By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 21, 2018 | En Español
LILBURN—After Sunday Mass, Deacon Evelio Garcia-Carreras carries the Eucharist to two Lilburn assisted living homes. Accompanied by a laywoman and layman, the three bear the sacrament to women and men too weak to travel.
“There is something in the Eucharist that calls my attention. What calls me is Jesus,” he said. He finds joy bringing the Eucharist and spending time with the aging and the infirm.
As other treasured memories fade for the elderly, matters of faith seem to remain.
“You start the Our Father, they follow you and they follow the Sign of the Cross. It’s amazing. The presence of Christ brings to people a happiness, a joy,” he said.
With Cuban roots, Deacon Garcia-Carreras grew up in the Atlanta area since the age of 14. His mother was a homemaker; his father worked supervising cleaners at the Atlanta Federal Reserve. The only son of three children, faith was a cornerstone of the deacon’s home. As a teen he attended a Cursillo weekend retreat, which shaped his beliefs for more than 50 years. A habit formed as a young man continues. He attends daily Mass and rarely misses a day.
“I have gone to Mass all my life, with no exception,” he said sitting in the conference room of St. Stephen the Martyr Church.
As a minister, deacons stand before the congregation and preach at Mass. That responsibility almost sidelined him before his vocation even started.
With wire-rimmed glasses and a deacon’s cross around his neck, Deacon Garcia-Carreras talked about his speech impediment. Before formation, the deacon, 74, felt his trouble speaking might have been a roadblock to his vocation. His stutter can vary in intensity when he speaks. He considered stopping his application. He feared people would not learn from a clergyman whose words were hard to follow, he said.
“To become a deacon, you become a teacher,” he said. “What kind of teacher would I be?”
Instead, he heard encouragement from his pastor, reminding him of how Moses faced his weakness of speaking and how God used him.
“Everybody—and it’s true—has problems in life, pains and sorrows, those are usually what you bring to the Lord. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. His impediment instead makes him approachable and reminds him of a key foundation of his ministry, the humility to serve.
Deacon Garcia-Carreras and his wife, Rosie, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year. He worked as an electronics engineer as they raised four children, and now have 14 grandchildren. He spends time making rosary beads from nylon cord. He’s made some 4,200 rosaries so far that he gives away.
He and the family have been anchored at St. Stephen the Martyr Church since its beginning, after years at St. John Neumann Church. Deacon Garcia-Carreras was one of two deacons in September 1995 to assist at the church’s first Mass in the Parkview High School Cafeteria.
During the early days after ordination, the deacon’s fluency in Spanish was in demand. He drove to three parishes to serve the then small number of Spanish-speaking Catholics. He stepped back from that service with the increase of Hispanic priests and deacons.
But a favorite memory of service came during that time. He instructed a couple about the meaning of baptism for their youngster. Deacon Garcia-Carreras recalled the child’s mother listened with attention. She suddenly asked him to baptize her too.
“Here I was, an instrument of Lord for the lady to be baptized, not just the child,” he said still amazed at the memory.
Deacon Garcia-Carreras said while he is the ordained minister, he feels it is the believers who have taught him what it means to be a man of faith.
“They are the ones that support our faith,” he said. “Their example, their acceptance of hardship, of suffering. They are the ones who support (me).”
This story is part of “In Depth,” a look at the 50th anniversary of the renewal of the permanent diaconate in the United States, featured in the Nov. 22 print issue.