Phoenix seminarian in Rome takes step closer to priesthood

Deacon Fernando Camou, center, was among 43 seminarians ordained to the transitional diaconate Oct. 2 in Rome. (Dan Hart/Pontifical North American College)
Deacon Fernando Camou, fourth from left, was among 43 seminarians ordained to the transitional diaconate Oct. 2 in Rome. He will finish his studies there before returning to Phoenix in Jun 2015 for ordination. (Dan Hart/Pontifical North American College)

Fernando Camou, a seminarian for the Diocese of Phoenix, counted himself among 43 seminarians from Rome’s Pontifical North American College who were ordained to the transitional diaconate inside St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 2.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Fr. Mike Straley, pastor of Camou’s home parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale, witnessed the occasion alongside immediate family and a cousin. Deacon Camou said he couldn’t imagine getting ordained without at least some of his family present. All of them have been “vessels of God’s love for me,” he said, especially his parents.

The newly ordained deacon, on track to be ordained to the priesthood next summer, said he would “never have heard God’s call if it wasn’t for their love and their witness of faith.”

(Michael Lund/Pontifical North American College)
(Michael Lund/Pontifical North American College)

“The most moving part of the whole ordination was the moment we processed out of the sacristy and up to the altar. I felt like I was walking into a dream… or heaven,” Deacon Camou wrote in an email to The Catholic Sun from Rome. “When I saw my parents, I choked up realizing that this was the culmination of God’s love for me, a love that I first experienced through my parents.”

The ordination closed out an intense month the fourth-year seminarians spent in preparation. Workshops focused on practical aspects of pastoral ministry such as liturgical preparation and marriage and family counseling. They finished with a week-long silent, individually-directed retreat.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington presided over the ordination in Rome in the same church where he was ordained a deacon, priest and bishop. Cardinal Wuerl spoke of the young men’s union with St. Peter and how laying down their lives continues a tradition that began with the Church’s first pope.

Fernando Camou, left, joined fellow ordinands during an Oct. 1 vigil on the eve of his ordination to the transitional diaconate. (Dan Hart/Pontifical North American College)
Fernando Camou, left, joined fellow ordinands during an Oct. 1 vigil on the eve of his ordination to the transitional diaconate. (Dan Hart/Pontifical North American College)

“It struck me that it really was Jesus who called me as He called Peter and that I have just as grave a duty to be faithful to Jesus as Peter did,” Deacon Camou said.

The cardinal also told them to daily renew their resolve to say, “Yes Lord. Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

That’s what Deacon Camou has been saying for years. He knew back in high school that Jesus called him to surrender his life in some way and felt off and on through college that meant a call to the seminary.
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“You are joined to Christ now as servant – the servant who nurtures, heals and restores,” the cardinal said, “the servant who feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, clothes the naked, visits the sick and imprisoned.”

He drew upon words from a homily given by Benedict XVI to remind them of their call to “re-propose’ all over again, a hearing from those who perhaps feel they have already experienced the Gospel and it has no impact in their lives.”

Deacon Camou will preach at the Rome campus of St. John’s University and the seminary. He will also expose the Blessed Sacrament and give Benediction there and in the homes of some religious sisters. He may get the chance to distribute Communion at a Papal Mass.

He has already served as a deacon with his pastor and with Bishop Olmsted, who he said has been a real spiritual father. Deacon Camou welcomes the final year of seminary as God continues to shape his heart.

“I am most excited to learn saying Mass well so that I can pray it well as a priest,” Deacon Camou said.

He described the last six years of seminary as the times of greatest struggle and greatest joys of his life, but told CNA “the little sacrifices are nothing compared to the joy of ordination.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl ordained 43 fourth year seminarians studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome to the transitional diaconate Oct. 2. (Michael Lund/Pontifical North American College)
Cardinal Donald Wuerl ordained 43 fourth year seminarians studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome to the transitional diaconate Oct. 2. (Michael Lund/Pontifical North American College)