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A long applause greeted 14 candidates for the permanent diaconate, ordained on Sept. 18, after they were presented to the congregation at Holy Cross Cathedral. The rite of ordination to the order of deacon began with a procession and greeting by Archbishop Seán O’Malley.
“It is a very joyous, wonderful occasion to come together to consecrate the lives of so many fine men of our Church,” said the archbishop in his homily.
The first group of Christians had many things in common, but changes in the early Church caused diversity and tensions, he said.
After Peter entered the house of a gentile, the Church experienced “growing pains” as “Christ’s Church grew into a family without frontiers,” said the archbishop.
“He made a forbidden gesture entering the house of a gentile, and a new era began with the challenges of being a truly universal, a truly catholic Church” he added.
The solution to the tensions was the institution of the diaconate so that deacons could act as “bridge builders” and “peacemakers,” he said.
The first seven deacons, ordained by the Twelve Apostles, served the poor, widowed and orphaned, he said.
“So our deacons today must have a special love and solicitude for God’s little ones, for the poor, the sick, the homeless, prisoners, the alcoholics, the drug dealers, the lonely, the sinners and the forgotten,” he said.
Deacons are called to serve humanity with simplicity and be holy men of prayer, the archbishop said.
The archbishop addressed the deacons being ordained, saying, “You will distribute the Eucharist to the Church, hospitals and shut-ins. Be Eucharistic men. Spend time with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.”
He also advised the men to, “Take care of your beautiful wives.” All of the newly ordained deacons are husbands and fathers.
The call to the diaconate is about sacrifice and holiness, along with obedience and respect for bishops, he said.
Bishops are the spiritual heirs of the original Twelve Apostles, he added.
“Your ministry makes sense only in connection with the ministry of the bishop and the whole Church,” Archbishop O’Malley said.
The archbishop added that Jesus is calling the deacons to be His friends.
“The commitment of friendship goes farther than just being a job,” he said.
The diaconate is not about salary, he said. It is about friendship and love, and Jesus laid down His life because of His love for us.
“Every person on the day of his ordination should say to himself, ‘This is not about me. It is about Christ and serving His people,’” said the archbishop.
After the homily, the candidates further affirmed their intention to serve as deacons. Together they promised to consecrate themselves to ministry, have humble charity, proclaim the faith in word and deed, grow deeper in prayer and conform their lives to Christ.
One by one the candidates came forward and knelt before the archbishop, promising obedience to him and his successors.
During the litany of saints, the candidates lay prostrate before the altar as a sign of their humble submission to God’s will.
Then one at a time the candidates came forward, kneeling before the archbishop, for the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration.
Next each of the deacons’ wives handed a stole and dalmatic to a priest or deacon who vested her husband.
As each deacon came forward again, Archbishop O’Malley presented him with the Book of the Gospels, saying, “Receive the gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
Then the archbishop — along with priests and deacons attending the ceremony —greeted each of the newly ordained during the Kiss of Peace.
During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, deacons’ wives presented the gifts and new Deacons Thomas W. Robison and Reynold G. Spadoni served at the altar.
The Cathedral festival choir, which included choir members from some of the parishes where the deacons minister, and the Cathedral brass ensemble played a processional song. A prolonged applause accompanied the music.
The first Boston deacons were ordained 1976, and an ordination takes place every two years. In the archdiocese, 308 men have been ordained to the permanent diaconate, and there are currently 204 active permanent deacons. There are 17 men in the class of 2006 and 18 men in the class of 2008.
Each deacon studies for four years at St. John Seminary in Brighton, but this years’ new deacons said the calling to the diaconate came long before their studies began.
“I think it’s something that’s been growing in me for 10 to 15 years,” said Deacon Phil DiBello after the ceremony.
Deacon DiBello began by volunteering in his parish, and the experience was so appealing that he wanted to do more, he said.
“The seed of service just grows and blossoms into the diaconate,” he said.
Deacon DiBello’s wife, Debra Fergus, said she is proud of all the men who were ordained to serve.
“God called them to the Church,” she said.
Fergus said her husband felt called for years, the couple waited until they knew their family could handle the “new adventure.”
Laura Spadoni and her husband also spent time discerning.
“We prayed on it for a long time,” she said.
Her husband will serve at their home parish, Blessed Sacrament in Walpole, where one of their daughters will be confirmed this year.
Through giving, Spadoni and her husband have received more than they imagined, she said.
“The journey was a wonderful experience,” she said.
Deacon Stephen Papik said he also answered a calling, but in the end it was up to Jesus.
“I might have said yes, but He did most of the work,” he said.