What happened at the May 27 diaconal ordination Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral went “far beyond human affirmation,” according to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted.
“God is making an indelible mark on you,” he said to Chris Axline and Kurt Perara during his homily. “You will leave transformed by the Holy Spirit. You will have the spiritual gifts to serve as deacons.”
Lord willing, the bishop will ordain Axline and Perara next June. They will be serving as deacons at parishes in the diocese this summer.
“The Holy Spirit will be working with you in your ministry,” the bishop said during the Pentecost Mass. “Let that be your reason to hope.”
The bishop said those called to be deacons and priests were not holier than lay people, “but precisely because of God’s mercy and His plan for the Church, He transforms each deacon, priest and bishop through the Holy Spirit and conforms them to the image of Christ.”
“Never, then, should we be afraid; and never should we foolishly rely only on our own human strength,” the bishop said. “If we do so, we shall fail. But relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be sure that He will be at work whenever we obediently carry out our mission from Him in the Church. He will make it fruitful for the sake of the Kingdom of God.”
Fr. Paul Sullivan, director of Vocations for the Phoenix Diocese, described Perera and Axline as joyful seminarians who enjoy community life.
“They’ve both been very steady all along,” he said. “They’ve been open to being formed in seminary life.”
Axline’s parents said they wanted their son to do what God was calling him to do — whatever vocation it might be.
“He has a mind of his own,” his father, Tom, said. “We just provided an environment at home that encouraged him to be open to God’s will.”
Perera’s parents spoke similarly.
“When he was small, I said to God, ‘You take care of him,’” his mother, June, said. “That’s the magic recipe: Leave it in His hands.”
Both families made prayer a priority.
“Entering the seminary is the best thing I’ve ever done,” Axline said. “Prayer is the most important thing.”
Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares, who served as vice-rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum before coming to Phoenix, met Axline and Perera at the Ohio seminary.
He said all seminarians from the Phoenix Diocese were exceptional.
“They’re smart, and the first to volunteer,” he said. “I always thought there must be something in the water in Phoenix. They all have great prayer lives and a love for Jesus.”
Fr. Dan Vanyo, was ordained a priest June 2 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, said he looks forward to serving the Church alongside Axline and Perera.
Fr. Vanyo encouraged the two new deacons to “trust in God and persevere” through their last year before priestly ordination.
“They’ve done that already through seven years of seminary,” he said. “God has given us the grace to trust in Him.”