PROVIDENCE — Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans on Saturday ordained Diocese of Providence seminarians Brendan Rowley and Eric Silva to the transitional diaconate, bringing each of the young men one step closer to the priesthood. Both are scheduled to be ordained as priests in June 2019.
After a period of prayer and meditation in the small chapel of the Cathedral Residence along with Vocations Director Father Carl Fisette, Rowley and Silva made their way into the hall of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul where they joined fellow seminarians, permanent deacons and 40 priests, along with Bishop Evans, in preparation for their ordination.
“We’ve been blessed in the diocese,” Father Fisette said. “We don’t have a lot of seminarians, but we have wonderful men and we are pleased that after five years of formation Brendan and Eric have reached this stage in responding to God’s call and with the graces they will receive in their diaconate year as they continue their formation for the priesthood.”
Under warm, sunny skies, the procession wound its way around the outside of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, entering at the back and making its way down the center aisle while about 200 family, friends and other supporters smiled approvingly as the transitional deacons-to-be passed by.
Rowley and Silva sat in chairs placed ahead of the front row on either side of the aisle, while their parents and other family members sat behind them.
Antonio and Theresa Silva, of Cranston, parents of Eric, said they are very proud of their son and happy that he chose to answer the calling he heard in his life.
“It’s what he’s always wanted, to go to the priesthood,” Antonio Silva said.
“It’s a wonderful day, it really is. I can’t believe it’s happening,” Theresa Silva said.
Eric Silva graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick and the University of Rhode Island where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications.
In 2013, he began his priestly formation after being assigned to St. John Seminary in Boston, Massachusetts. As a seminarian, his summer assignments included Our Lady of Mercy Parish, East Greenwich; Jesus Saviour Parish, Newport; St. John Paul II Parish, Pawtucket, and the Institute of Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
Brendan Rowley, also a Bishop Hendricken graduate, went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education from Rhode Island College. He entered St. John Seminary in Boston, Massachusetts in 2013 for his formation for the priesthood. His summer assignments as a seminarian included St. Joseph, Woonsocket; St. Luke, Barrington; St. Francis de Sales, North Kingstown; and St. Pius X, Westerly.
His parents, James and Deborah Rowley, of Saunderstown, said they will never forget the day their son told them he was answering God’s call to the priesthood.
“He told us six years ago on our 35th wedding anniversary,” James Rowley said. “We’ve always thought that he had a vocation.”
He added that there have been several vocations in the family including an uncle who was a Sacred Heart priest who was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, during the Japanese attack, and two longtime Sisters of St. Joseph.
Deborah Rowley said she was both “overwhelmed and humbled,” by the whole experience and is looking forward to when her son is ordained to the priesthood next June.
“Brendan is going to be a great priest and I think he’s going to be wonderful at taking care of people,” she said.
In the meantime, as transitional deacons, Rowley and Silva will be able to perform duties proper to all deaconas, as they will be able to baptize, proclaim the Gospel and preach at Mass, distribute Communion, witness marriages and lead rites for Christian burials.
In his homily, Bishop Evans told the two who were about to be ordained that they should show themselves as true servants to everyone since they are not assuming such duties on their own initiative but rather because they have been singled out by the Lord for a work that truly is not of their own making.
“From today onward, you are not only a hearer of the Gospel but also its minister,” he said. “Express by your actions the word of God, which your lips proclaim, so that the faithful may see and love in you what they see and love in Christ. Yours is the duty to make fruitful God’s word, as God revealed through Isaiah: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me achieving the end for which I sent it.”
“Keep in mind that when you proclaim the Gospel, preside over public prayer, teach holy doctrine, administer baptism, assist at and bless marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying, conduct funeral rites or distribute the Lord’s Body and Blood, you do so not in your own name but in that of the One whose name is above heaven and earth,” Bishop Evans said.
Following the homily, the Elect expressed their resolve to carry out the office of Deacon in accord with the mind of Christ and of the church, under the direction of the Bishop.
Each of the Elect then knelt before Bishop Evans, placing their joined hands between his while making a promise of obedience.
During the Litany of Supplication which followed, the Elect prostrate themselves in a gesture of humble supplication remembering that service to God and his holy people requires genuine humility in the example of Christ.
The most ancient part of the Rite followed, with Bishop Evans laying his hands upon the Elect, following the form of the Apostles. It is through this act and the consecratory prayer offered that the men were ordained by God for service in the church.
Now ordained, the deacons were vested for the first time in the stole, which is worn over the left shoulder and fastened at the side.
Deacon Rowley was assisted by Deacon Matthew Gill of the Diocese of Fall River and Silva was assisted by Father Joseph Craddock.
Then, kneeling before Bishop Evans, each of the newly ordained received the Book of the Gospels as a sign of their proper role in proclaiming the Good News, both in the Sacred Liturgy and their way of life.
Bishop Evans and other deacons present then exchanged a sign of peace with the newly ordained as a sign of encouragement and support before the Liturgy of the Eucharist began.
Following Holy Communion each took a seat to the left and right of Bishop Evans and processed out with him at the conclusion of the Ordination Mass, returning to the altar shortly afterward where they were greeted on either side by their friends and family.
“I’m overwhelmed, God has been so good to me and I just feel such incredible joy right now,” Deacon Rowley said. “I’m so blessed right now by so many people who came out to support me. God has blessed me so richly, it’s a beautiful thing. I’m totally unworthy of it, but he’s called me here. He’s given me the graces to carry out this ministry.”
Deacon Rowley will serve for the summer at St. John Paul II Parish, Pawtucket, before returning to the seminary to complete his formation for the priesthood.
Deacon Silva said after arriving back at the altar that he too was overwhelmed by the experience and felt a rush of emotions.
“I’m very grateful to God,” he said, noting that in hindsight he has been preparing for this moment for his whole life, having heard God’s call early on.
“To reach this milestone I go forward with a lot of prayers and memories of my deceased loved ones and friends and family members. I’m very thankful to be here.”
Deacon Silva will serve for the summer at St. Philip Parish, Greenville, before continuing his formation at St. John Seminary.