By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published June 1, 2017 | En Español
ATLANTA—Thunderous applause echoed off the stone walls of the Cathedral of Christ the King as four men presented themselves to be ordained as transitional deacons, a milestone toward serving as Catholic priests.
As the men lay face down on the stone floor, friends and family filling the Gothic church’s wooden pews asked the saints to add their spiritual support and sang, “All you holy men and women, pray for us.”
In his words to the community, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory instructed the men, “Your first title is servant and not sovereign.”
The new deacons are Rev. Mr. Michael Bremer, Rev. Mr. Jack Knight, Rev. Mr. J. Michael Metz and Rev. Mr. Carlos Ortega.
The day before, the same church was nearly empty, with just a few people praying in the pews while seminarians and the four to be ordained ran through a rehearsal of the ordination rite.
Standing near where he would lie prostrate on the ground during his ordination the next day, Knight said the four transitional deacons share a “deep sense of gratitude to our families, to the people who have inspired us in our communities, in our churches, who have prayed for us, who have supported us, who have written letters to us, postcards and care packages.”
He reflected on their journey of study and preparation for ordination.
“It is kind of surreal … seven years later, for me, that it is coming to fruition and the Lord is being faithful and I am going to be an ordained deacon to serve the people of God,” he said.
Invite people to trust in the Gospel
A ticket was required to claim a seat in the Peachtree Road landmark on Saturday, May 27. Some 30 priests and a dozen deacons joined Archbishop Gregory at the celebration, along with Bishop Luis R. Zarama, Atlanta auxiliary bishop, and Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
The ordination rite required the men to promise respect and obedience to Archbishop Gregory and his successors. They also committed themselves to a life of celibacy. Then with the ritual laying on of his hands and prayer of consecration, Archbishop Gregory called upon the Holy Spirit to come down on each of the men being ordained.
The archbishop said the new deacons should knit their ministry with the less fortunate together with their roles at liturgical celebrations. Feeding the hungry should help deacons assist at the consecration of “the Bread of Life,” he said, while attending to the sick should prepare them to help grieving people in the church’s funeral rituals.
“You must preach a word of encouragement and promise based upon the Lord’s Gospel,” he said.
As “heralds of the Good News,” the people on the margins should be in their care, he said. “You must invite the people who rarely hear any good news to trust that the words of the Gospel are true and hopeful for them indeed.”
He said the actions of deacons should be so welcoming people “first see Christ’s presence in what you do before they even notice you.”
The new deacons must “anchor” their ministry in prayer, he said. The archbishop said the men must “speak with God from the depth of your own heart.” Without prayer, they risk becoming “adrift in a world that has gone astray.”
Archbishop Gregory ended his homily, “Everyone that I know wants to hear good news and this morning, there is a lot of good news to be found among these young men and we pray that each day there will be more.”
Future military chaplain
One of the new deacons, Rev. Mr. Ortega, 37, taught middle school Spanish. Rev. Mr. Metz, 27, hopes to serve as a U.S. Army chaplain. Rev. Mr. Knight, 30, served as a missionary in the Caribbean, Latin America and also Europe in his early college years. Rev. Mr. Bremer, 26, entered seminary after earning a business degree at the University of Georgia. They will serve in parishes and missions around the Atlanta Archdiocese for the summer before returning to seminary.
As deacons, they will preach at Mass and serve at funerals. They may also baptize new Catholics and witness weddings.
“I am looking forward to listening to the Lord to point out his ministry for me. It is because God directs my ministry that each opportunity to serve is exciting to me,” said Rev. Mr. Knight.
The son of Jack and Lelis Knight, he grew up in Buford and at Prince of Peace Church, Flowery Branch. Parish Deacon Bill Donohue was asked to vest him. “I look up to this man as a simple, devoted, hardworking, loving man of God who serves with conviction and ease,” Rev. Mr. Knight said.
Rev. Mr. Metz, whose home parish is Mary Our Queen Church, Peachtree Corners, is excited about the possibility of celebrating baptisms.
“There is literally nothing else in the world like it,” he said.
He chose Deacon Jim Stone from his parish to vest him at the ordination Mass, out of gratitude to the clergy at Mary Our Queen.
“He is the model of a deacon in my mind,” Rev. Mr. Metz said. “The care and devotion he brings to the Mass and to his ministry is personal and real.”
Rev. Mr. Metz participated in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps as an undergraduate college student at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. He holds the rank of first lieutenant in the Army Reserve. He is excused from military drills during his studies at seminary.
Marion Metz, his mother, recalled when her son announced his goal to attend seminary. He returned from a military exercise. When he sat the family down, she expected to hear his military aspirations. He did, but in a roundabout way. Rev. Mr. Metz told his family he was interested in joining as an Army chaplain, which could only mean he intended to become a priest, she said. He is one of 11 children of Marion and Patrick Metz.
She said her son has become more settled since setting his heart on ministry as a priest.
“He’s very joyful,” said Metz. “He always sees the best in people, high energy, very positive.”
Rev. Mr. Ortega was surrounded by several former teacher colleagues from Webb Bridge Middle School, Alpharetta, following the ordination. He taught for 10 years in middle school, high school and college. A native of Venezuela, he is fluent in Spanish with basic abilities in the Romance languages of Italian and French and a smattering of Portuguese. The teachers celebrated the happy occasion with him. They complimented him for his patience, his skills with both teachers and students and his willingness to pitch in whenever needed.
His parents, Juan Ortega and Nancy Valera, are a grocery store owner and a retired teacher. He attended St. Patrick Church, Norcross, and chose Deacon Bill McKenzie from that parish to vest him at the ordination Mass, inspired by the deacon’s commitment to service and “great zeal.”
Lorena Galloway said he brought a “sense of calmness” to the school’s foreign language department.
Teacher Barbara Lyon, who attends St. Brendan the Navigator Church, Cumming, said he had the knack to encourage people to keep focused.
“He saw the big picture better than most,” she said.
Rev. Mr. Bremer grew up in a military family, living in Germany, Belgium and Louisiana before attending UGA. His parents, Grazyna and Ralph Bremer, work as civilians for the U.S. government.
He asked Father Tim Hepburn, vocations director of the archdiocese, to vest him as a deacon.
“For living and serving as a clergyman, he has taught me to balance all of the good things about this vocation,” Rev. Mr. Bremer said. “He is full of joy. … I admire his peace and his pastoral heart, most of all.”
Looking back, he recalled choosing St. Paul for his confirmation saint. “For me, he is a saint who has inhuman trust in the Lord. He is a man of adventure, who has had a lot of difficulties, yet loves Jesus in all things.”