Their primary role will forever be as husband and father, but a new, God-given title has six men permanently known as something else too: deacon.
What’s more, they served their first Masses Nov. 4, the onset of National Vocation Awareness Week. For Dcn. Catarino Portillo, it was also the feast of his parish’s patron saint: Charles Borromeo.
A day earlier the six men and their families filled the first six rows down both sides of the main aisle of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral where Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted ordained the husbands/fathers to the permanent diaconate. They can now preach the Gospel from the altar, be the key face at baptisms and weddings, preside over public prayer, conduct funeral rites and carry out works of charity in the name of the bishop or pastor.
This is in addition to their secular work, since none of this year’s cohort are retired yet. Their primary vocation remains first, however, to God and then to family with diaconate duties completing the trio. That’s something Dcn. Abe Calderon from St. Timothy Parish advised the diocese’s newest deacons to keep close to their heart. He celebrated 14 years of ministry Nov. 5.
“Everybody’s so eager to serve. We get ordained and we want to do everything. Slow down and listen to the Holy Spirit,” Dcn. Calderon said. “The hardest thing is to listen to what the Holy Spirit wants us to do …. Always remember, you’re a husband. You have a family. Sometimes the hardest thing a deacon learns is how to say ‘no.’”
Saying “yes” to the Lord was likely a learning curve too, Bishop Olmsted said.
“When you first heard His call to serve as deacons, it may have taken you awhile to freely and gladly say ‘yes’ to Him. How did you come to know it was the Lord calling and not someone else?” the bishop asked in his homily. “Who helped you to say with confidence, ‘Jesus, I trust in you’?”
He confidently expressed that their fiat came through prayer, discernment and trust. That’s formally a five-year process in the Diocese of Phoenix with a two-year prerequisite at the Kino Catechetical Institute.
The diaconate was restored in the U.S. Church 50 years ago. Phoenix currently has 218 deacons not counting the newest six-pack.
Several pointed to the laying on of hands as a key moment within the ordination Mass.
“There was something internally that happened. You could just feel the spirit, the grace of God,” said Dcn. Steve Schmidt.
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The wives saw something special in that moment too. Donna, Dcn. Schmidt’s wife, described it as the union of heaven and earth. Therese Myers, whose husband Dcn. Jim Myers is serving at San Francisco de Asís Parish in Flagstaff, found herself being filled with the Holy Spirit at the same time.
Her husband’s key moments during ordination came at other parts of Mass. First during the promise of the elect as he knelt in front of the bishop who enclosed his hands around the new deacon’s.
“You’re looking into his eyes and saying, ‘I do’ and also saying it to Christ,” Dcn. Myers said.
The other highlight was while vesting for the first time. Watching his pastor hand him a deacon stole and then put a dalmatic over his head illuminated words both men heard at their ordinations. They are to imitate Christ the servant “who came not to be served, but to serve.”