By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
“I’ve been praying for your son for so long,” Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., said warmly as he welcomed Anthony and Rita Pinto May 19 in St. Raphael Church, Hamilton, to the transitional diaconate ordination for their son, Christopher.
Photo Gallery: Christopher Pinto Transitional Diaconate Ordination
“It’s a very emotional day,” Rita Pinto shared, as her husband concurred.
“I’m so proud,” Anthony Pinto said.
The Pintos, joined by their son Michael, and daughter, Lorraine Powers, were among the family, friends, students and parishioners of numerous parishes – including St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish and St. Anthony of Padua, Hightstown – who gathered to witness the ordination.
The Rev. Mr. Pinto, a former middle and high school band director, will serve his diaconate year assignment in the Hightstown parish.
“Mr. Pinto was my son’s teacher at Northern [Burlington High School, Columbus]. He was always such a great guy, so this is really wonderful,” said Colleen Herbert of St. Andrew Parish, Jobstown.
A wonderful day it was as Bishop O’Connell, who was joined by his brother priests and deacons from around the Diocese, joked in his opening remarks to the congregation.
“There’s a great deal of pressure today that has nothing to do with the sacred Sacrament. You’re competing with the royal wedding! In this Diocese, though, I think you’ve won,” he said to laughter, referencing the marriage of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle.
Successor to the First Deacons
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell spoke to the origin of the diaconate, which, he stated, was traditionally regarded as “the call of seven men.”
“It was, at least from the first until the fifth century, a permanent or stable office in the Church,” he said. “For the next 15 centuries, it became a transitional office required for priestly ordination. The Second Vatican Council restored its original purpose, creating both a transitional and a permanent office with no sacramental difference.
In the beginning, the 12 apostles called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the Word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task and the proposal was acceptable to the whole community.”
He continued. “Christopher Pinto, our brother, is a successor to those first seven deacons, and I, as Bishop, am a successor to the apostles who first ordained them. With me, with the clergy and in the midst of the entire community of believers here, he will be ordained to serve the Church in Central New Jersey until his next year [when he is ordained] to the priesthood. His will be a ministry of the Word: proclaiming, preaching and teaching. His will be a ministry of the altar and the liturgy. His will be a ministry of charity in the care of the poor and neediest among us. To those three ends, he will promise obedience to me and my successors. And he will commit himself to celibate chastity, belonging only to Christ, his Church and this Diocese.
“To preach the Word effectively, he must first hear it, read it and understand it. To minister at the altar, he must love the mysteries made present. To give charity, he must be a man of deep and profound love as our familiar Gospel today reminds him. These three ends are the Good News of God’s Kingdom, the very mission of the Lord, all expressed in communion with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
Following his homily, Msgr. Thomas J. Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life, gave testimony regarding Pinto’s worthiness for ordination.
After a round of applause from the congregation, Pinto made a promise of celibacy and a promise of obedience to Bishop O’Connell and his successors. The Litany of the Saints was then chanted by the Diocesan Festival Choir as Pinto lie prostrate at the base of the sanctuary.
Bishop O’Connell concluded the ordination by offering a silent prayer during the laying on of hands, the official action in which Pinto was ordained.
Rev. Mr. Pinto was vested in the stole and dalmatic by Deacon Rich Arcari of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish. He then received the Book of the Gospels from Bishop O’Connell.
“Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become,” the Bishop said. “Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
The newly ordained deacon assisted Bishop O’Connell during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop O’Connell thanked all who assisted Rev. Mr. Pinto in the faith formation that led to his ordination and offered words of encouragement.
“On behalf of all of us here, congratulations, do well, serve well,” the Bishop said.
Words of Congratulations
Following the Mass, the congregation assembled in the school gymnasium for a lunch and an opportunity to congratulate Rev. Mr. Pinto, who, between handshakes, hugs and photos, reflected on his ordination to the diaconate.
“The day was God-filled. My heart is God-filled today,” he said.
Michael Pinto, who served as a reader during Mass, said “I am honored beyond belief to be actively involved in my very own brother’s ordination to the diaconate. This is very humbling.”
Hilda Plaza, a parishioner in St. Anthony of Padua Parish, had kind words for the new deacon who will assist in weddings, funerals, proclaiming the Gospel and preaching homilies in addition to his studies at St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore.
“We are very happy. What a beautiful gift the Bishop gave to us today,” she said.