By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 9, 2021
ATLANTA–Seven men were ordained Feb. 6 to serve the community in the Archdiocese of Atlanta as deacons.
Six of the men will serve in ministries as permanent deacons. One will serve as deacon as a transition to the priesthood in 2022.
Calling the candidates “dear sons,” Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., ordained the men with the ancient tradition of laying on of hands and praying over them.
In his homily, the archbishop said the ministry is as needed today as it was during the times of the Apostles, drawing believers together and serving people who live on the margins of society.
“The busyness of our society often propels us toward basic insensitivity and exclusion. This too often leads to our own adoption of a passive attitude, where people become simply problems,” he said. “Jesus will use your diaconal ministry to prevent the church from abandoning people because they are misunderstood by us, as problems that are too difficult for us to resolve, and so we walk away.”
The newly ordained put on the deacon’s stole for the first time. During the ordination, the men received a book of the Gospels from the archbishop with the instruction: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
The newly ordained are Deacon Orlando Caicedo Mora, to serve at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta; Deacon John Campbell, to serve at Good Shepherd Church, Cumming; Deacon Henry Obilo Ohaya, to serve at St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro; Deacon David Stenzel, to serve at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta; Deacon Carl Antonius Taylor, to serve at St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Douglasville, and Deacon Christopher George Waken, to serve at Mary Our Queen, Peachtree Corners. Rev. Mr. Avery Daniel, the transitional deacon, will serve at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell.
Deacon Campbell returned to the church after a decade of exploring other Christian traditions. He said his family “saw God in many moments nudging us to come home.”
After a retreat for Christ Renews His Parish, Campbell said he sensed a call to the ministry. As he waited two years before entering the formation program, he spent his time leading and serving in the altar server ministry, and being an extraordinary minister of holy Communion during Mass.
The ordination included many special moments, including blessing his wife, Julie, he said.
Signs that the church cares
Deacon David Stenzel found his vocation helping adults explore the faith and join the church.
“When accompanying others, you get to know their struggles and doubts, and can help them build a healthy, loving relationship with God,” he said.
He was drawn from social justice issues to “being a sign that we are a church that cares for all people,” he said.
During the ordination and especially prayer of the litany of the saints, the new deacon said his prayers were for his wife, Sharon, his son, Matt, and everyone who was part of his formation.
“It has been a very humbling experience,” said the new deacon.
The ordination at the Cathedral of Christ the King took place with the safety guidelines required in the pandemic, including masked attendees and physical distancing. The Mass was livestreamed.
Among the few people in the cathedral were family members of the men to be ordained.
Sharon Stenzel shared the joy of the day with her husband. When he shared the idea of pursuing the vocation, she said it was humbling and “was brought to prayer and conversation as a couple.”
Stenzel said her husband brings a spirit of leadership that draws people together.
“His focus is always reaching out to those on the margins and seeing them and taking action,” she said.
In the days following the ordination, she treasured “the outpouring of love and support from family, friends and community.”
Ihuoma Ohaya relished seeing her husband, Deacon Henry Obilo Ohaya, being ordained by the archbishop, the former pastor of their parish.
She said the then-Father Greg of St. Philip Benizi Church, inspired the couple to become active parishioners.
“It was him that fanned the flame of faith and service in us and made us feel welcome at our parish,” she said.
Her husband will serve others well in his ministry by his patience, compassion and caring for others, Ohaya said. The journey to ordination was several years long and it was encouraged by deacons and others in the community, she said.
Serving as deacons requires the men to walk alongside people viewed by some as undesirable, not treating them at an arm’s length, the archbishop said.
“You are to carry to those on the periphery of society the Father’s infinite and unconditional love. You are to become poor with the poor, you are to suffer with those who suffer. You are to enter into the hopelessness of the desperate, in order to convince them that nothing can ever come between us and the love of Jesus Christ.”
Believers also have their stories of faith and deacons help connect those experiences with the message of Jesus, said Archbishop Hartmayer.
“You are called to proclaim the Gospel and help people hear the story as their own. Use the particular gifts God has given you to connect life to faith, make their faith real in their everyday life because they exercise faith all the time, but they may not recognize it as faith, or an expression of faith,” he said.
Along with the archbishop, Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III, Deacon Dennis Dorner, the archdiocesan chancellor, and a small number of priests and deacons attended the Mass.
Learn more about each of the deacons in “Meet the deacons.”