From El Paso Times
By María Cortés González / El Paso Times
Juan Manuel Alvarez will be ordained a deacon May 31. (Courtesy of Juan Manuel Alvarez)For the first time in more than 25 years, the El Paso Catholic Diocese will be ordaining 15 deacons -- fulfilling a role in the Catholic church that dates back to the Bible.
The men, who come from a variety of backgrounds including education, engineering and law, will be ordained at a Mass on May 31 at St. Raphael Catholic Church on the East Side. Bishop Armando X. Ochoa will lead the 10 a.m. service.
The Rev. John Stowe, spokesman for the diocese, said the new deacons would be a "great blessing" to the parishes they will serve.
"They will assist with sacramental, charitable and catechetical ministries, depending on the needs of their particular parish," he said. "Deacons are able to baptize, witness weddings and conduct funeral rites, which will be a great help for many of their pastors."
Leaders in the diocese are proud of the training the deacons received. The 15 were carefully selected from a pool of about 100 applicants.
"They have gone through a thorough formation program of four years, and their wives have been part of that program as well," Stowe said.
He added, "Because it has been many years since we had an ordination to the permanent diaconate, there was a great deal of interest when the formation began four years ago. Many men are not aware of how much time the preparation takes or how much service they are expected to give; still, there were a good number of applicants for the program."
The diaconate program consisted of four years of preparation --
one year of pastoral training and three years of academic studies including moral theology, the history of the church, liturgy and the sacraments and the Old and New Testaments.
Sister Marie Vianney Bilgrien, of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, said the deacons are not necessarily being seen as the answer to the priest shortage in the Catholic church.
Instead, she said, the new deacons are bringing back an ancient tradition.
"It's actually found in Acts (of the Apostles), Chapter 6, where
Carlos E. Rubio, pictured with Norma Lujan, will be ordained a deacon and serve at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church. (Times file photo.)people began to grumble that people weren't being taken care of. And so the apostles picked seven men to feed the hungry and take care of the widows," said Bilgrien, coordinator of pastoral studies at Tepeyac Institute.
The deacons will be the "eyes and ears" of the bishop and help take care of the needs of people, she said.
Juan Manuel Alvarez, who will be ordained and serves at St. Pius X Catholic Church, said he was tentative when he first entered the program four years ago.
"When I started, it was like, 'Let's see how it goes and living day by day,' " he said.
Now he is ready to serve God by living by what Matthew said in the gospel -- to help the sick and feed the poor.
"I feel strong and I'm ready to serve God and am confident in all that I have learned," he said. "It's a great opportunity to share my faith with all people and share that responsibility that we have as Christians. We need to love one another like Jesus loves us."
Carlos E. Rubio, another deacon who serves in the Our Lady of the Valley parish, said he is ready to see his responsibilities increase. Before he entered the program, he was already heavily involved in the church in various programs, including the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
"This is a calling for me, and I feel that I have a certain responsibility to the church, which is good," he said. "We do better when we have a complete commitment to do something."
Deacon Jim Szostek, who was ordained in 1978, said it will be a balancing act for the new deacons to serve God, as well as to be husbands, fathers and professionals.
And he is the first to acknowledge he has no idea how many hours he spends at St. Pius versus his home or his business, Jolly Jim's at Bassett Center.
"It is just part of my lifestyle. I do all of those things -- being a family breadwinner, husband and vocation ministry -- all at the same time."
But he is as firm in his enjoyment of that busy life style as he is of his faith.
"It just gives true meaning to life -- and I feel that the community is like my second family," he said.
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