It happened 10 years ago at St. Matthew Parish in Phoenix. Dcn. Catarino Portillo and his wife Julia regularly attended the parish where they served in various ministries and participated in a group Bible study.
On one occasion, they attended a retreat for couples sponsored by their parish, where they experienced an environment of silence, prayer, recollection and devotion. It was in this environment that the future Dcn. Portillo was able to identify and listen to God’s calling to the diaconate.
“I had a personal encounter with God on that retreat,” said Dcn. Portillo, who was ordained along with five other men by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted Nov. 3 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. “Before that, I had never thought of the idea of the diaconate, but I felt a huge desire to serve my community and my Church.
“In prayer, I put myself in His hands, and asked Him to indicate how and when,” he added.
For three years before that retreat, various priests and parishioners asked him if he’d ever considered the diaconate, but after that, people started asking him more frequently.
After talking with his wife, they discerned that God was calling him to the diaconate, and his vocation slowly matured with the support of his family and pastor before finally deciding to enter formation.
“It’s a blessing from God,” said the new deacon of his ordination, where he was accompanied by his wife, two children, parents and other close relatives. “I feel blessed now that I can begin to serve God and my people.”
Dcn. Portillo was assigned to leave his home parish and serve at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Peoria.
The new deacon’s wife Julia Portillo is convinced that the role of a wife is imperative for a deacon from the very beginning of his discernment.
“Firstly, as a married couple, the involvement of the wife is fundamental, and it is always important for her to be at his side with dedication,” she said.
It’s also important to consider that the wife of a deacon always accompanies and participates somehow in his ministry.
“But in this ministry (and since his preparation) prayer is primary. If there’s no prayer, things won’t go well,” Julia added. “We advise married couples to participate in their parish and look for ways to serve. Perhaps God is calling some of them to the diaconate, and surely they’ll be able to listen to God in that environment.”