The six deacon candidates lie prostrate on the floor during the singing of the Litany of Saints.
The six deacon candidates lie prostrate on the floor during the singing of the Litany of Saints.
Bishop O’Connell: ‘And now your work begins’

For Father Jeffrey Kegley, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Middletown, May 21 wasn’t just a good day for his parish.

It was a “grand day,” he said, after the Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, where six men were ordained to the Order of Deacon by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

“We are so blessed,” Father Kegley said of Deacon George Chemaly, who will serve St. Mary Parish. “George is an exceptional man. People recognize in him his love of the Lord, the Blessed Mother and the Church.”

Of the six ordinands, five are permanent deacons, meaning they are married with families, have or are retired from careers and serve in a variety of ministries in their parishes. Along with Deacon Chemaly, the other permanent deacons are Deacon Robert Golden, St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant; Deacon Eugene Kotowski, St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton; Deacon Joseph Montone, St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral Parish, Trenton, and Deacon Paul LaPlante, St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square.

PHOTO GALLERY: Diaconate Ordination 2022

The sixth man, Rev. Mr. Kevin Hrycenko, is now a transitional deacon and is expected to be ordained a priest next spring.

“They have prayed and listened and learned what that [Order of Deacon] means and what it requires of them,” Bishop O’Connell said in his homily. “The order that they seek was born out of the needs of those first Apostles to serve the community of faith in very practical ways.”

Rooted in Tradition

Before the Ordination Rite, Bishop O’Connell preached on how the history of the Church has described deacons and their service in many ways, reflective of circumstances that differed from era to era.

“The story of the Church’s deacons over the centuries is a rich and profound one but a theme ties that story together over these many, many years,” he said. “The deacon enables the successors to the Apostles to offer their apostolic ministry to the people of God in collaboration with our brother priests in the proclamation of the Word, the liturgy of the Church and its works of charity. They stand close by the bishop and his collaborators, the priests. Deacons stand . . .  ‘to serve and not to be served.’”

Following the homily, Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and religious life and director of seminarians, called the then-deacon candidates forward and testified on their behalf that they were indeed prepared to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and assume the responsibilities of the diaconate. When Bishop O’Connell, in the name of the entire Church, accepted the testimony, the congregation signaled their approval with a round of applause.

The Rite of Ordination began with each of the six candidates kneeling before the Bishop and placing their hands in his, making a Promise of Obedience to Bishop O’Connell and his successors. They then showed their total dependence on God by prostrating themselves on the floor of the Cathedral’s sanctuary as the cantor chanted the Litany of Saints. Again, each man once again came forward and knelt before the Bishop, who placed his hands on their heads, conferring the Holy Spirit upon them and silently praying the words of consecration.

The ordinands, with assistance from the priests or deacons they had selected, were then vested with the stole and dalmatic, the liturgical garments that symbolize their ministry. The congregation erupted in a lengthy round of applause as a sign of support.

The Ordination Rite continued with the deacons kneeling again before Bishop O’Connell, who placed the Book of the Gospels in their hands and said, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”

Words of Praise, Thanksgiving

Before he bestowed the Final Blessing, Bishop O’Connell offered acknowledgements that included St. Joseph Sister Rose McDermott, who is retiring after many years as academic advisor in the diocesan diaconate program, as well as the diocesan delegate for religious. He also acknowledged the Diocesan Festival Choir for leading the congregation in song.

The Bishop thanked the new deacons for their vocation of “service to our Church in our Diocese” and spoke of the great blessing their ministry will bring to their respective parishes and to the Diocese.

“Today is a day you have looked forward to for a long time,” he said. “And now your work begins.”

A sense of joy permeated both inside the Cathedral and outside where family members, fellow parishioners and well-wishers extended greetings and congratulations to the new deacons.

“This is a wonderful day to have six good men commit themselves in service to the Church,” Msgr. Mullelly said, then added that he is looking forward to next spring when Rev. Mr. Hrycenko is ordained a priest. Msgr. Mullelly added that there are more than 30 men who are currently enrolled in the diocesan diaconate formation program.

Lori LaPlante and Jeanette Golden exuded great joy while expressing what it meant for them to witness their respective husband’s Ordination day after having supported them over the past five years of their formation.

“Oh my gosh,” said an ecstatic Jeanette Golden. “Bob is ready to apply what he has learned in school and be with the people. For him to be able to do this is a gift.”

“Today is the crowning moment that brings together everything that Paul is,” Lori LaPlante said of her husband.

“I’m excited to begin the next phase of the journey as Paul begins his service as a deacon,” she added.

Deacon Kotowski said he felt like he was on “cloud nine” during the Ordination Mass.

“I was smiling and crying during the whole time,” he said. “For me and my brother deacons, today our journey is just beginning. It’s time for us to get in the trenches and serve our parishes. I’m looking forward to that.”