By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published May 29, 2008
Six men, representing four countries and collectively speaking 10 different languages, were ordained as transitional deacons by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory on Saturday, May 24, during a reverent and emotion-filled Mass. Friends and family of the candidates excitedly filed into the Cathedral of Christ the King to support the men in this next step of their journey to the priesthood.
Ordained at the Mass were Rev. Mr. Salomón García Cortés, Rev. Mr. William Tan Hao, Rev. Mr. Omar Loggiodice, Rev. Mr. Brian Thomas Lorei, Rev. Mr. Ignacio Morales Solís and Rev. Mr. Dominic Tho Tran.
With an elaborate procession, comprised of 20 permanent deacons and almost 50 priests, including principal celebrant Archbishop Gregory and Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue, the Mass commenced on a typically warm May morning.
The archbishop welcomed families, friends and colleagues of the candidates, thanking them all for the prayer and support they had provided during this important process.
Archbishop Gregory spoke to the candidates during his homily and compared their experience to that of the first ordained deacons.
“The church continuously has had exceedingly high standards when it comes to selecting those whom she calls to sacred orders,” said the archbishop.
“Although by today’s criterion the ancient requirements may seem somewhat benign to our candidates this morning. The first deacons did not have to undergo long years of seminary education and formation. They did not have to pass exams in scripture, moral theology, church history, liturgy and dogma. They were not subjected to endless faculty evaluations and formation reviews,” Archbishop Gregory continued with a smile.
He then spoke about the similarities between the deacons present in the church and those who served thousands of years ago. Like today, the first deacons were “men of integrity, responsible, holy and trustworthy,” said the archbishop.
Archbishop Gregory repeated the importance of the support provided by each of the men’s families, and he thanked them directly for everything they have done to bring the candidates to this place in their journey.
“These men come from loving families whose support and affection have prepared them for this day in their lives. In my name and in the name of the church in North Georgia, I thank all those parents, siblings, relatives and friends who gather this day to witness the ordination of these men. We thank you for nurturing them, encouraging them, preparing them to become our servant ministers in the order of the diaconate,” the archbishop said.
The homily came directly after the presentation of the candidates, when each of the names was read by Father Luke Ballman, director of vocations for the archdiocese of Atlanta, who testified to the archbishop that this group of men is worthy of holding the sacred office.
Following the archbishop’s address to the candidates and the assembly, the six men approached Archbishop Gregory, knelt before him and promised their obedience and respect to him and his successors.
After each candidate made his promise, the archbishop clasped their hands, looked them straight in the eye and spoke encouraging words: “May God, who has begun the good work in you, bring it to fulfillment.”
The rite of ordination continued as the candidates prostrated themselves before the altar and the congregation sang a litany of the saints.
The six men were then dressed for the first time in their stoles and dalmatics. A number of archdiocesan priests assisted the deacons during this part of the rite, including Father Brian Higgins, chaplain at Southern Catholic College in Dawsonville, who previously served as archdiocesan director of vocations.
Each of the new deacons approached the archbishop again, this time to receive the Book of the Gospels and conclude the rite of ordination.
“I will never forget the moment when Archbishop Wilton Gregory handed the Book of Gospels to me with the words: ‘Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach,’” said Rev. Mr. Hao by e-mail following the event. “Needless to say, the office of deacon entails an enormous responsibility.”
Following the Mass, the parishioners and newly ordained deacons gathered in the social hall to continue the celebration.
Lela Long, a long-time parishioner at Transfiguration Church, has known Rev. Mr. Hao for several years and said he was always involved at Transfiguration, from completing many hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to teaching in the preparation program.
“We are really thrilled that Bill is going to be on our campus this summer,” she said about his summer assignment to her parish.
In addition to his friends from throughout Georgia, Rev. Mr. Hao’s sister, Elizabeth Hao Ronkowski, flew across the country from Redondo Beach, Calif., to be with her brother during this important time.
“It was wonderful,” Ronkowski said about the Mass. “It is like a retreat for me. … And the whole family will be coming next year for his ordination to the priesthood.”
Originally from the Philippines, Rev. Mr. Hao worked for 25 years in the computer software industry. The 49-year-old received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1980 from the University of Philippines, but he has now answered a call that he heard earlier in his life.
“I’ve always wanted to become a priest since high school,” he said. “After graduating from college, I worked at a brewery plant and then pursued a career in computer software development. During this time, my desire to become a priest lay dormant, but after 18 years in the corporate world of information technology, my vocation was rekindled. A co-worker, Joy Payton, was entering the convent to become a nun and we got to talk. She introduced me to the discernment meetings at Emory, and things began to happen one after the other, which led to my entering the seminary four years ago.”
Also ordained at the Mass was Rev. Mr. Loggiodice, 37, who is originally from Miami. The electronics engineer also spent several years in the computer software industry. He has been assigned to serve at St. James the Apostle Church, McDonough, this summer.
“In reality God had planned this path for me from long ago, but he had to clean my ‘windshield’ before I could see it,” he wrote by e-mail. “I was very happy with my work before—I enjoyed it very much. However, the happiness and joy that I have now is beyond any job or position or status that I could ever have. I have discovered true happiness in the world, and it can only be found in God!”
Rev. Mr. Loggiodice’s mother, Virginia, lives in Acworth and attended the Mass with her husband. Just after the ordination Mass ended, she shared with great emotion, “My son brought me here. I give my son to God, to the church, to the people … to the world.”
Rev. Mr. Loggiodice never hesitates to offer thanks to those who have supported him.
“What a joy,” he exclaimed about all his family and friends present during the reception following the Mass.
Rev. Mr. Loggiodice, who graduated from Simon Bolivar University in 1992, said he is interested in the RCIA and catechesis ministries of the church.
Rev. Mr. Tran, who is originally from Bien Hoa, Vietnam, was also surrounded by friends and family during the reception. The deacon, who described the ordination Mass as “beautiful and prayerful,” graduated from Divine Word College in 2005 and has been assigned to St. Monica Church, Duluth, for the summer.
One of a group of friends present at the ordinations from Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Mission in Norcross, Tuan Hoang said that he has known Deacon Tran for about eight years. Smiling and speaking slowly in English, Hoang shared that he was happy for his friend and that the new deacon “needs your prayers.”
After the Mass Rev. Mr. Lorei laughed and smiled with a group of old and new friends gathered to wish him well. The deacon, who is 45 years old and comes from Erie, Penn., graduated from the University of Dayton in 1994 with a degree in industrial engineering. He spent more than 15 years working for Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems Co. in Marietta but now spends much of his time studying for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. He is assigned to St. Michael Church in Gainesville for the summer.
Michael Pratt, a teenage parishioner at St. Augustine Church, Covington, said his family has known Rev. Mr. Lorei for many years. He felt the ordination Mass depicted the “church united” and said it was “neat to see all the priests come together.”
Also in attendance to support Rev. Mr. Lorei was David Troy, a parishioner at St. James the Apostle Church. The two had once been roommates years ago, and Troy said that his friend is “an inspiration. He gave up a lot—he was an engineer at Lockheed.”
He added that people find Rev. Mr. Lorei to be very engaging—he’s “too much of a magnet … it is infectious when he tells people his story.”
Rick Mianulli, another friend of Rev. Mr. Lorei, is a parishioner at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta. He’s known Lorei for 20 years and said that “people just gravitate to him.”
“He is in a perfect position to affect people,” Mianulli said.
Rev. Mr. Morales, 30, is originally from Guanajuato, Mexico. The deacon studied philosophy at San José Seminary in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico before coming to the U.S. and learning English at Georgia State University, Atlanta. The newly ordained deacon will serve a pastoral year at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Dallas.
Also originally from Mexico, Rev. Mr. García, 33, who attended school in Saint Benedict, La., is interested in serving the church through the RCIA program.
He said he decided to pursue a call to this vocation because of his love for Christ. He wanted to answer God’s call and “to dedicate my life to God in this path of life.”
In his homily, Archbishop Gregory reminded the six men of the importance of this stage in their lives.
“My brothers who today also become my sons, the order of the diaconate will serve as a transitional moment in your lives as you continue your preparation for the priesthood. … To be a deacon must first of all be an indication that you are a man of charity—real and heartfelt compassion and concern for the poor, the neglected, and the marginalized members of our world. …Today you become a member of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Atlanta—it brings with it a serious obligation of humble service to the people of this local church.”