Ordained to be servants for a servant church
Twenty-two men will be ordained to the permanent diaconate by Archbishop Gregory Aymond June 23 at 10 a.m. at St. Louis Cathedral.
The new deacons, who have completed a five-year formation process, will raise the number of permanent deacons serving in the Archdiocese of New Orleans to approximately 250, said Deacon Ray Duplechain, director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), deacons are ordained “as a sacramental sign to the church and to the world of Christ, who came ‘to serve and not to be served.’ … The deacon, in virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, is to be a servant in a servant church.”
All ordained ministers – bishops, priests and deacons – are called to the three functions of Word, sacrament and charity, but bishops, priests and deacons exercise these functions in various ways.
“As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach and teach in the name of the church,” the USCCB says. “As ministers of sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the church’s resources to meet those needs. Deacons are also dedicated to eliminating the injustices or inequities that cause such needs.”
The Second Vatican Council restored the diaconate as a “permanent” order of ministry, open to men over the age of 35. The first class of permanent deacons in the archdiocese was ordained in 1974. There are approximately 18,000 permanent deacons serving in the U.S.
The Mass of Ordination for the 22 men who will become permanent deacons will be live-streamed from St. Louis Cathedral at www.nolacatholic.org at 10 a.m. on June 23.
WLAE TV Channel 32 also will air a live broadcast of the Mass.
Following are brief biographies of the 22 men.
Oscar D. Alegria Sr., a native of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, has been married to his wife Liliana for 37 years. They have three children – Oscar, Johanna and Liliana – and five grandchildren. He is a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Marrero, where he currently serves as an acolyte. Alegria came to the United States in 1967 and has lived in New Orleans for more than 50 years. He attended Warren Easton High School, Delgado Community College and Delta College of Nursing/Business. He works for East Jefferson General Hospital.
“His Holy Spirit has taken over control of my life, and he is guiding me in all that I do each day,” Alegria said.
Thomas S. Beyer, a native of New Orleans and the youngest of seven children, has been married to his wife Susan for 31 years. They have three children – David, Adam and Katherine. For 27 years, he and his family have been members of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, where he currently serves as an acolyte. Beyer is a graduate of De La Salle High School and then UNO, where he obtained a degree in mechanical engineering, spending 37 years in the oil field.
“God has continued to shower me with his blessings, and I know that he is leading me to a life of service to our community,” Beyer said.
Edward J. Cain Jr., a native of Mobile, Alabama, has been married to his wife Barbie for 31 years. They have two sons – Edward III and Zachary – and five grandchildren. He and his family moved to New Orleans in 2009 and are members of Visitation of Our Lady in Marrero. He currently serves as an acolyte at St. Anthony Parish in Lafitte/St. Pius X Mission in Crown Point. Cain attended the University of South Alabama and holds a certificate for Ecclesial Lay Ministry specializing in catechesis from Toolen Institute for Parish Services.
“As a result of formation for diaconate ordination, and beyond, I have experienced a resurgence of my sense of compassion, becoming keenly aware of Christ’s presence in others,” Cain said. “My faith has grown deeper, stronger and fuller. The phrase that stands out is ‘Go Deeper’ … in love, compassion, spirituality and relationships.”
William J. Faustermann Jr. of Slidell has been married to his wife Theresa for 44 years. They are the parents of two daughters – Tracy and Emily – and have one grandchild. He is a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, where he currently serves as an acolyte. He has lived and worked in Slidell for the past 38 years, where he maintains his own law practice. Faustermann is a founding member and past officer of the St. Luke Knights of Columbus Council.
“I feel that God has been calling me into a ministry of service and charity, which are the hallmarks of diaconal ministry,” Faustermann said.
Owen P. Francis, a native of Gulfport, Mississippi, has been married to his wife Andrea for 31 years. They are the parents of four children – Christina Renae (deceased), Patrick, Nora and Colin. Since moving to Mandeville in 1988, he has been a parishioner of Our Lady of the Lake, where he serves as an acolyte. Francis received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Mississippi State University and has worked in the oil and gas industry for more than 30 years, including 15 years overseas. He works for a small independent firm in Covington.
“As I prepare for the diaconate, the image of the potter and the clay stays with me as the Lord continues to mold and shape me into the person he wants me to become,” Francis said. “His call has been challenging and rewarding as I find God ever with me, especially in the most difficult of times.”
Gilbert F. Ganucheau Jr., a native of River Ridge, has been married to his wife Sheila for 34 years. They have four children – Adam, Jeffrey, Ross and Bethany – and 10 grandchildren. He is a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Slidell, where he currently serves as an acolyte. Ganucheau graduated from Jesuit High School, Loyola University and Tulane Law School. He serves as general counsel to Slidell Memorial Hospital.
“I have faith that God knows what he is doing in calling me to the diaconate,” Ganucheau said. “I hope to be the faithful servant to others he wants me to be. I trust he has great things in store for me.”
Roberto J. Garcia was born in Ocotal, N.S., Nicaragua, and has been married to his wife Amanda for 27 years. They have two children – Roberto Andrés and Alexandra. Garcia is a member of Our Lady of Divine Providence in Metairie, where he currently serves as an acolyte. Garcia graduated from Delgado Community College with an associate’s degree in architectural engineering, took courses in organic chemistry at UNO and has been employed by Chevron since 1993.
“As a family, God has been present in our lives and has blessed us with all we have,” Garcia said. “Serving his people and at the altar is the least I can do, in a small way, to give back to him with a spirit of obedience, charity and faithfulness.”
Martin O. Gutierrez, a native of Nicaragua, and his wife Judi will celebrate 30 years of marriage this December. They have three children – Martin, Andrew and Jazmin, daughter-in-law Nubia and one granddaughter. He is a parishioner of St. Clement of Rome, where he currently serves as an acolyte. Gutierrez is a graduate of both Chalmette High School and the University of New Orleans. He worked for 13 years in banking and currently serves as division director at Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. His son Andrew was ordained as a transitional deacon on May 19 and will be ordained to the priesthood next year.
“I believe this is a natural next step in my faith journey, which will lead me to a deeper and stronger commitment to serve God, the people and the church,” Gutierrez said.
Dr. James P. Heneghan of Metairie and his wife Jean have been married for 35 years. They have four children – Carolyn, Christopher, Katherine and Colleen. Heneghan and his family have been members of St. Clement of Rome Parish in Metairie since 1990. Heneghan attended Benjamin Franklin High School, Loyola University and Louisiana State Medical School, earning a doctor of medicine degree. He is a specialist in general internal medicine. He has served as acolyte at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Metairie since October 2017. His interest in the diaconate grew from a continued desire to serve others.
“My faith led me to a natural desire to do more for God’s people than just see to their physical needs,” Heneghan said. “I hope now as a deacon, with God’s graces, to help others heal body, soul and spirit as one.”
Clyde E. Iverson, a native of New Orleans, has been married to his wife Michelle for 28 years. They have a daughter, Laura. He was a member of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Mandeville and currently serves as an acolyte at St. Benedict, Covington. Iverson received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and a bachelor’s in accounting from the University of New Orleans. He is a licensed Louisiana certified public accountant who has worked in the oil and gas industry in various financial positions for 25 years.
“Every day is a miracle,” Iverson said. “God continues to reveal himself through his creation and the people I encounter every day. It is all a blessing.”
Dr. Gary T. Levy, a New Orleans native, has been married to his wife Claudia for 37 years. They have three children – Katherine, Rebecca and Matthew – and four grandchildren. He is a parishioner of St. Pius X and serves there as an acolyte. Levy attended St. Dominic School, Christian Brothers, De La Salle High School and Loyola University before getting his doctoral degree in veterinary medicine from LSU. He is the president of Lakeview Veterinary Hospital in New Orleans.
“You can only tell God ‘not now’ for so long,” Levy said. “As the call continued to tug at me, I finally discerned and followed God’s path toward ordination over the past five years. It has been a wonderful journey expanding my own personal faith, knowledge of our Catholic Church and filling a desire to serve.”
Timothy G. Meaut is from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where he attended Catholic elementary school and public high school. He then came to New Orleans to attend Tulane University and has held various administrative positions there for the last 35 years. Meaut is single and has never married. For 15 years, he was a member of St. Patrick Parish. He currently serves as an acolyte at St. Edward the Confessor in Metairie.
“As ordination approaches, I find the Holy Spirit filling me more and more with peace, allowing me to trust that if I continue to be attentive to his call and direction, I will be able to meet the challenges that face me in the service of God’s people,” Meaut said.
Edward R. Morris III was born and raised in Madisonville. He and his wife Tammy have been married for 23 years and adopted two sons – Kenneth and Matthew – while living in Orlando after 12 years of service in the Navy. In 2008, Morris and his family moved back to Madisonville and are members of St. Anselm Parish, where he currently serves as an acolyte. He is a graduate of Covington High School and is currently a millwright for a mechanical equipment company in Covington.
“For the longest time, I have felt the tug of the Holy Spirit on my heart to serve his people,” Morris said. “This is the path that he has laid before me.”
Ozema J. Prestenbach of Waggaman grew up on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. He and his wife Ann Marie have been married for 38 years. He has four sons – Eric, Adam, John and Jeremy – and four grandchildren. Prestenbach is a member of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, where he currently serves as acolyte. After working in the dairy industry for a few years, he developed and interest in carpentry and construction. Prestenbach established Aquarius Builders Inc. in 1983 and is licensed by the state of Louisiana in residential and commercial construction.
“I have decided to follow Jesus,” Prestenbach said. “There’s no turning back, there’s no turning back!”
Edward S. Rapier Jr. and his wife Lisa have been married for 35 years, and they have two children, Edward and Corinne. Rapier is a member of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Algiers, where he currently serves as acolyte. He and his family were parishioners of Our Lady of the Lake Church in Mandeville for more than 19 years, prior to entering formation. He graduated from Jesuit High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in history from UNO and his law degree from Tulane University. For the last 31 years, he has practiced law in the New Orleans area and is currently the deputy city attorney for Kenner.
“As I prepare for the diaconate, the Lord continues to mold and shape me into the person he wants me to become,” Rapier said.
Virgil D. Roberts of Abita Springs and his wife Karen have been married for 40 years and have two sons – Barrett and Brett. He is a member of St. Peter Parish in Covington, where he serves as acolyte. He attended St. John Vianney Prep High School and recently earned a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in philosophy, from St. Joseph Seminary College. He is retired from the bank equipment service industry and is presently working as a formation advisor at St. Joseph Seminary College.
“I feel that God has been walking with me every day of my life,” Roberts said. “I am most thankful for the people he has placed in my life, especially those who have guided me through the formation process, as well as those who’ve supported me. It has truly been a transforming experience.”
Stephen W. Sperier of Mandeville has been married to his wife Lori for 20 years. They have two adopted 14-year-old daughters – Ella and Emma. He was a member of Mary Queen of Peace Parish and currently serves as acolyte at Most Holy Trinity in Covington. Sperier graduated from Mandeville High School, Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of Georgia. He enjoys running, cycling and any physical challenge. He is self-employed as the owner of a bicycle shop.
“Preparing for ordination has been a challenging journey,” Sperier said. “I feel the Holy Spirit is preparing me for the challenge of being a deacon and to have the courage to live outside of what is comfortable for me.”
Donald R. St. Germain Jr. of Slidell and his wife Karen have been married for 42 years. They have two daughters – Elizabeth and Holly – and three grandsons. He is a member of St. John of the Cross Parish, where he currently serves as acolyte. St. Germain has enjoyed a long, fruitful career in the information technology industry, which continues with his current employment with CSRA Inc. as a process improvement manager.
“As a result of diaconate formation, I am clearly not the man I used to be,” St. Germain said. “I have been transformed!”
Craig P. Taffaro Jr. of Meraux has been married to his wife Debbie for 32 years. They have nine children – Meghan, Craig, Emma, Grace, Paolo, Mollie, Luca, Antonio and Rocco – and three grandchildren. He is a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Violet and currently serves there as acolyte. Craig attended Holy Cross High School in New Orleans, completed his undergraduate degree at University of Southwestern Louisiana and completed his graduate studies at the University of Southern Mississippi in counseling psychology.
“What has been most revealing to me in my formation is that God has not called me to be successful on my terms but to succeed in his terms,” Taffaro said.
Michael J. Taylor, a Chicago native, and his wife Mable have been married for 10 years. They are the parents of nine children and have 17 grandchildren. He is a member of and serves as acolyte at Blessed Trinity Parish. He attended Lindblom Technical High School, has a bachelor of science degree from the State University of New York and a master of public administration degree from Golden Gate University. He served for 23 years in the United States Navy, retiring with the rank of lieutenant. Taylor was a business owner for 20 years and has been employed by the AARP Foundation for the past five years as a program manager for older worker training programs.
“I heard God calling me to ‘pay forward’ the many blessings he has bestowed upon me throughout my life,” Taylor said. “I have responded to his call, and he is using me, his unworthy servant, to dedicate the rest of my life serving the people of God.”
Virgil M. Wheeler III of Metairie has been a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier Parish for more than two decades and currently serves there as acolyte. He is a practicing attorney and a partner at the law firm of Chaffe McCall, L.L.P., and is an associate professor at Tulane Law School. Wheeler has been active in several ministries of the archdiocese, including service on the boards of directors of The Catholic Foundation, St. Anthony’s Gardens, Christopher Homes and Chateau de Notre Dame.
“Service to others is at the core of our faith, and as a deacon, I look forward to using my time, talents and treasures in service to the people of God,” Wheeler said.
Dr. Michael P. Whitehouse, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, has been married to his wife Jennifer for 18 years. They have four children – Patrick, Joseph, Sarah and Daniel. Whitehouse currently serves as an acolyte at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Slidell. He earned his bachelor of arts degree in history from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in theology from the University of Notre Dame. He currently serves as an associate director in the archdiocesan Office of Religious Education, with his previous experience including service as a high school theology teacher, campus minister, undergraduate instructor and nonprofit administrator.
“I continue to experience God leading me to a greater awareness of the challenges and pain that exist in people’s lives, and I feel God calling me into this reality to serve in humility as a gentle, joyful witness of God’s tenderness and love for each person,” Whitehouse said.