Awash with a sense of gratitude, Seminarian William Frei of Aiken was ordained into the transitional diaconate Oct. 3 in the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican at the Altar of the Chair.
In the Catholic Church, the diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry, priest and bishop being the other two. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons.
Deacon Frei was one of 31 men to be ordained by Bishop Robert P. Deeley, of the Diocese of Portland. In an email to The Miscellany, Deacon Frei said he approached his ordination with a sense of great peace, which has only increased since that day.
“As Oct. 3 was my birthday, I see ordination as the greatest gift that God could have given me on that day — an unmerited gift that God has freely bestowed upon me, to which I can only respond with deep gratitude and surrender,” he wrote.
Having the experience of an ordination at the Holy See was amazing, the young deacon said, and he was moved by the large number of priests, family and friends in attendance.
“As I considered those present whom I knew, I couldn’t help but realize that people from every stage of my life were present to support and pray for me, he said. “It helped me understand that I had they themselves to thank, along with God’s grace, for helping get to where I was that day, as they each in their own way helped me ‘find God’ and to choose to live for Him.”
During Mass, they promised their obedience to their bishops, to a life of chaste celibacy, and to being men of prayer, specifically by praying the Liturgy of the Hours on behalf of the Church and the world.
Photos via Pontifical North American College.
“The two most powerful moments for me during the ordination were making the promises and the laying on of hands,” he said. “After I had made the promises, I felt great peace and freedom, as the promises provided me with a clear direction of how I would spend my life.
“Laying on of hands was also profound, as I became a cleric (after the prayer of ordination, which takes place after the laying on of hands) and, therefore, received my vocation. No longer am I discerning to which vocation God is calling me, as He has indeed called and I have — by His grace — responded to that call.”
Now that he is a deacon, Rev. Mr. Frei looks forward to serving at the altar and particularly offering exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
He will spend his time as deacon in Rome, where he is taking a two-year licentiate program in Ignatian Spirituality.
Originally from Aiken, Deacon Frei grew up a member of St. Mary Help of Christians. His pastor, Father Gregory Wilson, attended the ordination. Before he left, he wrote a column on the church website (stmarys-aiken.org ):
“For the last eight years we have watched Will go through college seminary, an intense philosophy program, and finally major seminary at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. We have had a front row seat in seeing Will grow in his vocation, in love, and in knowledge of Christ and His Church as he prepares for the holy priesthood.”
Deacon Frei also had support in the presence of his bishop, Most. Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone; his diocesan vicar of vocations, Father Matthew Gray; and his friend, Father Rhett Williams, parochial vicar of St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville.
He said he is grateful to everyone in the diocese, in thanksgiving for their prayers and support.
Deacon Frei will be ordained to the priesthood next year at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston.
See more photos in the Oct. 10, 2019, edition of The Miscellany, or watch his ordination at https://www.facebook.com/PontificalNorthAmericanCollege/videos/421707571813611.