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BOSTON -- In a ceremony marking one of the final steps in preparation for the priesthood, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley ordained nine transitional deacons on Oct. 24 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
The deacon is the first of three ranks of ordained ministry in the Church. Among the many functions they perform in parishes, the deacon may assist the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel, deliver homilies, and preside at baptisms, weddings, and rites of Christian burial.
Ordained during the Mass were Deacons Fernando Ayala, David Campo, Robert LeBlanc, Jr., Leonardo Moreira, Kevin Pleitez, Steven Restrepo for the Archdiocese of Boston; Brother Francis Godkin of the Franciscans of the Primitive Observance; and Deacons Alwin Chinnappan and Valanarasu Williamraj for the Diocese of Kumbakonam in India.
After the Liturgy of the Word, the rite of ordination began as the candidates were presented to Cardinal O'Malley, who elected them for ordination to the diaconate.
"In the midst of the pandemic and crisis, an ordination is a moment of joy and encouragement to all the faithful. It reassures us that Christ is with us and continues to inspire young men to answer a call to a radical vocation of love and service," the cardinal said in his homily.
He spoke at length about the vocation of the deacon, tying it in with the first reading in the liturgy, in which the tribe of Levi is set apart to assist Aaron in the priesthood.
The Levites were the only tribe of Israel that did not receive a portion of the Promised Land because God himself was to be their inheritance, the cardinal reminded the ordinands. They had custody of the sacred furnishings and were responsible for carrying the Ark of the Covenant.
"Our deacons will carry something even more precious," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He explained that the rite of ordination for deacons alludes to the Levites as a foreshadowing of the order of the deacon. The cardinal said that in his view, the fact that the Levites did not receive land symbolized the vocation of the deacon to follow Jesus, "the homeless, itinerant, preacher."
"These men will not have their own homes and families, but the Lord will be their portion and they will be at the service of the whole family of Christ that is the Church. Like the Levites of the Old Testament these deacons have been set aside for the service of the Lord and his household," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He reminded the elect that although they would have "sacred functions in the liturgy" as deacons, "the very first role of the deacon was to care for the material needs of widows and orphans."
Cardinal O'Malley then pointed to the Gospel reading about the Good Samaritan. He said that in Jesus' time, the term "good Samaritan" would have sounded contradictory, but has now become a pseudonym for Christ and his followers.
"Ironically, the name Samaritan, that was synonymous with 'villain' and 'bad guy,' has suddenly become the word we use to describe anyone who performs a gratuitous act of love and mercy," the cardinal said.
He said that when Jesus told the lawyer to "go and do likewise," he was inviting him to become his disciple.
"The mark of Christ is found in the totality, the extravagance of involvement, which points back to the answer that Christ gives to the question about eternal life: Love with your whole heart, not only God, but also your neighbor," Cardinal O'Malley said.
After the homily, the candidates for the diaconate each promised respect and obedience to their bishop or their ordinary. As a sign of their humility and submission to God, the men lay prostrate before the altar while the assembly prayed the Litany of Saints.
Each ordinand received a stole and dalmatic, the vestments that signify the office of the diaconate and the deacon's role in celebrating the Eucharist. Each of them also received the Book of the Gospels, with the instruction to "Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach."
The newly ordained then ministered the Eucharist as deacons for the first time.
Speaking to The Pilot after the Mass, newly ordained Deacon Robert LeBlanc said he was "overwhelmed with joy" to have his family and friends witness his ordination, "even in the midst of a pandemic."
"It's all grace that's brought me here this day, it's all grace, and I've done my best to cooperate with it," he said.
Ellie Packer, a student from Bridgewater State University, came to see the ordination of Deacon David Campo, who had worked at her school's Catholic center. She said the Mass was "a beautiful and truly indescribable experience."
"It's truly such a joy to witness these men respond to God's calling for them," she said.