PROVIDENCE – The Diocese of Providence was richly blessed Saturday when 21 members of the Class of 2013 were ordained to the permanent diaconate on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.
Family members, friends and colleagues, some of whom traveled from as far as Bermuda, filled the cathedral for the two-hour-long Mass and offered their prayerful support and gratitude as the men resolved to faithfully carry out the office of deacon and pledged their obedience to the bishop and his successors. Every pew was filled, with a standing room only crowd gathered across the back of the cathedral in order to witness the ordination.
In his homily, Bishop Tobin told the new deacons that the charism of the diaconate is a call to service – “humble, effective service – in the name of Christ and His Church.
“Service to your brothers and sisters is the tangible sign of your vocation and the fulfillment of your ministry,” said Bishop Tobin. “In that way especially you will give glory to God and comfort to His people. In that way you will be recognized as disciples of Christ who came not to be served, but to serve others.”
The bishop noted that Pope Benedict XVI, in his apostolic letter, Porta Fidei, announcing the Year of Faith, encourages the faithful to “keep our gaze on Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
“That exhortation it seems to me, my brothers, is a perfect aspiration for you as you begin your ministry as a deacon,” he emphasized, telling the deacons that if they keep their eyes fixed on Jesus, they “will grow in holiness and virtue, never go astray and always be enthusiastic and joyful in their work.”
For Deacon Scott Brown, receiving the call to the permanent diaconate has been the answer to many prayers.
Since childhood, the parishioner of Immaculate Conception Church, Cranston, has discerned God’s call to a life of ministry. At one point, he thought that he was chosen for the priesthood, but the Lord had other plans. While God blessed the new deacon with the vocation of marriage and family life, the husband and father of two sons always knew in his heart that God also wanted him to do more with his life and serve the church.
“I hope to bring people to the Lord,” he reflected. “I want to bring Christ where he is absent.”
Deacon Stephen Raymond, who serves as campus minister and director of institutional support at St. Patrick Academy, Providence, where he formerly served as principal, said he felt very blessed by the Lord to be able to serve him and his people in any way that he is asked to by the bishop. Deacon Raymond, a parishioner of St. Patrick Church, has ministered in Catholic education for 35 years.
For Deacon Gregory Albanese, a parishioner of Holy Apostles Parish, Cranston, and a faculty member at La Salle Academy, Providence, ordination was also the fulfillment of a long-held dream. The deacon had once thought about becoming a priest, but God called him to the vocation of marriage and family life.
“The permanent diaconate is a wonderful mix of the vocation of marriage and the vocation of service,” he said.
Deacon Albanese described the formation program as “a wonderful experience” and added that he never questioned his vocation.
The deacon serves as director of Confirmation and Youth Ministry at St. Ambrose Parish, Lincoln, and offers confirmation retreats at diocesan parishes. He said the knowledge that he gained in the formation program has been helpful in his varied apostolates.
Following their ordination, in which the entire group of 21 men prostrated themselves before the altar during the Litany of Supplication, the new deacons and their families hugged and wished each other well in their new assignments and posed for photos in the cathedral.
While the deacons devoted much time to their studies and often had to juggle work and personal schedules, their families also made my sacrifices.
Deacon Brown’s sons, Matthew, age 14, and Jacob, age 13, often went without seeing their father for several days each week because of his work schedule as a captain in the fire department at the Naval Station in Newport. As a result, he missed school events and many family meals.
Steven Botelho, age 31, the son of Deacon Carlos Botelho, a parishioner of St. Clare Parish, Westerly, recalled that he sometimes left work early to help his father to complete homework assignments and to teach him how to e-mail and conduct research on the Internet.
“Every minute was worth it,” he said, adding that the experience brought him closer to God and to his family.
While the day was filled with many joyous moments for the new deacons, Deacon Kenneth Andrade, a parishioner of SS. Rose and Clement Church, received a surprise gift that he will always cherish. His son, Staff Sgt. Brian Andrade, was able to obtain a weekend leave and fly home from Ft. Benning, Ga., for his father’s diaconate ordination. The soldier joined his siblings Jennifer and Jason at the Mass, although brother Sean, who also serves in the military, was unable to attend.
“I got the surprise this morning in the parking lot,” the deacon said, smiling. “I was just very surprised.”
Bishops Robert C. Evans, Louis E. Gelineau, Ernest B. Boland, Francis X. Roque, and diocesan and religious order priests served as concelebrants, with many members of the permanent diaconate in attendance.