil war in Burundi, armed rebels stormed the seminary and asked the seminarians to divide themselves into Hutu and Tutsi. When they refused, the rebels murdered them all.
"Since your ordination is on this anniversary, I hope they will inspire you to stand with your brothers and be builders of the community in solidarity," Cardinal O'Malley said.
Following the homily, the men knelt, individually in front of Cardinal O'Malley and promised respect and obedience to him and his successors. They then lay prostrate in the sanctuary while the assembly sang the Litany of Saints, as a sign of submission to God's will.
Following the Litany of the Saints, Cardinal O'Malley laid his hands on each man in silence. Afterwards, he completed their ordination to the transitional diaconate by praying the prayer of ordination.
Each man received the stole and dalmatic of his office from a clergy member of his own choosing. Cardinal O'Malley then presented the deacons with the Book of the Gospels, exhorting them to "Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach."
The Rite of Ordination concluded with the kiss of peace given first by Cardinal O'Malley, followed by all the deacons present.
Following the liturgy, Ellen Sexton, mother of Deacon William Sexton beamed with pride over her only child's ordination.
"This is like the happiest day of my life. There are no tears today, just joy," she said. Looking fondly at her son she added, "He is the best kid ever."
For Elida DeOliveira, sister of Deacon Wellington De Oliveira, the experience was "very emotional." Elida travelled from Brazil with her daughter to witness Deacon De Oliveira's ordination, arriving just two days before. "This is so beautiful," she said in her native Portuguese. "I am very overwhelmed seeing my brother today."