COLUMBIA—Three men took an important step on the road to the priesthood when they were ordained as transitional deacons by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone July 16 at St. Joseph Church.
Deacons S. Matthew Gray, William S. Hearne and David D. Nerbun will serve at parishes until they have to return to seminary to complete preparation for ordination in 2011.
Men must serve as deacons for at least six months before entering the priesthood. As transitional deacons, they may proclaim the Gospel, assist at weddings outside Mass, baptize, preach and assist during the liturgy.
In his homily, Bishop Guglielmone reflected on the first reading (Jer 1:4-9), which depicts the young prophet Jeremiah as being reluctant to accept God’s call because he feels he is too young and doesn’t know how to speak eloquently. The prophet accepts after God reassures him, saying he will protect him and teach him the proper words to say.
The bishop said the story described the immense challenge and importance of a religious vocation, and the need for the deacons to rely on God as they begin their new roles in the church.
“Jeremiah recognizes his own human limitations, and the Lord reminds him that it is not his own message he will proclaim, but the word of God,” he said. “… Where will God lead you? At this time who can tell? What is absolutely essential is that you constantly be open to the Spirit. Listen carefully to the spirit of God in your heart.”
During the ceremony, the three men proclaimed their obedience to the church and its authority, and vowed to live a celibate life. They were clothed in the stole and dalmatic, the traditional vestments of the diaconate.
Afterward, Bishop Guglielmone told the congregation of more than 250 that it was a blessing for the Diocese of Charleston to have three new deacons.
“Many, many thanks are in order,” he said. “Thanks be to God. We are absolutely thrilled that you have accepted this vocation. God calls and we don’t have to say yes, but you have said yes. I thank your parents and families and all who have gone before you who brought you to this point in your lives.”
He also gave thanks to Mary because the ordination coincided with the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
At a reception in Rowland Hall, members of Deacon Nerbun’s family gathered around, including his parents and six siblings.
“I’m elated and I feel so loved,” said Deacon Nerbun. “God is good!”
His mother, Ann Nerbun, said her son’s dedication to the church started in his childhood. He was an altar server all the way through high school.
“We love the church, we’re blessed, and we’re very grateful,” Mrs. Nerbun said. “Just the whole ritual of ordination was beyond our comprehension.”
Deacon Hearne said the diaconate is a special milestone in his life, and he wished his parents, who are deceased, could have been with him to enjoy it. He said his vocation came after 21 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and corporate work.
“The ceremony was extraordinarily beautiful, extremely moving,” he said. “I feel very much at peace.”
Deacon Gray’s family praised his commitment. He was raised Presbyterian, but converted to Catholicism in 2002.
“It’s amazing to see the progression he’s made in his faith journey,” said Adam Gray of Columbia, his brother. “If ever there was anyone who had the heart of a priest, it’s Matthew.”
“Words cannot describe how great God is,” Deacon Gray said. “He’s amazing. If you follow Him in love, He’ll change your life.”
The three men will work with their assigned pastors and learn about the many facets of parish operations. Deacon Gray is assigned to St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville, Deacon Hearne to St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville, and Deacon Nerbun is at St. Gregory the Great in Bluffton. The men will remain at the parishes until their respective schools resume.