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BOSTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley ordained seven men to the permanent diaconate on Oct. 2, during a multilingual Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
The deacon, derived from the Greek word "diakonos," meaning servant, is the first of three ranks of ordained ministry in the Church. Among their many functions in parishes, deacons may aid the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel, deliver homilies, and preside at baptisms, weddings, and rites of Christian burial. Each deacon is assigned to a parish as well as a ministry of the archdiocese.
The new deacons are Richard Ashburn for St. Mary's-St. Helen's-St. Thecla's Parish, serving Hanover, Norwell, and Pembroke; James Hyatt for the Walpole Catholic Collaborative; Frank Perez de Alderete for the Archdiocese of Boston; Stephen Powers for Holy Redeemer and Immaculate Conception Collaborative Parishes in Newburyport; James Rice Jr. for the Concord-Carlisle Catholic Collaborative; Jun-Kyo Francis Suh for Holy Apostles Parish in Hanson/Halifax; and Carlos Turcios for St. Stephen Parish in Framingham.
During the Mass, the lectors read in Spanish and Korean as well as English. Cardinal O'Malley later commented that it was beautiful to hear these different languages, "to realize the catholicity of our Church, that we reflect the universal love of God."
After the liturgy of the Word, the seven candidates for the permanent diaconate were presented to Cardinal O'Malley, who elected them for ordination.
In his homily, the cardinal spoke about different aspects of the role of the deacon, based on what the Acts of the Apostles reveals about the early Church.
He examined the second reading in the liturgy, which recounted the deacon Philip's encounter with the Ethiopian official. After the death of another deacon, St. Stephen, the deacons of the early Church were instrumental in bringing the Gospel to different countries and ethnic groups. Philip was traveling to Samaria when he met the Ethiopian, who brought Christianity to Africa.
"Diversity is part of the role of our deacons," Cardinal O'Malley said.
Also evident in that story, he said, is the deacon's tasks of preaching and baptizing, as well as the importance of one-on-one ministry.
Cardinal O'Malley also emphasized the importance of evangelization, which is the mission of the Church.
"The Church exists to evangelize. To be an evangelizer, we must be nurtured ourselves by prayer, by the Word of God, and by the sacraments," he said.
He pointed to the words that would come later in the ordination ceremony, when each new deacon received the Book of the Gospels. At that point, they were instructed 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 liturgy itself is telling you to nurture your faith with the Word of God. As a deacon, you must be a man of the book, the Word of God. You are to reflect and meditate on that Word so that, like the deacon Philip, you can explain it to seekers, and, most importantly, so that you yourselves might live the Word. The authenticity of your life is what will allow you to teach and to bear fruit in your ministry," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He also spoke of the deacons' role of ministering to families and their vocations as husbands and fathers. He said that many married deacons have sons that grow up to become priests, such as St. Patrick. Cardinal O'Malley joked that he likes to tell newly ordained deacons to send at least one son to seminary.
"What I'm really asking you is to grow in your own awareness of your own vocation as spouses and deacons so that you can communicate a sense of vocation to others," he said.
After the homily, the candidates each approached the cardinal and promised obedience to him and his successors. They then lay prostrate before the altar while the assembly prayed over them.
Next, Cardinal O'Malley laid his hands on the head of each candidate, conferring the Holy Spirit upon them and ordaining them to the diaconate. The newly ordained were then vested with a deacon's stole and dalmatic, and each received the Book of the Gospels. They then assisted in the celebration of the Eucharist.
Newly ordained Deacon Richard Ashburn said he felt "humbled and thankful and joyous" and "excited to serve the Lord" after the Mass.
He said he would encourage prayer for vocations and ask all to consider their vocation.
"We're all called to serve. We're all priest, prophet, and king. So I would ask folks to pray on that and to recognize their calling from God, to open their hearts and listen, because God has something to do for all of us," he said.
Sophia Mittman attended the Mass to support Deacon James Rice, who she met through their involvement with Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Pro-Life Club. Speaking to The Pilot after the Mass, she said she had never been to the cathedral or witnessed an ordination before.
"It's inspiring to see that there are still such holy men in the Church who are dedicating their lives to being a deacon," Mittman said.
She said the event reminded her of the importance of not only praying for evangelists like the deacons, but also being an evangelist herself.
"It's a reminder for me to evangelize, too, and how important it is, and it's so inspiring to see their courage in doing that," she said.