BY PAUL A. BARRA
COLUMBIA — At a special Mass attended by 28 brother deacons, 18 priests and a full-house congregation, two Hispanic men were ordained to the permanent diaconate on Oct. 12. It was more than a song-filled, solemn service; it was history.
“These are the first deacons of Hispanic origin ordained for the Diocese of Charleston,” said Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, vicar general of the diocese and long-time vicar for the Permanent Diaconate. “They are from our diocese and will serve here.”
Gabriel Cuervo of Blessed Trinity parish in Greer and Diego Ferro of St. Mary in Greenville were installed in a Spanish-language ceremony before a large and joyful crowd at St. John Neumann Church. The two had prepared for their ministry the past four years with dozens of other new deacons in the Diocese of Charleston, but they were ordained separately to emphasize the historical significance of their accomplishment.
“This sends a special message to their community,” Msgr. Roth said. “Besides, the Summerville ordination would have been all in English, and their families would not have gotten as much out of it.”
Bishop Robert J. Baker, Bishop of Charleston, sung the high Mass and preached in Spanish. After ordaining them, the bishop introduced the two new deacons to the congregation. They received a standing ovation.
“It’s a big day,” Deacon Gabriel Cuervo said afterwards. “I’ve been working hard and feel the strength of the Holy Spirit in me today. My life will change a lot because of this. I want to start ministering to the people in my community as a clergyman.”
Deacon Cuervo is a communicator, working at a Spanish-language radio station and on a newspaper staff. He is married, as is Deacon Diego Ferro. Both are perfectly bilingual. Deacon Ferro’s wife of nearly nine years, Beatriz, said that she was proud of her husband on his ordination day.
“He has always wanted to be up there (at the altar). He is a man of faith,” Mrs. Ferro said.
Deacon Ferro himself said that his ordination will enhance his family life and make his ministry more effective.
He is employed full time by St. Mary Parish, already doing sacramental preparation, teaching and administrative duties as director of Hispanic Ministries. His pastor, Father Jay Scott Newman, said: “He is invaluable to our parish.”
More than two dozen deacons came to the long Mass on a sunny fall Saturday to demonstrate their solidarity with their new colleagues. “We have been through four years of classes with these two guys, have suffered together. We’re like brothers,” said Deacon Dale Palmer of Corpus Christi in Lexington.
Deacon Ron Anderson of St. Peter in Columbia and Deacon Jim Collins of the Church of the Resurrection in Loris said that the diaconate preparation is a bonding process that forms a community.
Besides the solemn ordination ceremony, with the candidates prostrating themselves and then the bishop laying hands on them to impart the Spirit, another moving part of the 150-minute Mass was the meditation after Communion. Soloist Giovanna Gomez sang an Ave Maria that silenced even the many children in church.
Bishop Baker called the ordination a milestone: “It’s a sign of special blessing for the Hispanic community in this diocese. This is truly ‘the day the Lord has made.’ Let us rejoice and be glad.”
The bishop also thanked Msgr. Roth for his work with the permanent diaconate and the organizers of Dia de la Hispanidad for the celebratory meal that followed at St. John Neumann School.
Father Lee Selzer was master-of-ceremonies for the special mass.