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WEST ROXBURY -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley ordained eight men from six parishes to the order of deacon in a ceremony at Holy Name Parish on Sept. 29, the Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels.
The new deacons are Osvaldo Fernandez of St. Mary of the Assumption in Lawrence; David Giangiordano of St. James in Stoughton; Robert Philip Horne of St. Mary of Antioch in Burlington; Charles Kelley of St. John the Evangelist in Townsend; Julio Sanchez of St. Mary of the Assumption in Lawrence; Francis Sung of St. James the Greater in Boston; James Thompson of The Holy Mothers Collaborative in Hanover; and Cristino Ynfante of St. Mary of the Assumption in Lawrence.
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. In addition to a parish assignment, each of the new deacons will also assist in one of the ministries of the archdiocese.
In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley described an incident that took place when he was a young priest. The principal of a junior high school located near his offices asked him to break up a fight and make peace between the African-American students and the Hispanic students.
When he arrived, he found the students throwing food at each other in their cafeteria. Many of the Hispanic students were his parishioners and knew who he was, but the African-American students were mostly Baptists and had never seen a friar before. Some, he found out later, thought that he was a ninja warrior.
Cardinal O'Malley likened the incident to the conflict over the distribution of food in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
"It all sounds great until a food fight breaks out in Chapter 6 between the different ethnic groups within the Church, namely those who spoke Aramaic versus those who spoke Greek. They were all Christians, all members of the Church, all baptized, but when it came to the distribution of food for the widows and the orphans, it helped if you spoke Aramaic," Cardinal O'Malley said.
That conflict between the Hellenists and the Hebrews in the Church prompted the Apostles to select seven men to serve at table while the Twelve continued to devote themselves to prayer and evangelization.
"Out of that crisis -- out of that food fight -- the great gift of the deaconate was born," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He spoke at length about the encyclical of Pope Francis, "Gaudete et exsultate," ("Rejoice and be glad") on the call to holiness. In it, the Holy Father calls holiness "the most the attractive face of the Church."
"It's an error for Christians to separate the Gospel demands from their personal relationship with the Lord, from their interior union with him," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He pointed to the "luminous mysticism" of saints such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Vincent de Paul, and St. Teresa of Calcutta, whose prayer and study of the Gospel did not detract from their work among people in need.
"Remember that for a deacon the towel is as emblematic as the stole, as we respond to Jesus' invitation to love each other and wash each other's feet," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He said deacons must be peacemakers, bringing people who speak different languages into "a new Pentecost," uniting people across different generations and backgrounds, "turning the crowd into a community."
Cardinal O'Malley encouraged the deacons to center their lives on the Eucharist and work to make their liturgies beautiful and their churches "user-friendly."
"The attitude of a good waiter is hospitality. The deacon must be a master of hospitality, making people feel welcome, appreciated, forgiven, embraced," Cardinal O'Malley said.
"Your mission is to help the Church reflect more faithfully the servant leadership of Jesus Christ, making the merciful face of the Father visible and present to those who are suffering in the margins, and building up the unity of the Body of Christ, washing the feet of your brothers and sisters," the cardinal said.
Some of the new deacons' wives participated in the liturgy. The readers were Anita Sung, wife of Deacon Francis Sung, and Miguelina Rosario Fernandez, wife of Deacon Osvaldo Fernandez. Josefina Ynfante, Deacon Cristino Ynfante's wife, sang the Ave Maria anthem during Communion.
Deacon Giangiordano said after the ceremony that he felt "relieved, happy, and very tired."
"It was a long four years, but it was worth all that hard work and all those hours. It was well worth it, because I'm the happiest that I've ever been in my whole life," he said.
"We have been involved with the Church many years already," Anita Sung told the Pilot. Her husband Francis is the first Chinese deacon at St. James the Greater Church, which serves the Chinese Catholic community of the Greater Boston area, though some members come from farther away.
Like Anita Sung, Morayma "Mory" Thompson also accompanied her husband to the deacon formation classes.
She called the deaconate formation "a blessing for my family, for our marriage. I've been going to classes with him, so I have learned so much about my own faith. It's beautiful."