Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

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(L-r, front row) Immaculate Heart of Mary Church parishioners Fernando and Yolanda Munoz stand with ordination candidate Feiser Munoz Polanco, as Dennis Dorner Jr. stands with his mother Susan and his grandfather Donald Dorner just following the opening procession. Photo By Michael Alexander


Six Men Ordained To Transitional Diaconate

By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published June 7, 2012

Six men entered the ranks of the clergy in the Archdiocese of Atlanta on Saturday, May 26, as they were ordained transitional deacons.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory served as the main celebrant and celebrated the Rite of Ordination to confer holy orders on the six men: Dennis Dorner Jr., Feiser E. Muñoz Polanco, Cong Nguyen, Michael C. Revak, Gaurav M. Shroff and Richard Vu.

Friends and family filled the pews of Atlanta’s mother church on the warm Saturday morning as 40 priests joined Archbishop Gregory and Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama as concelebrants at the Mass.

The archbishop encouraged the group of men, who come from countries across the globe, from Vietnam to India, as well as from the United States. But he also reminded them that their journey is entering a new, more difficult phase as they prepare to be ordained to the priesthood for the archdiocese next year.

“My beloved sons, you are excited and thrilled that today has finally dawned in your lives. I, too, am grateful that the Lord has prepared you for this moment and that you have responded so generously,” Archbishop Gregory said.

“But let us not fool ourselves; you are embarking on a challenging new relationship and upon a daunting venture,” he continued. “Following the Lord Jesus into the life into which he now officially invites you is no easy task. Becoming the Lord’s deacon, and in time his priest, is fraught with challenges today as perhaps never before in recent history. But I believe before God that you are worthy of the daunting task.”

The candidates were presented to Archbishop Gregory by the archdiocesan vocations director, Father Tim Hepburn, who affirmed that they were prepared to be ordained deacons.

Minutes before the May 26 transitional diaconate ordination, Gaurav Shroff, left, makes one final post to Facebook as Cong Nguyen, center, relaxes in the company of Bishop Luis Zarama, auxiliary bishop of Atlanta, and the other four ordination candidates. Photo By Michael Alexander

They have devoted several years to intense study in the seminary and to a range of ministry assignments and formation experiences.

“The schedule is hectic,” as a seminarian, wrote Rev. Mr. Shroff, 39, who entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., after earning a degree in geology from St. Xavier’s College, Mubai, India, and one in religious studies from the University of South Carolina.

In the seminary “one is constantly changing gears,” he said. “It requires solid time management skills, as well as a serious internal commitment to the various aspects of formation.”

All of that hard work faded into the background as the candidates focused on their ordination, reverently kneeling before Archbishop Gregory as he laid his hands on them in silent prayer and the men accepted their new roles in the Church.

It was a particularly special event for the Dorner family. Deacon Dennis Dorner, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and director of the Permanent Diaconate Office, assisted at the Mass during which his son, 31, was being ordained a transitional deacon. It was a powerful experience for the proud father, who gained a “brother in ministry,” as well as for his wife, Susan.

“It was emotional, for a lot of reasons. Both Susan and I were proud beyond words,” Deacon Dorner said. “I was personally touched by the connection that we now share with holy orders. He is my son, but he also in a new way is my brother in ministry. That is a little tough to get your head around, but it’s how I was feeling.”

A particularly poignant moment came during the investiture, one of the final portions of the rite. The newly ordained receive the stole and dalmatic, two liturgical vestments worn by deacons. The younger Dorner had asked to be vested with the same stole his father received at his ordination, and when the moment came, Deacon Dorner said it brought “tears of great joy.”

While the six men were the focus that day, Archbishop Gregory reminded them of the humbling task they have as servants in the Church. He reminded them of the roots of the diaconate and how the needs of others must come before their own. For this group of men, the role of service is welcomed.

“I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am that only one more year stands between me and a life of sacramental service to the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, God and the bishop willing, of course,” said Rev. Mr. Revak, 28, a New York native. “My heart is longing for the parish and her people: to preach to them, say Mass for them, baptize their children, forgive their sins, and ultimately lead them closer to Christ Jesus.”

Rev. Mr. Revak has been studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. He spent a year as a novice with a religious order near Washington, D.C., prior to his entrance to Mount St. Mary’s, and while the road has been difficult, he has grown closer to God and his fellow seminarians.

“There is an absolutely fantastic sense of fraternity among the men that is a joy to be a part of. It is truly a blessing,” he said.

Rev. Mr. Nguyen, 40, is a native of Vietnam, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education. He joined family members living in Norcross in 2001 and after working for a few years, entered the seminary of the Divine Word missionary order. He applied to the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2007.

“I have been 13 years in different formations. God is very patient with me,” he wrote by email. “I am pleased with where I am right now. I am willing to serve wherever our archbishop wants.”

Clockwise, from top right) Newly ordained transitional deacons Gaurav Shroff, Dennis Dorner Jr., Cong Nguyen, Feiser Munoz Polanco, Richard Vu, and Michael Revak join vocations director Father Tim Hepburn, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Auxiliary Bishop Luis Zarama on the steps of the cathedral for a group photo. Photo By Michael Alexander

Rev. Mr. Muñoz has been studying at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa. A native of Colombia, South America, he studied philosophy and theology at the Seminario Conciliar of Bogota, Colombia, from 2005 to 2008. Rev. Mr. Vu has been studying at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.

It was a memorable experience for all those involved, including Father Hepburn, who has followed their progress as they move toward ordination to the priesthood next year.

“I am humbled at the sight of these men answering the call of Jesus, laying down their lives to serve his Church,” Father Hepburn said. “For all of them, the journey to holy orders involved many years of prayer and study. For many of them it involved learning a new language and culture, which they have done through faith and hard work. I think that the archdiocese will be blessed with their ministry for many years.”

The upcoming year will be a humbling experience for the men, who will begin their ministries in new roles as deacons. It is the perfect role to prepare for the priesthood, said Deacon Dorner.

“Our priests all are deacons first, and that is significant,” he said. “The deacon is called to be the icon of Christ the servant. Our priests need to maintain that servant heart even as they take on the additional role that comes with their priestly responsibilities.”

“To see them at this point in their lives, embarking on this ministerial journey, following God’s plan is such a blessing,” he continued. “The excitement and enthusiasm of all six men was tangible. All of us should continue to pray for these men as they begin this journey, as well as all of the other men who are in formation and those who are already serving in our parishes and ministries throughout our archdiocese.”