Eight men prostrated themselves inside Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral Nov. 8 in a gesture of humility and self-donation to the Church. Each had answered God’s call to serve as permanent deacons.[quote_box_right]
Peter Auriemma began discerning his call to holy orders in high school — first wondering about the priesthood, but later realizing he was meant to serve as a deacon. Andrew Gilliand began discerning the diaconate 18 months before the minimum required age of 30.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted conferred the sacrament of holy orders upon them and six other family men in a special two-hour liturgy. They join a pool of 235 deacons who serve at the altar plus in parish ministry, hospitals and jails.
The bishop reminded a cathedral packed full with family, friends and supporters, such as the Knights and Dames of Malta and the Knights of Columbus, about the role of a deacon. He is a minister of the word, of the altar and of charity, particularly in the name of his bishop or pastor.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted ordained the following men to the permanent diaconate Nov. 8. They began serving immediately at their assigned parishes.
- Peter Auriemma, St. Joan of Arc Parish in Phoenix
- Christopher Georges, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale
- Andrew Gilliand, Resurrection in Tempe
- Dennis Lambert, St. Timothy in Mesa
- Frank Nevarez, St. Bernadette in Scottsdale
- Richard Nevins, St. Anne in Gilbert
- Jose Angel Torres, St. Gregory in Phoenix
- Mark Veazie, San Francisco de Asís in Flagstaff
“With the help of God, you will see these men going about their duties in a way that you will recognize them as disciples of Him who came not to be served, but to serve,” the bishop said.
Deacons are charged with presiding over public prayer, the sacrament of baptism plus assisting with marriages and tending to the dying and exercising funeral rites. They also exhort believers and nonbelievers.
That’s something Deacon Auriemma has been doing for quite some time. He spent a number of years with his wife in a small West Virginia town where he found himself among a Catholic minority. Still, Christian churches welcomed his medical expertise leading up to Easter to share a physiological account of Jesus’ death.
Audiences embraced the account and the chance to venerate a large crucifix the future deacon brought with him.
“It was a tremendous evangelization tool for so many Christians in West Virginia,” Deacon Auriemma said.
He has been in Arizona for roughly 18 years and looks forward to being a bridge between English- and Spanish-speaking Catholics at St. Joan of Arc. Deacon Auriemma completed medical school in Mexico and became multilingual.
He spent the last year coordinating Hispanic catechesis and evangelization at the north Phoenix parish east of State Route 51. He’ll also be the parish’s only deacon.
The deacon likened formation to being on a surfboard that the Holy Spirit supports and guides.
“You just learn how much trust and how much love you can have in Him,” Deacon Auriemma said.
Each ordinand knelt in front of the bishop on the altar to pledge their fidelity to him and receive the book of the Gospels. The bishop said it can be frightening to hear God’s word at first. Grace frees the heart to be obedient like Jesus was, he said.
“Christ today has consecrated you in truth… and teaching and serving in His name. Do so with a joyful heart,” the bishop said, noting a missionary joy that Pope Francis proclaimed. “As deacons — ministers of Jesus Christ — do the will of God from the heart.”
Wives go through formation with their husbands and often serve with them in their ministry. The Class of 2014 featured such a young cohort that there were often age-appropriate lessons for the children too so learning and discussion could flow more seamlessly at home.
Jessica Gilliand found formation with her husband, Andrew, to be fruitful for their entire family, even if in the end he hadn’t been called to ordination.
“He’s grown as a father and as a husband by leaps and bounds. His gentleness and his humility have grown and have helped us to be closer to God,” Jessica said.
Formation also gave her a chance to watch the new generation and the New Evangelization up close and personal with the children. The couple has three young boys on earth, two children in heaven and one in the womb.
“It’s like having a front row seat to God’s plan for us,” she said.
Her husband’s ministry will have him overseeing the altar server ministry at Resurrection Parish in Tempe and heading Ministry of Care.
Chris Georges, a new deacon at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale, found a calling during formation in Native American ministry. He had a social ministry practicum on one of the reservations and, as a deacon, will continue some work at St. John the Baptist Parish in Laveen.
Deacon Georges will also continue marriage preparation with his wife, Teresa and support the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale. The deacon has some nullity training under his belt and will begin helping with the annulment process as well.