By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 25, 2023
ROSWELL—The men about to be ordained deacons walked into the crowded St. Peter Chanel Church arm in arm with those who raised them first in their faith, their moms and dads.
Calling the new clergyman “my dear brothers and sons,” Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., told the crowd the five men were making “a lifelong commitment to Christ, a lifelong commitment to his church and a lifelong commitment to serving his people.”
Archbishop Hartmayer led the ceremony, with Auxiliary Bishop John N. Tran, Auxiliary Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III and Auxiliary Bishop Joel M. Konzen, S.M. Also, Auxiliary Bishop Richard Spencer of the Archdiocese for Military Services concelebrated the Mass. Scores of deacons and priests also attended.
Friends and family of the men filled the church, which can hold close to 900 people.
During the ceremony rich with tradition, the men promised celibacy, prayer and obedience to the archbishop and his successors.
Deacons preach at Mass, witness marriages, baptize children and offer funeral prayers. And for these five men, the year serves as a transition to the priesthood in June 2023.
During the next months, the men will serve in parishes in the Atlanta area and then return to seminary to finish their studies for priestly ordination. They will serve as deacons in parishes and ministries around their seminary community.
In his homily, the archbishop said their new role as deacons in the church requires them to “servant healers.”
Deacons are to be “Christ’s loving presence in the world today, walking alongside God’s holy people,” he said. “You are commissioned to be instruments of God’s consoling and healing presence in a broken world.”
The archbishop encouraged the men to seek out and be surprised where they find Jesus.
“You must stand by the downtrodden, bind up hearts that are broken,” he said. “With a servant’s heart, you will meet Christ in places you never expected.”
After graduation from the University of Georgia in 2015, Deacon Arturo Merriman worked as a project manager for a home builder and developer. But it did not satisfy him. Sharing God’s word “will be an honor to speak to those in the pews and also a challenge I will enjoy,” he said.
Deacon “Joseph” Anh T. Nguyen, 30, grew up in Vietnam in a faith-filled family. Tuan credits his family and their nightly prayers together with being his “first school of faith.” As a new deacon, he hopes with “my humble heart” to serve a community.
Deacon David J. DesPres, 27, worshipped in the rural parish of St. Augustine Church, Covington. He will be spending months after his ordination in Cedartown at St. Bernadette Church. For him, the Scripture passage “Do not be afraid” has been crucial for him, especially as he considered his vocation.
The others ordained were Deacon Jared J. Kleinwaechter and Deacon Colin F. Patrick.
After the ordination Mass, a crowd gathered in the parish hall to receive a blessing from the deacons.
DiAnn Kiel and Jan Miller visited with Deacon DesPres. They knew him when he spent a year at the St. John Paul II Mission in Gainesville.
Said Kiel, “I just watched him grow more and more.” She recalled how humble he was and a good listener. Miller worked with him with the English-speaking young adults and those joining the church. She said he related well with everyone and was well liked by the whole community.