By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published February 19, 2015
ATLANTA—During the Mass of ordination to the diaconate Saturday, Feb. 7, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory reminded the 2015 class of men ordained that the meaning of the word deacon is “one who serves.”
Twelve men were ordained to the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Atlanta at the Cathedral of Christ the King. The new deacons are Christopher Andronaco, David Baker, William Brown, Bernardo Buzeta, Brian Campbell, Michael Chavez, Jerry Daly, William Donohue, Derek Gant, John Harvey, James Steven Thacker and John Timme.
In addition, seminarian Jorge Carranza was ordained as a transitional deacon. He is scheduled to be ordained a priest in June.
Auxiliary Bishops Luis R. Zarama and David P. Talley and priests of the archdiocese concelebrated the Mass.
The deacons all answered the call to serve, yet come from a variety of backgrounds. All but one of these fathers and grandfathers were born outside of Georgia. In the professional world, they work in business, education, insurance and the airline industry.
When most of us hear we have a call, it’s someone calling on the phone, said the archbishop.
“When God calls, we must respond. His call is an invitation that always leads to life and to self-realization,” he said.
The church in the Atlanta Archdiocese calls these men to take up the diaconal ministry, he said, and to share it with those who seek and deserve compassion.
“We call you to this office because we have witnessed your desire to serve others in love,” said Archbishop Gregory. “We know that most of you have revealed your generosity of faith within the circles of love that are your personal families.”
The sacrament of marriage has led these men to a deeper love of the Lord, bringing an additional call and title in the church’s life, said the archbishop.
“From today forth, you will be called a deacon—a minister of the Lord’s Gospel and charity,” he said.
With Christ as the pattern, these new deacons will baptize, bring the Eucharist to many in hospitals, nursing homes or other places of need, comfort the grieving, prepare couples for marriage, and help all understand the word of God through their homilies.
“In all of your liturgical responsibilities, remember that the Lord is the one who should be most apparent in your actions, rather than yourself,” said the archbishop.
Both Archbishop Gregory and Rev. Mr. Carranza have a connection to the late Msgr. John Michael Hayes of Chicago. He was the archbishop’s childhood pastor and in later years was the pastor of the new transitional deacon’s parish.
Archbishop Gregory noted with great emotion this common bond in their vocational journeys.
“As you will recall, as do I, he was an icon of generosity, dedication and priestly holiness of life,” said the archbishop.
Msgr. Hayes dedicated his ministry to serving the African-American community on the South Side of Chicago, and later the Hispanic communities.
“That heritage of holiness must fill your own ministry as you first become a deacon for us and then soon become our priest,” he told Rev. Mr. Carranza.
Family members of the new deacons traveled from throughout the nation to be at the ordination. The deacons sat with their families at the beginning of the rite, which includes their promise of obedience, the litany of supplication during which the candidates are prostrate in prayer, the ordination itself and prayer of consecration, and the investiture with stole and dalmatic, the vestments of a deacon.
Following the investiture, the archbishop offered the sign of peace to the new deacons, a gesture repeated by all the other deacons and priests.
“Welcome, servant,” said most of the fellow deacons upon embracing their new brothers.
Deacon class used National Directory formation
“He’s been wanting this for a long time,” said Jack Andronaco, one of Deacon Andronaco’s three sons.
His parish is the Cathedral of Christ the King, and he has been involved in the ministries of St. Vincent de Paul, marriage preparation, and altar server training, among others. His future ministries of interest include raising awareness about human trafficking and airport ministry.
The deacons’ wives participated in the Mass as lectors and in presenting the gifts.
Wendy Daly, whose husband will serve at St. Gabriel Church in Fayetteville, said she has already become accustomed to sharing him with others.
“I’m very proud of him,” she said. “One of the best things for me is we’re closer as a couple. We’ve both grown.”
Deacon Daly, a native of Louisiana, called the experience overwhelming.
“It’s a great gift God has given me,” he said.
The deacon hopes to be involved in ministries serving the homeless, in religious education, and in the foreign missions.
For other men considering diaconate formation, Deacon Daly offered encouragement.
“Don’t be afraid. Just jump right in and the Holy Spirit will provide … one day at a time,” he said.
Deacon Campbell will serve at St. Brigid Church in Johns Creek.
He called the ordination Mass a “slice of heaven on earth.” He and his wife, Mary Pat, arrived early and she shared her joy that God had led them on this beautiful journey. She then prayed over him and told God she was willing to share him.
“I was elevated the rest of the day after this encounter,” said Deacon Campbell. “My family from New York and Chicago were bowled over by the beauty of the Mass.”
While no one deacon influenced his formation decision, he does look up to the example of Deacon Tom Huff of St. Brigid.
The deacon will pursue Catholic Relief Services Global Fellow training to serve the neediest areas of the world.
Deacon Campbell said each deacon believes their class is best and he is no different.
“Each of these men served as a constant inspiration to me when I would observe how they were already serving their parishes and sacrificing for God’s people. I consider my five years with these men and their wives one of the greatest blessings of my life,” he said.
Deacon Chavez, of St. Oliver Plunkett Church in Snellville, said it was impossible to find the words to describe the day.
Gathered with loved ones at a reception in Kenny Hall following Mass, Deacon Chavez was grateful all his family, with the exception of one brother, could attend the ordination. “It’s a blessing,” he said.
His journey to the diaconate began with a question from then-Msgr. Talley.
“So when are you going to become a deacon?” he asked.
Chavez had never thought of being a deacon prior to that encounter.
Deacon Chavez is hoping to become active in the disabilities ministry and prison ministry, and perhaps most of all, he wants to support and assist the priests of the archdiocese who are stretched thin.
“It’s extremely important. We need vocations to the priesthood,” he said.
The deacon then pointed to his young grandson, Greg Koerner III, who was waiting patiently to chat with his granddad. The 5-year-old said he wants to be a priest.
Deacons commit years to study and training while in formation. Deacon Dennis Dorner, director of the permanent diaconate, noted that the 2015 class was the first in the archdiocese to go through the completely reformed program using the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Directory.
The national guidelines, promulgated by Archbishop Gregory while president of the Catholic conference, outlined how bishops ought to be preparing deacons in America. That model has been implemented in the Atlanta Archdiocese.
“I’m very proud to say these men have done a spectacular job,” said Deacon Dorner.