From the Diocese of Rochester Catholic Courier
By Jennifer Burke
ROCHESTER -- Sacred Heart Cathedral was filled with both solemn prayer and joyful laughter May 31 as Bishop Matthew H. Clark ordained seven men to the diaconate.
Making his first public appearance since his May 8 hip-replacement surgery, Bishop Clark ordained Jose Berrios, Bienvenido DeJesus, Michael Donovan, David Hudzinski, Edward Kohlmeier and Alberto Pacete to the permanent diaconate. He also ordained Brian Carpenter a transitional deacon, and plans to ordain him a priest next year after Deacon Carpenter completes studies at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago.
The seven diaconal candidates were presented to the bishop immediately after the Gospel was read. As his name was called, each candidate answered "present" in a strong, clear voice. When all had been accounted for Bishop Clark elected them for ordination.
"Relying on the help of the Lord God and savior, Jesus Christ, we choose these men, our brothers, for the order of the diaconate," he announced.
"Thanks be to God," the congregation responded before affirming the candidates’ election with a lengthy and ringing applause.
"I’d like to thank our candidates for their emphatic exclamation of their presence here today," Bishop Clark said once the applause had died down.
Their presentation to the bishop was not the only time the candidates let their enthusiasm shine through. Several minutes later, after the homily, Bishop Clark asked the candidates several questions so they might publicly affirm their intention to serve in the office of the diaconate.
The candidates answered each of the bishop’s questions with a forceful "I do!" the way young military recruits might respond "Yes, sir!" to a drill sergeant at boot camp. Their response was so enthusiastic that several times it elicited chuckles from Bishop Clark and the rest of the congregation.
Laughter soon gave way to emotion, however, as the seven candidates promised obedience to Bishop Clark and his successors and then prostrated themselves on the cool cathedral floor as the congregation sang a Litany of the Saints. Several newly ordained deacons later told the Catholic Courier they would remember this powerful moment for the rest of their lives.
"I think I made a flood over there," Deacon Pacete said as he recalled the emotional experience.
"You really get the sense that you’ve got all of these saints coming down and with you as you’re lying prostrate on the ground," added Deacon Carpenter, who grew up attending St. Joseph Parish in Penfield and has since served at St. Paul Parish in Webster, St. Mary Parish in Canandaigua and Peace of Christ Parish in Rochester.
Deacon Hudzinski said he sang along with the litany as he prostrated himself, hoping the saints were watching and bestowing their blessings.
By lying prostrate on the floor before the congregation, the new deacons visibly demonstrated their commitment to humility and obedience, added Deacon Berrios, who with his wife, Candy, belongs to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Rochester.
"I was just praying for humility and asking God to make me more humble every day," he said.
Another powerful moment, Deacon Donovan said, came several minutes later, when each candidate stood or knelt before Bishop Clark, who then laid his hands on each man. When the bishop laid his hands on Deacon Kohlmeier and prayed over him, it felt like "God speaking to me," the newly ordained deacon later recalled. Deacon Kohlmeier and his wife, Nancy, belong to the three-church cluster of Church of the Epiphany, Sodus; St. Rose, Sodus Point; and St. Mary of the Lake, Ontario.
The candidates were then vested with their stoles and dalmatics by loved ones and brother deacons before each received a Book of the Gospels from Bishop Clark. The bishop then concluded the ordination part of the Mass by offering a greeting of peace to each new deacon and to the permanent deacons’ wives. Dozens of deacons then approached their new brothers, welcoming them with hugs and broad grins.
Moments later the newly ordained had their first chance to distribute Communion as deacons. This provided another powerful moment for Deacon Carpenter, who also was able to bestow his first blessing upon a young cousin of his who hadn’t yet made his first Communion.
After the Mass, the overall feeling was one of "jubilation," said Deacon Hudzinski, who with his wife, Amy, belongs to Rochester’s St. Boniface Parish. Both Deacon Hudzinski and Deacon Donovan said the ordination experience surpassed their expectations.
"This is actually the fifth ordination that I’ve been to, (but) obviously when you’re going through it yourself, it’s a lot different," said Deacon Donovan, who with his wife, Linda, belongs to Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Tioga County.
During the ordination Deacon Pacete, who belongs to the Our Lady of Lourdes/St. Casimir/St. Charles Borromeo cluster in Elmira, found himself reflecting on the unwavering support he received from his wife, Mesina, and from his family and the community at Church of the Annunciation in Rochester, where he previously served as a pastoral associate.
"This is for them," he said.
"It’s very exciting," added Deacon DeJesus, who with his wife, Priscila, attends Rochester’s Our Lady of the Americas Parish. "I’m very proud … to be part of our church in our country."
The ordination was an overwhelming experience, "kind of like (being) in a time warp, with everything going on around you," Deacon Kohlmeier observed. "You're just kind of caught up in the whole thing."
As moving and emotional as the ordination was, Deacon Carpenter expects his ordination to the priesthood next year to be even more powerful. This diaconal ordination fell on the same day as his 10-year reunion for Notre Dame University, which meant many of his friends weren’t at the cathedral May 31.
"I said, ‘Go to the reunion and come next year,’" he said.
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