Families of deceased deacons in the Diocese of Trenton gathered to remember their loved ones in St. James Church, Pennington.
Families of deceased deacons in the Diocese of Trenton gathered to remember their loved ones in St. James Church, Pennington.

Eleven-year-old Anthony Gruenling never met his grandfather before his death in 2007.  But he was happy to honor his namesake, Deacon Anthony Mustillo, during the Diocesan Memorial Mass for deceased deacons Nov. 6 in St. James Church, Pennington.

Anthony’s grandmother, Jeanette Mustillo, said of the Mass, “It’s a way to celebrate my husband and all the deacons who are the servants of the Church.” She recalled fondly the parish ministries and organizations her husband proudly served while a deacon in the Holmdel parish. 

“He was just so holy and so humble,” Michele Gruenling said lovingly of her father.

The annual Memorial Mass is celebrated in the Diocese of Trenton for deceased members of the diaconate, their wives and family members in November, during the month of All Souls. The Mass, which was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, was celebrated by Msgr. Thomas J. Mullelly, episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life. 

In his Homily, Msgr. Mullelly reflected on raising of Lazarus in John’s Gospel, who although dead for four days, was raised to new life by Jesus. 

“Those wonderful men who took the time to go through the deacon formation program, those men who served in the shadow of human acclaim, those men who through the reception of the Eucharist and other opportunities to receive God’s grace – they are like Lazarus.  Their bodies may fall away, but they are resting in the expectation of the Resurrection and we celebrate them today.” 

Msgr. Mullelly also encouraged those in attendance to remember their deceased loved ones daily, to pray for the dead always and to pray to those who are now among the Communion of Saints for their intercession when times are challenging. 

The deceased deacons of the Diocese were remembered several times during the Mass. Family members and friends were invited to say aloud the name of their loved one during the Prayers of the Faithful, and a moment of silence was observed for all of the deacons who have died since 1977, when the diaconate program was instituted in the Diocese. 

Msgr. Mullelly, at the end of Mass, also asked the congregation to acknowledge the deceased by joining in a round of applause, recognizing them for a life well-lived in service to the Lord, their families and their parishes. 

The families of the deacons were happy to share their memories of the deceased with The Monitor. 

We come every year to remember my father and to honor all of my father’s fellow deacons who have also passed away,” Kimberley Arroyo shared. “He loved helping the Church and being a part of the altar server ministry.”

She and her mother, Roseanna Moore, were present to honor their father and husband, Deacon Timothy Moore, who served in Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, until his death in 2014.  

Deacon Mike Riley, of St. George Parish, Titusville, shared similar sentiments.

“[The Mass] is an opportunity for families to remember in a formal way the life and service and deeds of their loved ones and to remember and celebrate that their loved ones are close to God now and rest with him in eternity,” said Deacon Riley.