GOOSE CREEK—Fourteen new deacons will now serve the faithful of the Diocese of Charleston after being ordained by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone at Immaculate Conception Church on Feb. 11.
They are part of a vibrant renewal of the permanent diaconate in the diocese. Thirty-five men were ordained to the diaconate in 2016 and another 34 are currently in formation, with ordinations set in 2019 and 2021. More men have applied to the program and several others have expressed interest.
The newly ordained are Michael Bannio, Galo De Jesus Barreto, Salvatore L. Cancello, Joseph Dennis, Lawrence Deschaine, Bruce Fortnum, James Letendre, Randy Sexton, Andrew Charles Thomas, Gerard Thibodeaux, Jason Vaughan, John Villano, Gerard White and Ruben Zamudio.
One candidate withdrew before the ordination.
Family members and friends packed the pews at Immaculate Conception to watch the men begin their new life of ministry. Thirty-five priests and 50 fellow deacons also turned out to show their support.
As permanent deacons, the men will now proclaim the word during liturgies, assist during Mass, baptize, witness marriages, visit the sick and dying, lead prayer services and benedictions and preside over funerals and wakes. Deacons also perform a wide variety of other tasks at the parish level, and frequently teach classes and take part in outreach programs.
In his homily, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone described the special lives of holiness and service that permanent deacons must lead.
“This ministry comes down to us from the apostles, and as deacons these men are to go about all their duties in such a way that you will recognize them as disciples,” he said. “I urge you to do the will of God from the heart, serve the people in love and serve them with the same joy as you would serve the Lord.”
Bishop Guglielmone noted the ordination took place on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick. He said that just as Lourdes in France is known as a place where people go for healing, the newly ordained deacons will have a role in bringing healing to people going through troubles.
“As deacons, be men of charity and service,” he said. “There has to be a real sense of connection with the poor, with those going through poverty of spirit, loneliness, addiction. These people on the margins need you to reach out to them.”
One of the most dramatic parts of the liturgy came when the 14 men prostrated themselves in front of the altar during the Litany of Supplication. Members of the congregation sang prayers to Christ, Mary, saints and holy men and women of the Church to intercede for them.
The bishop laid hands on each of them and prayed, and then the newly ordained deacons were vested with the stole and dalmatic, the visible sign of their new vocation. He also handed them the book of the Gospels, a symbol of their new ability to proclaim the word.
Deacon André Guillet, director of the diaconate formation program, said he was incredibly proud of the ordinands.
“I love them because I know they are going to serve our Church incredibly well,” he said. “They are part of a great tradition and they have the support of so many people.”
After the liturgy, the deacons and their wives posed for photos with the bishop and took time to reflect on their new life of ministry.
Deacon Lawrence Deschaine and his wife Kim Deschaine stood talking with relatives and friends from St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Edgefield.
“I’m speechless when I think about the journey I’m beginning,” Deacon Deschaine said. “This all came about through the grace of God.”
Mrs. Deschaine said the ordination ceremony was the culmination of many years of work.
“There were many challenges, balancing full-time jobs, family and classes, but we did it because of so much support from the others in the class,” she said. “We all truly became like a family.”
Deacon Deschaine’s parents, Larry and Barbara Deschaine, travelled from their home in Connecticut for the ordination.
“I never in a million years thought I would have a son who is a deacon,” Mr. Deschaine said. “When he sets his mind to something, he does it, and he went after this with gusto.”
Deacon Michael Bannio, from Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, said he was profoundly affected when he prostrated himself before the altar.
“When you’re lying there on that floor, you realize what is about to happen to you, and nothing prepares you for the significance of that moment,” he said. “It is an awesome and special experience.”
Deacon Joseph Dennis, of St. Gerard Church in Aiken, noted that his new status as a deacon still hadn’t sunk in yet.
“Today was a spirit-filled experience, but it will all probably hit me when I serve at my first Mass at my church,” he said. “As a deacon, I’m looking forward to truly being there to serve people on the margins.”
Deacon Jason Vaughan, of Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island, said he was leaving his future in ministry up to God.
“This has been a tremendous experience and now I’m just looking forward to serving the Lord in whatever capacity he has in store for me,” he said.
Except where noted, photos by Doug Deas/Miscellany
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