By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
With family, faithful and members of the brotherhood they hope to join looking on as witnesses, the five-year journey of 15 men to ordination in the ancient order of the diaconate came closer to reality Nov. 19 in St. Joseph Church, Toms River.
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There, six men from Monmouth and Ocean Counties who are in the third year of preparation for the diaconate were recommended to Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., for the Rite of Lector by Msgr. Thomas J. Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life and director of seminarians.
The six presented were John E. Barrett; St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant; John G. Gilligan, St. Catherine Parish, Middletown; Russell D. Greiner and Edward H. Woram, both St. Joseph Parish, Toms River; Mark D. McNulty, St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, and John W. Senkewicz, St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft.
With solemnity befitting the occasion, each knelt placing his hand on the book of sacred Scripture as Bishop O’Connell installed them in the rite. This step following candidacy appoints the lectors to proclaim Readings, except the Gospel, during the Mass and in other sacred celebrations and recite the Psalms between Readings and other liturgical duties.
Within minutes, nine men from the four counties of the Diocese who have successfully completed their first year of study and preparation then stood as they were accepted by Bishop O’Connell in the Rite of Candidacy. Receiving the rite were Philip G. Clingerman and Paul H. DeGrazia, both St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown; Gene F. Lanzoni, Jr. St. Ann, Lawrenceville; James M. Mackintosh and Jorge T. Valente, both St. Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold; Salvatore A. Petro, Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton; Paul A. Remick, St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel; Dennis J. Taylor, Resurrection Parish, Delran, and James J. Winters, Jr., St. Joseph Parish, Toms River.
During their First Year, the men continued discerning their call to the diaconat as they began courses at Georgian Court University and attended Pastoral Foundation courses at the Chancery.
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell spoke of how in declaring their intention to serve as deacons, the 15 are, in essence, emerging from the faithful to “give more, to do more, to be more in their lives of service to the Church.”
Drawing from the day’s Scriptures, the Bishop urged the candidates, the lectors and the congregation to seize the momentum of this day by using “our time and talents to the best of our abilities, to live each moment to the full.”
The Bishop shared how in “St. Matthew’s Gospel today, we hear Jesus’ parable about the criteria by which we will be admitted to the Kingdom of God, how our lives will be judged.” In the present moment, he said, “We are measuring ourselves against those criteria, providing the evidence for our final judgment. … Our Gospel is a clear reminder that life is short and we must, to quote a contemporary phrase, we must use it or lose it.”
Bishop O’Connell turned to the Second Reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians with its “sobering caution that we simply do not know how many days God gives us to live, to love, to serve him and one another in this world.”
How many times, the Bishop mused, has it been “brought home to us on the evening news; people going out for a walk, minding their own business; people attending a concert or going to a night club; people living in their homes, never anticipating they would never see another day.”
“There is no point yielding to fear, however,” he said, noting that the author of the sacred text is “simply urging us to use our time and talents to the best of our abilities, to live each moment to the full.”
Reflecting on the Scripture, the better course, he said, is “not to be content with letting things be, but rather, to do something, to do more, to make something more out of our lives and gifts: to use not lose them!”
Referring to the 15 men who are on journey to becoming deacons, he said, “Today, the Church offers us another example of its meaning in the men who come before us declaring their intention to become deacons, in the men who take up and commit themselves to the first of many responsibilities of the deacon: proclaiming God’s Word. … We look to them on this next step forward to the diaconate and we allow their courage and witness to inspire our own in the vocations God has called us to: my brothers, on your way to the diaconate, my sisters and brothers in this community of faith – wives, husbands, families, Christians all – embrace and share your faith. Use it … or lose it.”
As the Mass came to an end, candidates and lectors were surrounded by family and well-wishers.
Deacon candidates James Mackintosh and Jorge T. Valente used the same words, terming it “exciting and emotional” – a meaningful step on the long journey they began about a year-and-a -half ago.
“For most of us, the discerning process was years in the making,” in thought, word and deed, Mackintosh said. “This is an amazing and humbling process … an evolutionary process,” he called it, one that brought his classmates together in a strong bond.
Valente spoke of the hard work, challenges and rewards perseverance has brought. Acceptance into the candidacy, he said, is the reward of meeting the challenges – balancing time, schedules, family and studies. “This is the first discernment in a five-year program,” he said, a way for everyone to gauge the progress.
New lectors Mark McNulty and Russell Greiner spoke of receiving the rite from Bishop O’Connell as a gift. They called it a very meaningful step on the road to ordination in that their formation has prepared them to proclaim the Word of God in a deeper fashion, one that requires a greater understanding of the Scriptures.
Both Greiner and McNulty said they appreciated that the Mass was celebrated in St. Joseph, parish home to three of those pursuing the diaconate.
“It was really nice that our home parish got to celebrate with us,” said Greiner. “Having it here, having the Bishop there and the rite itself – the reverence hits you when you are kneeling and placing your hands on the Bible.”