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Stressing the importance of living a life of service, celibacy and prayer, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley ordained seven men as transitional deacons at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross Jan. 31. Celibacy and prayer “will enhance and sanctify your ministry,” he told the seminarians.
The seven seminarians ordained to the diaconate were Fidel Agustín Anda Gúmez, Michael E. Drea, Jonathan M. Gaspar, George C. Hines, David C. Lewis, Robert T. Milling and Jason W. Worthley. They will serve as deacons until their ordination as priests in May.
Hundreds of family members and friends, dozens of priests and the auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese attended the ordination rite.
After the proclamation of the readings and the Gospel, the candidates were called forward to face the archbishop and their names were read aloud. Archbishop O’Malley then presented them to the congregation to a loud round of applause.
Following the presentation of the candidates, Archbishop O’Malley began his homily. He praised the men for their courage in responding to the call to the priesthood despite the terrible events of the past two years, which have cast a negative light on priests and the Catholic Church.
"These are not fair weather friends," the archbishop told the assembly. "These are men who stepped up to the plate in difficult times."
He went on to explain the role of a deacon, a Greek word that he said does not mean “big shot” or “church leader,” but means “servant.” He told the crowd that seven Greek speaking men were the first deacons and were ordained to assist the 12 disciples.
Jesus came into the world to be an example of what it means to be a “humble servant,” said the archbishop. Jesus did not ask the disciples to wash His feet but rather He washed theirs as a sign of His love, he continued.
Archbishop O’Malley told the transitional deacons that the stole they received that day, which they will wear over their left shoulders to signify the office of deacon, should remind them of the towel Jesus used to wipe the feet of His disciples. As deacons, their role is to serve the poor, serve the priest and the bishop at the altar and preach the Gospel, said the archbishop.
While it is possible for the Church to ordain men as priests without first ordaining them deacons, he continued, ordination to the order of deacon serves “to impress on ... candidates that ministry is above all service — humble service,” he explained.
As seminarians prepare for the priesthood they must commit to remaining celibate, obedient and prayerful said Archbishop O’Malley. He asked the diaconal candidates to vow to remain celibate in their ministry.
Celibacy “will make sense” if it is treated as “an act of self-giving, an act of love for the Lord, for the people for his Church,” the archbishop continued. “It will free you for the things of the kingdom and will make you available to serve God’s people with openness to all especially those who are most in need.”
Archbishop O’Malley told the men to rely on unity with the people they will serve and solidarity with their fellow deacons and with priests to sustain them in their commitment to celibacy. Prayer is also “essential” to remaining celibate, he said.
As deacons, the archbishop said, they are obligated to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which he said will provide them with the strength to remain faithful to their vocation. “The secret of your happiness in service of the Lord rests in great part on the seriousness with which you commit yourself to daily prayer,” the archbishop told them.
Deacons are also called to be obedient to the Church and to their superiors during their ordination. Archbishop O’Malley reminded the seven that “obedience is an event,” not simply a concept. Obedience to the Church is what unites the ministries of priest, deacons, bishops and religious, he said.
We are not “free creatures ... our life is not our own, because we have given it to God” he told the seminarians.
The archbishop then asked the group several questions regarding their commitments to celibacy, to their ministry, to service, to prayer and to testifying to their faith. After answering the questions, the candidates approached Archbishop O’Malley one by one and pledged obedience to him and his successors. The archbishop laid his hands on each of their heads and ordained them. He then extended the kiss of peace to each deacon.
The ordination concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist.
For Father John Farren, OP, who is in his first year as rector of St. John Seminary, the ordination was “a source of deep satisfaction and great joy.”
"I think these men are fine men and I think their ministry in the Church will be fruitful and greatly blessed," he stated.
Gaspar, 25, one of the men ordained a deacon, recalled that his head was spinning during the ceremony, but he felt a great sense of peace after his ordination.
"I just felt like all of the work I've done and everything that I've ever done or ever hoped for was being fulfilled in that moment," he said. "It wasn't just what I was giving to God, but it was what God was giving to me."
He said that the archbishop’s homily was one of the “most moving” he had ever heard. He was especially struck by the call to service, which he described as “fighting for the towel and not the first place.”
"As someone preparing for the priesthood in May, we were ordained to serve and to give ourselves completely to the mission of the Church," Gaspar stated. "With the help of God and with the prayers of the Church," he said, he hopes to accomplish that.
Editors note: Due to an unforeseen problem with photography, we were unable to provide our traditional level of coverage of the deaconal ordination. We extend our apologies to the newly ordained deacons and their families. We would also like to express our gratitude to Boston Catholic Television for sharing images from their coverage with us.