Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Two Ordained As Transitional Deacons For Atlanta

By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published November 16, 2006

Though they are 5,000 miles apart from each other, two men recently took a new step on their journey toward priesthood as they were ordained traditional deacons for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Rev. Mr. Armando Herrejon-Lopez was ordained to the transitional diaconate on Oct. 31 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, following Rev. Mr. Jaime David Rivera-Cortijo, who was ordained as a transitional deacon earlier in the month on Oct. 5, in Rome, Italy.

At the local ordination on Oct. 31, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated a small, intimate Mass to ordain Rev. Mr. Herrejon-Lopez. The crowd, made up of mostly Hispanic Catholics, joyfully participated in the bilingual Mass, filled with the music from Deacon Herrejon-Lopez’s native Mexico.

Twenty-one priests concelebrated the ordination Mass.

During the rite, vocations director Father Brian Higgins presented the candidate for ordination, and the exuberant crowd responded with a standing ovation.

In his homily, Archbishop Gregory asked that same crowd to constantly pray for the new deacon.

“Please pray for this young man that he will always open up his heart to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and to give himself completely in love for the service of the Church,” he said.

Deacon Herrejon-Lopez, 33, spent more than 13 years in formation in a seminary in Mexico. Archbishop Gregory acknowledged the long journey that he had taken toward the ordination to the transitional diaconate.

“Armando, my dear son, after many years of discernment, both in Mexico, the land of your birth, and here in North Georgia, the place where you will serve, you present yourself this evening for the laying on of hands and the prayer of the Church in order to become a servant minister—a Deacon,” he said. “I welcome the gift of your life for the Archdiocese of Atlanta and all of her people.”

The archbishop also spoke of the great responsibility possessed by a minister of the Catholic Church, a challenge, he said, that has “never been greater than it is today.”

“You are embarking upon a very difficult mission, but one that will make you extremely happy if you hand over your life to God’s design. A deacon is a minister who lives in the image of Christ Himself who was first and foremost a servant,” he said. “There are those who perhaps may have a notion that we in Holy Orders are privileged men. We are privileged only in so far as we choose to represent Christ in the world, to speak for Him, to live like Him, to preach and teach in His Name. That is a privilege but one that is less concerned with our own honor and importance and more with His style and pattern of authority and service.”

Following the homily, the candidate then made his commitment to celibacy and a promise to be obedient to Archbishop Gregory and his successors. Then, as the congregation knelt in prayer, Herrejon-Lopez prostrated himself on the floor of the Cathedral, as the Litany of the Saints was sung in Spanish.

Archbishop Gregory laid his hands upon the candidate and prayed a prayer of consecration. He then presented the new deacon with the Book of the Gospels. Finally, Deacon Herrejon-Lopez was greeted with the kiss of peace by his fellow deacons.

Following the Mass, a reception was held in the Cathedral parish hall. As a mariachi band played, a slide show of pictures of the new deacon flashed on a screen.

Edilson Torres Gonzàlez is a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Atlanta, where Deacon Herrejon-Lopez is currently serving. “He is very dedicated to our community and has a great love for what he is doing,” he said. “People feel a bond with him already.”

Father Jim Schillinger, pastor of IHM, said that even though Deacon Herrejon-Lopez had only been at the parish a few months, he had made a great impact.

“He’s only there part time because he’s studying English at Georgia State, but the time he is there, he is working hard. He has been very well received by the parish. He’s just a gentle, simple man,” he said. “He’s an honest, genuine and prayerful guy. I feel very proud today.”

Deacon Herrejon-Lopez, in an e-mail interview, said that he feels blessed by his ordination and his service to the archdiocese. The ordination was emotional for him, he said, especially while he lay prostrate and the congregation prayed for him.

“Many moments of the ordination were the key of the grace of God for me, but I was ready to express my self-giving to God and to the Church when I was prostrated on the ground,” he said.

He also expressed his joy in serving in Atlanta.

“I’m here, and I want to spent my whole life (serving) the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” he said.

Ordained In The Eternal City

On Oct. 5, Jaime Rivera was ordained at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Bishop Edwin F. O’Brien, head of the U.S. Military Archdiocese, celebrated the Mass during which more than 25 seminarians were ordained to the transitional diaconate.

Deacon Rivera, 33, is a native of Puerto Rico. He has served pastoral internships at several parishes in the archdiocese, including Holy Trinity in Peachtree City, St. Joseph Church in Dalton, St. Michael Church in Woodstock, St. Matthew Church in Tyrone and St. Pius X Church in Conyers.

Father John Kieran, pastor of St. Pius, brought 26 people from the parish to Rome to witness the ordination.

When Deacon Rivera served his parish during the summer of 2003, Father Kieran said he made a great impression on parishioners.

“The parish took to him very well. He’s a delightful, very likeable young man,” he said.

During his summer at St. Pius, Deacon Rivera visited the sick and helped with the daily liturgies and vacation Bible school. During his first Mass as a deacon, Father Kieran said that Deacon Rivera expressed his great connection the parish. Though none of his biological family was able to come to Rome for the ordination, Deacon Rivera told those who had traveled that he considered them as his family.

“That was a wonderful affirmation to us as a parish in the way that we try to support vocations,” Father Kieran said. “It was just a really special moment.”

Deacon Joe Rhodes, who serves at St. Pius, was one of 10 deacons who assisted with the ordination Mass at St. Peter’s, an experience he said still “runs chills through (his) body.” Deacon Rhodes, too, spoke of the great impression that Deacon Rivera made on the parish.

“He really got engaged with the parishioners. He got involved with the families. He just got to know the people.”

The new deacon said he felt especially moved during the Mass when Archbishop O’Brien laid his hands on him.

“When the archbishop was imposing his hands over me a prayer came to my mind—‘Totus Tuus,’—I’m all yours, God, Blessed Mother, Holy Mother Church,” he said. “This was one of the favorite prayers of Pope John Paul II, and it’s written in the apostolic palace near a beautiful image of our Blessed Mother. I realized that from now on I’m a part of God in a more profound way, and it was accompanied with a great sense of peace and joy.”

Deacon Rivera said he feels fortunate to serve in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, where he feels so supported.

“The Church of Atlanta is a special place. They really love their priests and seminarians and are so proud of them. I know they feel our achievements like the achievements of their sons and daughters—because after all we are all part of a big family.”