AVONDALE — Sixteen men, who were already faithful and active in the Church, are now permanently called to carry out many of its works.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted ordained the men to the permanent diaconate Nov. 10 at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. The men, and to some extent their wives and children, will serve at 16 parishes throughout the diocese.
Two of those parishes currently have only retired deacons, according to the diocesan directory. Their ministry will also take them to area hospitals, prisons and other Catholic apostolates. They join 231 other deacons, who under the guidance of the bishop, “assume responsibility for the more secular and temporal duties of the Church.”
Each deacon has liturgical, doctrinal and charitable roles. By God’s loving providence, the ordination took place in the first weeks of the worldwide Year of Faith, Bishop Olmsted said during his homily. Men are ordained to the permanent diaconate every two years in the Diocese of Phoenix.
“The Rite of the Ordination of Deacons places emphasis on the importance of faith,” the bishop said.
It’s faith that opens up the mind and heart to God’s initiative, to His presence, His mercy and His word, he continued. It cleanses the heart and opens the mind with a purifying grace.
“To teach our Catholic faith truly is a grave honor and a grave responsibility for the ordained,” the bishop reminded the deacon candidates, “but it is also the responsibility of everyone in the Church, especially families.”
He said it’s the duty of families to help neighbors believe.
“Teaching the faith requires courage, especially when our faith is contrary to popular agendas,” the bishop said.
Related: Year of Faith resources
Deacons and anyone spreading the faith should use teaching that is clear, engaging and complete, he said. The diocese’s newest deacons and their wives have a solid foundation for Church teaching. They spent at least the last five years in formation through the Office of the Diaconate including two years of classes through the Kino Institute.
The bishop cautioned the new deacons to only use their newfound authority “for serving others in love and loving others in Truth.” That’s one of the biggest changes Deacon Joe Ryan discovered pre- and post-formation.
“I’ve learned to love all the people in the Church, not the ones who are just like me, to genuinely love people who are a lot different from myself,” he said after a vespers service and eucharistic adoration preceding his ordination.
Being a deacon requires being there for everyone, not just a clique, he said.
Deacon Ryan has remained in the same parish most of his life and graduated from St. Mary-Basha School in Chandler. He, along with his wife, Siu-Ling, will continue to serve the St. Mary community.
He’s been practicing his Spanish and is eager to work with the parish’s Hispanic population too. Three of its eight weekend liturgies are in Spanish.
Deacon Ryan will continue his work through the Maricopa County Jail system, something he’s done for about 10 years. He is also involved in the men’s group and St. Vincent de Paul.
“I didn’t realize those were diaconal things,” he said.
Over time, a handful of deacons approached him saying he’d make a good deacon. That ultimately led him to formation. He said he brings a good sense of humor to his ordained ministry and “a God-given eternal optimism.”
Answering the call
The call to the diaconate for other newly ordained deacons was a bit more internal.
“I heard the word ‘deacon’ internally at work,” said Deacon Mark Kriese, a computer programmer and parishioner at St. Theresa.
His dad had died a week earlier and there was a deacon at the service. It was the same deacon who was at his mom’s some time earlier. He decided to explore the possibility and found that he brings great compassion to his newest line of work. Deacon Kriese, who will be the second deacon assigned to St. Theresa, said he is excited to be able to preach.
“I never thought I’d say that. I’m excited, but intimidated by it. I thought that was one of the thing’s I’d be fearful of,” he said.
Sandi Beattie was eager to hear her husband preach. She recognized strong preaching and teaching qualities in her husband as well as the ability to work with others and connect one-on-one.
“I’m excited to continue to watch him grow and serve,” Beattie said.
For Deacon Jim Beattie, being an ordained deacon has brought a sense of completion. Before he became Catholic in 1996, he wanted to be a minister.
He saw signs of divine providence elsewhere too. Like Deacon Ryan, other people had suggested he’d be a good deacon over the years. In 2007, he felt his third and final urge to join the diaconate. This time, he realized his typical response that his work schedule didn’t allow time for formation was no longer valid.
A week earlier in a departmental meeting, Deacon Beattie was told his facility was closing and he could retire early or commute from Mesa to Deer Valley for work. Twice shortly after that, he woke up shaking.
“I heard a gentle voice say, ‘I’m giving you a gift. What are you going to do with it?’” Deacon Beattie recalled.
Then a deacon at his home parish of St. Timothy in Mesa encouraged him to put his name in as a deacon candidate and let God do His work. He looked up the requirements online with his wife and each one spoke to them.
“There were many times through formation that I wanted to quit because of thought, word or deed,” Deacon Beattie said. “Every time that happened, within 12-24 hours, someone would walk up to me and tell me I’d be a good deacon.”
Robert Bonura, who was ordained a deacon and assigned to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe, is a second-generation deacon. His father was one of the first permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of Houston. Pope Paul VI restored the permanent diaconate to the U.S. Church in 1968.
Diverse by nature
Three of the diocese’s 16 new deacons were born outside of the United States. Deacon José Martínez and his wife, Nilsa, are both natives of Puerto Rico. They moved to the Phoenix Diocese two years ago after nearly finishing diaconal formation in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The couple spent time in local formation and ministry at St. Anne Parish in Gilbert before José sought ordination. Outside of parish work, Deacon Martínez will work at the Diocesan Pastoral Center assisting the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The annual collection is the domestic anti-poverty, social justice program of the U.S. bishops.
Ed Mirasol and his wife, Jessica, are both natives of the Philippines. He’s been in the U.S. for 40 years and grew up in Catholic school.
Deacon Mirasol once considered the priesthood, but after further discernment, got married, served in the Air Force then returned home and got involved in several parish ministries.
Deacon Mirasol will serve at their home parish of St. Raphael in Glendale assisting with marriage and baptismal preparation. He will also assist with the Office of the Diaconate and with the Filipino community. Nearby Our Lady of the Valley Parish, which shares a pastor, offers a weekly Filipino Mass.
“I’m truly, truly asking God to use me in whatever capacity He wants me,” Deacon Mirasol said minutes after his ordination.
He said he prayed before the liturgy that he not show his own humanity during the rite.
“I want people to see You and not me,” he prayed.
Deacon Mirasol said he was completely transformed and moved when the bishop laid his hands on his head ordaining him.
The new deacons and their wives say they finished formation transformed. One deacon said he didn’t know himself anymore. Another said he’s 200-300 percent different.
For Deacon Marvin Hernandez, who will be the only active deacon serving at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, those differences added much more joy and value to life. He especially pointed out the joy in his home, “my first church, my domestic church,” Deacon Hernandez said.
He came to the U.S. from Guatemala in 1989 where he attended a mayor seminary. It wasn’t until a Cursillo retreat in 2000 that he rediscovered the graces of eucharistic adoration and benediction. He met Msgr. John McMahon who saw spiritual gifts in him.
Through formation and discernment, Deacon Hernandez also saw those gifts, namely service, listening, prayer, intercession and offering sacrifice. What clicked was realizing it’s about them, not him.
He’s excited to work in marriage and baptismal preparation. He will also oversee Hispanic ministry and visit Maricopa Medical Center with a focus on listening and comforting patients.
“They’re suffering. They’re expecting something and I, as an instrument of God, give them the hope they need not just to be healthy, but to encounter Christ through their suffering,” Deacon Hernandez said.
Many of the diocese’s 16 new deacons will serve in hospital ministry. They will also lead various parish ministries.
In a short reception after Mass, Deacon Jim Trant, director of the Office of the Diaconate, reminded the deacons and their wives to strive for holiness, that mature friendship with Jesus even while fighting “the painful battles” of earthly existence.
Deacon Mark Kriese will continue charitable work with Maggie’s Place and Deacon Narciso Macia, a professor at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa, will work with students in the JPII Newman Club on campus. Deacon Ed Winkelbauer will work with St. Vincent de Paul’s Fresh Perspectives program, which often provides home makeovers for deserving families.
This year’s ordination class, who range in age from 45 to 63, was not the largest one in recent years. The bishop ordained 18 men as deacons in 2006 and eight each in the last two cohorts.
Brief bios of new deacons
Are you called to be a deacon?