The last Sunday of Ordinary Time was anything but ordinary during a midmorning Mass at St. Gregory Nov. 16.
That’s when parishioners celebrated the life of deacons by thanking one for 25 years of faithful service, welcoming another to his new assignment and introducing a third who was ordained a week prior. They are the only deacons currently serving a parish with 1,000 families.
“May you excel in every virtue, proclaim the Good News and always imitate our Savior,” Fr. Larry Merta, pastor, prayed during the installation of Deacon Angel Torres and Deacon Bill Jenkins.
Deacon Torres was one of eight men ordained Nov. 8. Deacon Jenkins transferred from another Phoenix parish where he served since his ordination in 1997. He finds hospital ministry rewarding and loves being able to meet the needs of the people, a calling the deacon has also found in marriage ministry.
“We put ourselves out there, but they give back,” Deacon Jenkins said, noting the smiles he finds on the faces of those he encounters.
Deacon Torres has been assigned to ministry of outreach. He encouraged parishioners to stay strong in prayer and to offer a firm and true commitment to the faith.
“Our children and our children’s children are leaving the Church because we have ceased to practice our faith with the passion with which we used to,” Deacon Torres said during a brief address at a post-Mass reception.
He said routine could make people indifferent, which is the opposite of love. He sees a gap when preparing families for a funeral and finds that of a handful of surviving adult children, only one is still a practicing Catholic “and there is strong influence of his family to ignore the importance of the Mass and prayers for the deceased,” Deacon Torres said.
Deacon Lee Kloft, although officially retired, still finds himself tending to graveside burials, helping with baptisms and visiting a nearby care home.
“It just didn’t seem like that long,” the deacon said of his 25 years of ordained ministry at St. Gregory, “I guess that says something about about it that it goes by that quickly. A good 25 years.”
He encouraged the parish’s incoming deacons to pray a lot.
Fr. Merta did too, and extended the invitation to the entire parish family. The day’s gospel readings focused on vocations and the pastor encouraged Massgoers to openly pray for their child’s or grandchild’s vocation discernment.
“Pray that you want what God wants for your children,” Fr. Merta said, reminding them that the first call of the Christian is to follow Jesus.