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Six ordained to transitional diaconate

Deacons Jospeh Mazzone, William Lohan, Tamiru Atraga, Mark Barr, Arthur MacKay and Paul Sullivan were ordained to the transitional diaconate Feb. 2 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

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SOUTH END -- ‘‘The priest’s deepest identity is that of Christ,” said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley in his homily at the transitional diaconate ordination of six men on Feb. 2.

Deacons Tamiru Atraga, Mark Barr and William Lohan from St. John’s Seminary and Deacons Arthur MacKay, Joseph Mazzone and Paul Sullivan from Blessed John XXIII National Seminary were ordained at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. A seventh man, Deacon Joseph Arsenault will join the men for their ordination to the priesthood in May. He was ordained a permanent deacon in 1988 and is studying at Blessed John Seminary.

In the week leading up to the ordination, two priests in the Archdiocese of Boston -- Fathers J. Walter Stocklosa and Daniel Kennedy -- passed away. The cardinal spoke of their passing and the hope represented by the men preparing for priesthood.

Cardinal O’Malley said he was reminded of the book “The Power and the Glory” by British author Graham Greene. At the end of the novel, the last priest in a province of Mexico has been executed, and Catholics in a nearby house are mourning the loss when there is a knock on the door. Outside was another priest who came to serve God’s people.

“This week in our diocese we buried Father Walter, the priest who has been ordained the longest -- 1940, and Father Dan yesterday, another priest who has been ordained the shortest time,” he said. “Yet today we are filled with hope as the Lord sends us new ministers in his Church.”

The newly-ordained men spoke of Father Kennedy, ordained last year, who died suddenly of a heart attack on Jan. 27.

Deacon Mazzone served with Father Kennedy in Winthrop and said of him, “I could not have asked for a better role model.”

Deacon Sullivan said that the next class of priests must continue the mission of Christ.

“We’re stepping forward,” he said.

The ordination, held on the Presentation of the Lord or Candlemas, began with the blessing of candles that were lit and carried into the cathedral by the seminarians. The procession represents the entry of Christ, the light of the world, into the Temple of Jerusalem.

Speaking in his homily of the Gospel reading about the presentation, Cardinal O’Malley said the passage describes two senior citizens -- Simeon and Anna -- who were waiting and longing for the coming of the Lord in the temple.

“I’ve always liked today’s Gospel for many reasons, but in part because it reminds me of daily Mass crowds in our parishes -- there’s often a lot of gray hair,” he said. “In the joy and sacrifice of Simeon and Anna, we see in old age the expectation of the great encounter for which life prepares us.”

Cardinal O’Malley spoke to the ordinands, telling them that their ordination is their presentation in the temple. He exhorted them to make gifts of themselves, love the Eucharist and teach God’s truths.

“Never miss an opportunity to teach the truths of the Catholic faith in season and out of season. We need a new apologetic today in the Church to help our Catholic people embrace our faith deeply in the face of the incessant attacks by the contemporary culture,” he said.

After the homily, the men resolved to remain celibate and promised obedience to the bishop of Boston. Then, they lay prostrate before the altar during the litany of the saints. Next, each man approached the bishop individually and was ordained by the laying on of hands. The men were vested with the stole and dalmatic, presented with the Book of Gospels and greeted by the priests in attendance during the kiss of peace.

The newly-ordained deacons participated in the Liturgy of the Eucharist that followed.

Deacon Sullivan said the ceremony reminded him of all of the prayers and support he has received from his friends, family and the seminary staff and faculty.

“You realize all they have done for you,” he said. “We certainly don’t do this on our own.”

Raymond Mezzone, brother of Deacon Mezzone, said the family, as well as the future priest, are blessed by his vocation.

“I caught myself during the ceremony just thinking how blessed we are as a family,” he said.

Deacon Mezzone said he prayed that he would be the worthy servant that Christ has called and the people of God deserve. While lying prostrate, he asked God to give him the grace to do the best he can.

“The reality of what you’re doing really sinks in. You’re dying to yourself and giving yourself to Christ and his Church,” he said.

Deacon Atraga, who moved to the United States from Ethiopia seven years ago, also found the litany of the saints powerful.

“We are showing God we are nothing. God is everything,” he said of lying prostrate.

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