By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald
St. Louis Cathedral provides votive candles for the faithful to light every day in honor of their special intentions. On June 23, when Archbishop Gregory Aymond ordained 22 men as permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the cathedral could have raised even more money for its social outreach to the poor with a Kleenex concession.
The Mass for the Ordination of Deacons elicited tears from nearly every new deacon and his family members and friends, and the deacons exited the historic church overjoyed by their call to ordained ministry.
‘Hit me like a ton of bricks’
Deacon Gilbert Ganucheau, an attorney who will serve at his home parish of St. Margaret Mary in Slidell, said he did a decent job of keeping his emotions in check until he got to the front entrance of the cathedral. Because of the logistics of the ceremony, he happened to be at the head of the line, leading his fellow deacon candidates into the church.
“It was absolutely incredible, the power of the liturgy,” Deacon Ganucheau said. “I was standing there waiting for Mass to start, and the music started and people were standing up. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I actually gasped out loud because I was about to start crying. Father Nile Gross, who was the MC, was standing by me and said, ‘What was that?’ And I said, ‘That was me!’ I busted out crying.”
A son vests his father
The Mass was historic for another reason. Archbishop Gregory Aymond said for the first time in archdiocesan history, a son – transitional Deacon Andrew Gutierrez, 25 – had vested his father – Deacon Martin Gutierrez, 52 – with the deacon’s stole and dalmatic.
There were plenty of tears there, too.
“I tried to hold it back during the entire Mass, but when Andrew put the stole on me, I just lost it,” said Deacon Gutierrez, who is a division director at Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. “It’s obviously a special feeling that I can’t describe. I feel the same as I did an hour ago. It’s not like I have super powers.”
Deacon Andrew Gutierrez, who assisted Archbishop Aymond at the chair, said he had one prayer for his father as he came up for the laying on of hands by the archbishop.
“My prayer was for him to be empty so that he could receive God’s grace,” he said. “It was a beautiful moment for me when I actually put the dalmatic on him.”
Judith Gutierrez, Deacon Martin Gutierrez’s wife, talked about the special role a deacon’s wife plays in her husband’s vocation. During his homily, Archbishop Aymond thanked the wives for “living out the sacrament of marriage” and for participating side-by-side with their husbands during their five-year formation process.
“It’s all about obedience,” Judith Gutierrez said. “God had a call. He had a plan. I appreciate that I made decisions that cooperated with that as opposed to not allowing that to happen, so I’m very grateful that God has called us. He gave us the grace to be able to say yes.”
Handing on the ‘book’
Deacon Craig Taffaro, a counselor who will serve at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Violet, said the entire liturgy was “an overwhelming reality of God’s grace,” but he was especially touched when he handed the Book of the Gospels to his wife Debbie.
“That was probably one of the most real moments of the whole ceremony,” Deacon Taffaro said. “When I looked into Debbie’s eyes and handed her that ‘Book of the Gospels’ and I was in my vestments, it was like, ‘This is a big deal.’”
Archbishop Aymond urged the men to pray daily for the grace to be men of charity.
“We must not just know about Jesus; we must know Jesus the servant, whom we get to know in prayer,” he said. “Every day, remember that you are the clay in the hand of the potter and you’re still being formed.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.