Story By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
Photos By Frank J. Methe and Cheryl Dejoie-LaCabe, Clarion Herald
The Communion song at the May 18 Mass of Ordination at St. Louis Cathedral for five transitional deacons in the Archdiocese of New Orleans said it all. They were to be “Fishers of Men,” as they complete their final step to becoming priests in 2020.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who was principal celebrant at the Mass for the Ordination of Deacons with Archbishop Emeritus Alfred Hughes and Auxiliary Archbishop Fernand Cheri, said each of the five deacons – Sylvester Adoga, Luis Duarte, Dennis Obienu, Luis Valencia and John Yike – have a sacred and unique story of how they began their journey to the priesthood, yet deeply embedded in each of their stories is an experience of Jesus callling them “Come, follow me. Serve my people. Lead them. Shepherd them.”
“For Sylvester, it was the seed planted by friends and neighbors at an early age and his pastor who fostered the call.
“For Luis Duarte, it was a woman in hospice who awakended the call in his heart.
“For Dennis, it was the loving example of his grand mother and great admiration for his pastor.
“For Luis Valencia, it was his time in boarding school when he met a priest who inspired him as a man of service.
“For John Yike, it was hearing John Paul II during his visit in New Orleans say, ‘Be Not Afraid.’”
Archbishop Aymond said what happens in the ordination Mass today was rooted in the Acts of the Apostles 2,000 years ago, shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The apostles were sent by the risen Christ to shepherd and serve his people, and to lead them. But, they quickly became overwhelmed and felt they were neglecting the everyday needs of the people, he said. They were not showing leadership and the charity of Christ and needed help.
They chose seven men who were of great faith, who were respected by the community and had leadership qualities, and they prayed over them, and laid on hands and called down the gifts of the Holy Spirit, just as was done at the Mass today.
“These seven men were sent forth as men of charity, co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord, specifically to serve the church as deacons – serving God by caring for others in humility and great service,” he said.
“The same qualities today are asked of men to serve the church as 2,000 years ago,” he said. “They must be men of faith, know Jesus intimately, they must be respected by the community and humble enough to serve at table and pour out their lives for the good of others.”
Archbishop Aymond called the diaconate a three-fold ministry:
• Deacons are to be the human face of Christ and to lead the church in charity, especially those most in need.
• Deacons are to be the voice of Christ in teaching and in preaching. “Believe what you read in the Gospel. Teach what you believe. Preach what you believe, and practice what you teach. It’s a very serious responsibility.”
• Deacons are to lead others in prayer, assist the priest at Mass, feed others with the body and blood of Christ, bring communion to the sick and dying, baptize, witness marriages, bury the dead and give consolation to those who are in grief.
“In this three-fold ministry – to be a man of charity, to preach that word of God and be that word and to lead others in prayer – a lot is being asked of you.”
Archbishop Aymond said they can fulfill this ministry by staying close to the Lord in prayer and living out the promise of obedience to Christ and the church, to do whatever it is the church needs them to do, and to live a life of celibacy, in order to give their entire life to Christ – that they have no other responsibility except to be a minister of the church.
He urged them to never be separated from the people just because they were given the title of deacon. They were to always remember, “You are a servant of God’s people.”
After the Mass ended, each deacon expressed his emotions about their next step to becoming a priest.
• Deacon Adoga looks forward to serving as a deacon:
“I feel great joy in my heart for a dream realized. I am grateful to God for enabling me to be called to the office of the diaconate and to be able to exercise it for the church.”
• Deacon Duarte: “I’m so happy because I just received a blessing from God, and I want to thank all of you because this is the fruit of all your prayers. Now I am here to serve God, because that is what a deacon means … to serve God. I am here for you to bless you all, to worship God with you and to be with you always.”
• Deacon Obienu felt the grace of the Holy Spirit come upon him when Archbishop Aymond laid his hands upon him during the Mass: “It’s a good feeling. Something I have longed for. I was thinking of my late parents and the people of God whom I have been called to serve. It’s an honor, unworthy as I am, to be called to this sacred ministry to serve the people of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.”
• Deacon Valencia found the imposition of the hands and litany of the saints so beautiful.
“I am newly ordained Deacon Luis, and I want to spread my gratitude to everyone for this wonderful gift I have now to spread the Gospel.”
• Deacon John Yike said he is ready to start serving in parish ministry after working to become a priest since 2008.
“I’ve just been ordained. It’s an incredible experience,” he said. “I know why, after they elect a new pope, they have a cry room, because you just want to take a moment and be with the Lord for a few minutes. It’s been very overwhelming, but with the support of my family, my friends and all the bishops and priests is extraordinaty and is what got me through today.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.