Thirteen men to be ordained deacons May 18 in Trenton Cathedral

May 17, 2024 at 11:06 a.m.


Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., will ordain 13 men as deacons during a 10 a.m. Mass May 18 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

Of the 13, one man, Seminarian Alan Bridges, will mark another step on his journey toward priesthood when he is ordained a transitional deacon by Bishop O’Connell.

Ordination as a transitional deacon generally occurs after a seminarian has completed several years of study in theology and takes place usually one year prior to priestly ordination. As a deacon, he will be an ordinary minister of Baptism, and will be able to preside at weddings, assist the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and preach as well as preside at wakes and funeral services.

As a man who is committed to becoming a priest, transitional deacons make a promise of celibacy.

The remaining 12 men will be ordained as permanent deacons for the Diocese. When Bishop O'Connell confers the Sacrament of Holy Orders on them, the men will have the faculties to preach and preside over weddings, Baptisms, wakes and committals. From various careers and life experiences, the men are all married with families. Their five years of formation has included completing studies that are consistent with the intellectual norms established in the National Directory of Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. 

Alan J. Bridges looks forward to preaching as transitional deacon

When Alan J. Bridges is ordained a transitional deacon, he hopes to be able “to share my love of Christ with others through preaching at Mass.”

Being a transitional deacon is a step toward becoming a priest, and Bridges said that, when he was in the Navy 2014-2021, he recognized that many of the things that attracted him to the service – self-sacrifice, discipline and fraternity – “were in fact perfected and sanctified in the priesthood, and at the service of the greatest mission of all: saving souls.”

“In boot camp I began taking my faith more seriously, but it wasn’t until about two years into my service in the Navy that I really started seriously discerning a call to the priesthood,” he reflected.

Bridges said “a mix of things” contributed to this seismic shift. “I got to know some great priests who became mentors to me and, observing their example – especially their deep faith and devotion to the Eucharist and Confession – prompted me to look into the priesthood.”

Bridges was born Aug. 27, 1996, in Rahway to Jack and Barbara Bridges. The family attended St. John Vianney Parish, Colonia, and later Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Newark. Bridges and his older brother, John, attended St. John Vianney School, and Bishop George Ahr (now St. Thomas Aquinas) High School, Edison. Following graduation in 2014, Bridges joined the U.S. Navy, earning the rank of Fire Controlman 2nd Class. Serving briefly on the U.S.S. Gunston Hall (LSD-44), he followed that with anti-submarine warfare in Norfolk, Va.; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and Naples, Italy.

While still a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, Bridges entered Seton Hall University, South Orange in 2017, earning a bachelor’s degree in theology. He spent 2019-2021 in the university’s St. Andrew’s Hall College Seminary, then in 2022 transferred to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., where he continues studies for a master of divinity degree. His summer assignments have included Visitation Parish, Brick, in 2022, and St. Mary Parish, Middletown, in 2023.

At ordination to the diaconate on May 18, Bridges will be vested by Father Daniel C. Hesko, pastor of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, the parish Bridges currently calls home. His year of ministry as a transitional deacon will be served in Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, as well as working at the diocesan Chancery Tribunal, Lawrenceville.

Bridges enjoys the outdoors, including fishing, hunting and hiking, and loves to cook. He said he also has a special heart for the Sacraments he will one day be able to celebrate as a priest.

Prepared by EmmaLee Italia, Contributing Editor


Following are profiles on the men who have answered God’s call to serve the Church as permanent deacons.


Nelson R. Abreu

Sponsoring Parish: Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony, Hamilton

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Princeton; 1963

FAMILY: wife, Nancy Cruz Abreu; son, Jared, 31, daughter, Lea, 25; parents, Julio and Carmen Abreu

EMPLOYMENT: Senior loan officer, The Money Store, Hamilton

EDUCATION: Steinert-Hamilton High East, Hamilton (graduated 1981); bachelor of arts degree in business/economics, Glassboro College/Rowan University, Glassboro (graduated 1989); master of theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (graduated 2023)

CERTIFICATES/HONORS/TECHNICAL TRAINING: Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: In Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, served as a member of the parish council, assisted with RCIA, taught Confirmation, Virtus instructor. In Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, served as an acolyte, baptismal prep, respect life group organizer, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, lector, assist at daily and weekend Masses, assist at weddings, funerals and wakes, member of the Holy Name Society. In St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Yardville, was member of the King’s men’s group. Also the Mercer County representative for the Catholic Men for Jesus Christ

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? I have lived a very blessed life, but about 20 years ago, my wife/best friend was diagnosed with cancer. I was devastated by the news and got on my knees and prayed like never before. I begged God to save her, and if he would do that for me, I promised to dedicate the rest of my life to him. Here it is 20+ years later and she is still with me. Thank you Lord!

VESTING PRIEST: Msgr. Thomas N. Gervasio, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, and diocesan vicar general


Stuart Altschuler

SPONSORING PARISH: Our Lady of Good Counsel, Moorestown

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Philadelphia; 1964

FAMILY: wife, Darlene; sons David, 31, Daniel, 29, Michael, 26, daughter, Rachel, 24; parents, Louis and Edith, both deceased

EMPLOYMENT: President, Disability Navigators LLC, Moorestown; directors of analytics and insights, Trenton Health Team

EDUCATION: Chews Elementary School, Glen Landing Middle, Gloucester Township, (1971-1978); Highland Regional High School, Gloucester Township (1978-1982); bachelor of science in industrial and systems engineering, Rutgers University, (1982-1986); master of science degree, industrial and system engineering, Rutgers University (1987-1989); master of arts in systematic theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (2019-2023)

CERTIFICATES/HONORS/TECHNICAL TRAINING: The Pope Francis Medal for outstanding achievement in theological studies; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Pre-Cana (Corpus Christi Parish, South River); RCIA coordinator, social concerns, youth ministry, special needs religious education (St. Ann, Raritan); cantor, lector, acolyte, Knights of Columbus (Grand Knight, financial secretary), special needs religious education coordinator (Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown)

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? Since my conversion to the faith from Judaism in 1991, I have felt the call to preach and serve. Due to family, work and volunteer obligations, I waited – and had practically abandoned the idea – until my wife, Darlene, suggested that I respond to a call to the diaconate formation in our parish bulletin. I have been encouraged by the enthusiasm of my pastors, my fellow parishioners and my brother deacons in my formation class.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Jim Grogan, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown


Mark F. Degenhart, Sr.

SPONSORING PARISH: St. James, Red Bank

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Hazleton, Pa.; 1963

FAMILY: wife, Karen; daughter, Kristen, 36, son, Mark Jr., 34, son, Karl, 30; grandchildren, Hugh, Eliza Jane, Livia; parents, Emily and Gilbert Degenhart, both deceased

EMPLOYMENT: Hospice chaplain, Hackensack Meridian at Home, Wall; previously spent 34 years in New York City financial services

EDUCATION: St. Joseph Memorial School, Hazleton, Pa. (1968-1977); Bishop Hafey High School, Hazleton, Pa., (1977-1981); bachelor of science degree in marketing, University of Scranton, Pa. (1981-1985); master of arts in theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (1999-2003)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Board certified chaplain and board-certified spiritual counselor; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, Riverview Hospital; violist in St. James Parish folk group for 30 years, Knights of Columbus, RCIA team member

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? In about 2014, I followed my mom’s example to become an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in Riverview Hospital, Red Bank. On any given day, 40% of the Catholics on my census list would decline Holy Communion for a variety of reasons. Over a short time, I learned to talk with them, offer to pray with them and encourage them to return to a relationship with God and to the Church. Being an extraordinary minister led to my decision to become a deacon, which later led me to be a chaplain. None of this was on my radar 10 years ago. He leadeth me.

VESTING PRIEST: Msgr. Joseph N. Rosie, pastor of St. James Parish, Red Bank, and episcopal vicar of Monmouth County


Vincent P. Delle Grotti, Sr.

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Gregory the Great, Hamilton Square

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Trenton; 1957

FAMILY: wife, Rosemarie; son, Vincent Jr., 35, daughter, Alessandra, 32, son, Anthony, 25

EMPLOYMENT: Podiatrist, self-employed podiatric physician, New Egypt

EDUCATION: Our Lady of Sorrows School, Hamilton (1967-1971); Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville (1971-1975); bachelor of arts degree, La Salle University, Philadelphia, (1979-1982); doctor of podiatric medicine, Barry University, Miami Shores, Fla. (1995-1999); Seton Hall University, South Orange (2019-2023)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Professed Third Order Lay Dominican; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Speaking engagements in parishes and schools on the topics of Right to Life, traditional marriage and sexual morality

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? My selection as a diaconate candidate came unexpectedly. Based upon my pastor’s suggestion and after a yearlong investigative process, I found myself seated among 11 “holy” men in pursuit of this ministry. I recognize too, that many of my brothers had fire and zeal well beyond my limits. After all, who am I? Nevertheless, through prayer, study and many discussions with family and friends, I identified the calling to service to those I encounter.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Michael Hall, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square


Richard Gerbino

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Mary, Colts Neck

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Staten Island, N.Y.; 1960

FAMILY: wife, Maria; son, Richard, 33, son, Justin, 28, son, Michael, 26: grandchildren, Madeline Grace and Giuliana Marie; parents, Richard (deceased) and Constance

EMPLOYMENT: Senior associate attorney, Feing, Such, Kahn & Shepard, P.C., Parsippany

EDUCATION: Holy Rosary School, Staten Island, N.Y. (1966-1974); Monsignor Farrell High School, Staten Island, N.Y.  (1974-1978); bachelor of arts degree in history, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Brooklyn (1978-1982); juris doctorate, Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, 1982-1985; master of arts in theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (2019-2023)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Theta Alpha Kappa, National Honor Society for Religious Studies/Theology; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Parish council, lector in St. Mary Parish

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? Praying the Rosary and the Divine Office every day inspired me and awakened a desire for a deeper understanding of the doctrine of the Church. As an attorney, I am a trained advocate for those I represent. As a deacon, I see myself as an advocate for Christ and his Church and hope that my experience will aid me in conveying to others the richness and beauty of our Catholic faith, especially in these challenging times.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Jeffrey E. Lee, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck


Richard J. Huegi

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Mary, Barnegat

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Englewood; 1970

FAMILY: wife, Jennifer Allison Huegi; daughter, Emma Grace, 21, daughter, Olivia Rosemarie, 19; parents, Richard Huegi (deceased) and Joanne Santagleo

EMPLOYMENT: Senior research technician, Universal Display Corporation, Ewing

EDUCATION: Peter Cooper Elementary School and Martin J. Ryerson Middle School, Ringwood; Lakeland Regional High School, Wanaque (1985-1989); associate’s degree in science engineering electronic technology, Eastern Florida State College (1991-1993); Stockton State University (1993-1995); master’s degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (2019-2023)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: In St. Mary Parish, served as RCIA, seventh and eighth grade religious education teacher, Pre-Cana, youth ministry; presented talks on my conversion experience and “My Relationship/Journey with God” for a variety of groups in my parish as well as for Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River students, a Men’s Cornerstone retreat in St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Brant Beach, and Stella Maris Retreat House, Harvey Cedars

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? What inspired me to become a deacon is to serve Christ and the Church. It has been said “a deacon takes the grace of the altar into the streets and the need of the streets to the altar.” When I came into full communion with the Catholic Church from the Protestant faith in 2011, I became passionate about serving Christ and his Church that he started.

VESTING PRIEST: Msgr. Kenard Tuzeneu, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat


John C. Italia

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Paul, Princeton

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: New Brunswick; 1973

FAMILY: wife, EmmaLee; daughter, Elizabeth, 18, son, Thomas, 15; parents, Janet and John P. Italia

EMPLOYMENT: director of global business metrics and analytics, Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, Hopewell, 1999-present; part-time lecturer, teaching microeconomics and business management, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, 1995-present

EDUCATION: St. Matthias School, Somerset (1979-1987); St. Joseph High School, Metuchen (1987-1991); bachelor of science degree in economics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick (1991-1995); master of science degree in applied economics, Rutgers University (1995-1997); master of theology degree, Seton Hall University, South Orange (2019-2023)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Theta Alpha Kappa, National Honor Society for Religious Studies/Theology; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: In St. Paul Parish, coordinated parish liturgical ministries and volunteers for several years; sacristan, lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and usher. Also help with Loaves and Fishes, Eucharistic Adoration, homebound ministry and seasonal liturgical decorating

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? After extensive involvement in ministry as a young adult, I spent many years minimally involved in my current parish beyond attending weekly Mass. A serious but temporary illness 10 years ago and the persistent nudging from the Holy Spirit helped reprioritize where I was choosing to invest my time and talents. It reinvigorated my desire to make faith and service to others a more visible focus of my daily life. An emphasis of my diaconate ministry will be helping encourage others back into the full participation of their faith especially during sacramental preparation. As students and the many people I interact with in industry have seen me in formation, it’s been a great conversation starter and helped them think about their own faith journey.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Christopher Dayton, administrator of St. Paul Parish, Princeton


Thomas McDonald

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Mary of the Lakes, Medford

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: New Brunswick; 1968

FAMILY: wife, Elizabeth; son, Brendan, 26, daughter, Margaret, 23; parents, Anthony and Marianne, deceased

EMPLOYMENT: Freelance writer and editor since 1991, including electronics and Catholic publications; author, editor

EDUCATION: Carl Kumpf, Clark, (1975-1980); Wardlaw-Hartridge, Edison (1986); bachelor of arts/bachelor of fine arts, English/film production, New York University, 1990; master of arts degree in theology/Church history, Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Cromwell, Conn. (2013); master of arts degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University (2023)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Certificates in diaconal ministry and catechesis; Oblate of St. Benedict (St. Vincent Archabbey); Theta Alpha Kappa, National Honor Society for Religious Studies/Theology; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Catechesis, Sacrament prep, Baptism prep, Pre-Cana, adult faith formation, RCIA, hospital and consolation ministries, reader, sacristan, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, Third Degree member of the Knights of Columbus

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? I was away from the Church for many years until a profound experience of God’s love led me back. In the process of learning about a faith I hadn’t really understood, I was drawn to teach others about it. That drew me deeper into learning, prayer and service, and at each step I felt the call to go further and do more, which led me to the diaconate. At every step, my wife, Elizabeth, and my family and the community of St. Mary of the Lakes, have been a support and inspiration.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Daniel Swift, pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford


Joseph Lawrence Sbarra

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Anthony of Padua, Hightstown

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Binghamton, N.Y.; 1960

FAMILY: wife, Alejandra Cabria; son, Joseph Daniel, 32; grandchildren, Ean Segura, Noah Silva, Ela Silva, ; parents, Joseph Donald and Kathleen Sbarra, both deceased

EMPLOYMENT: Director of operations, J&A Health & Safety Solutions, Hightstown

EDUCATION: Melvin H. Krepps School, East Windsor (1969-1974); Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, (1974-1978); bachelor of science degree in environmental science, Rutgers University, 1978-1983; bachelor of arts degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, 2021-present

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Certified Industrial Hygienist by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene; certified safety professional by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals; certificate of recognition from the City of New York for the World Trade Center Recovery Project; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: In St. Anthony of Padua Parish, altar server, CYO youth leader, cantor and music minister (since 1977; will continue following ordination); FOCCUS facilitator and trainer for the Diocese of Trenton; member of Pre-Cana team (Spanish) for the Diocese of Trenton (2017-2021)

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? Because of my parents, Joseph and Kathleen Sbarra, who were active in many different ministries in church as I grew up, I have always felt the desire to serve the Lord. Their example of service laid the foundation for me to serve Jesus Christ with joy in my heart and to trust in his plan for my life. To serve Jesus Christ and his Church as a deacon is what I believe he has called me to do and I willingly accept.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Oscar Sumanga, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, and diocesan judicial vicar


Michael Stephen Shuflat

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Pius X, Forked River

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Passaic; 1965

FAMILY: wife, Maria Lynn Shuflat; daughter, Kori Lynn, 24, daughter, Kylie Madison, 21; parents, Catherine Sonia Dul and Michael Shuflat

EMPLOYMENT: Retired captain of Elizabeth Fire Department, Elizabeth, after more than 25 years of service; owner, Shuflat Electrical Services LLC, Lanoka Harbor

EDUCATION: Clifton Public Schools (1970-1979); Sparta High School (1979-1983); associate’s degree, fire science, Purdue University, Lafayette, Ind. (2012-2014); master’s degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University, (graduated in 2023) theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (graduated 2023)

CERTIFICATES/HONORS/TECHNICAL TRAINING: Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

MILITARY SERVICE: Retired Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Parris Island, S.C. (1985-1987)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: founding member, St. Pius X Men’s Discipleship Ministry; extraordinary minister of Holy Communion for Mass and the homebound living in Spring Oaks Assisted Living Facility; lector, adult altar server

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? I have spent immeasurable hours throughout my life praying to our Lord, trying to figure out his plan. In the process, I have protected my country as a United States Marine, serve the public trust as a professional fire captain in Elizabeth, and served my community and my Lord as a faithful Catholic – continuously trying to serve others, striving to find the good in my fellow man and in myself. My faith, love and relationship with Christ has evolved and I have concluded one truth, that I will never figure out God’s plan. I have lovingly and with great humility in my heart accepted his will. Guiding me to transition from my great joy of saving lives to his gracious gift of nurturing his flock.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Richard Basznianin, pastor of St. Pius X Parish, Forked River


Joseph Stillo

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Mark, Sea Girt

BIRTH PLACE: Brooklyn, N.Y.

FAMILY: wife, Elise; two children

EMPLOYMENT: Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Encompass Health Corp

EDUCATION: Brooklyn Prep High School; bachelor of science degree in chemistry from LeMoyne College; doctorate in chemistry from the University of South Carolina; medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina; residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine with Board certification and subspecialty in Spinal Injury Medicine; master of arts degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (graduated 2023)

CERTIFICATES/HONORS/TECHNICAL TRAINING: : The Pope Francis Medal for outstanding achievement in theological studies; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023); Theta Alpha Kappa National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology, Alpha Omicron Chapter, Seton Hall University (2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, lector, acolyte, liturgical committee and parish council in St. Mark Parish, and That Man Is You

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? I feel that this arcs back to my childhood consideration of the priesthood (followed by periodic pokes from the Holy Spirit) culminating finally, within my admitted human brokenness and associated limitations, in my discernment and answer to the call to diaconate formation and ordination by the laying on of the Bishop’s hands. I am blessed to experience the peace and joy of my discernment and to be able to humbly pledge my service of liturgy, Word and charity.

VESTING PRIESTS: Divine Word Father Miguel Virella, pastor of St. Mark Parish, Sea Girt, and Msgr. Sean Flynn, retired pastor of St. Mark Parish


James J. Turro

SPONSORING PARISH: Sacred Heart, Bay Head, and St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Lavallette

PLACE OF BIRTH/YEAR: New York, N.Y.; 1956

FAMILY: wife, Barbara; son, Tom, 40, daughter, Ellen, 38, son, John, 34; grandchildren, James, Grant, Isaac, Brielle Marie; parents Anthony (living) and Jean (deceased)

EMPLOYMENT: Physician and associate program director, Ocean County Medical Center Internal Medicine Residency, Hackensack Meridian, Toms River

EDUCATION: Nativity Grammar School, Midland Park (1962-1970); Paramus Catholic High School, Paramus (1970-1974); bachelor of arts degree in biology, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. (1974-1978); medical doctor, Cornell University Medical College, N.Y. (1978-1982); master of arts degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University (2019-2023) theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (graduated 2023)

CERTIFICATES/HONORS/TECHNICAL TRAINING: Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: My medical practice provides care to many patients where we are their only option; choir member, St. Patrick Parish, Yorktown Heights, N.Y., for 25 years; Bible study facilitator, St. Patrick Parish and Sacred Heart Parish

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? “If not you, who?” It seems like I have been hearing this question for many years. I have always found great peace in prayer, but never thought I could set aside enough time to pursue this vocation. My medical practice barely allowed the time for a weekly choir rehearsal. It took more prayer and great encouragement from my wife to move to a practice situation that while challenging, allowed me to ask our pastor at the time, Father Doug Freer, about the diaconate. I have the great example of my uncle, Msgr. James C. Turro, who combined great wisdom and great humility in his vocation as a priest. In my mind, I can spend more time in prayer and add care of the spirit as a deacon to care of the body as a physician. What a fantastic opportunity. I am frequently humbled by the various trials my patients endure and suspect I’ll be humbled as a deacon in a similar way. Fortunately, diaconate formation has provided many tools I can use in this vocation, and I have learned to trust God more and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Joseph Hlubik, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Bay Head, and St. Pio of Pietrelcina Parish, Lavallette


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Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., will ordain 13 men as deacons during a 10 a.m. Mass May 18 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

Of the 13, one man, Seminarian Alan Bridges, will mark another step on his journey toward priesthood when he is ordained a transitional deacon by Bishop O’Connell.

Ordination as a transitional deacon generally occurs after a seminarian has completed several years of study in theology and takes place usually one year prior to priestly ordination. As a deacon, he will be an ordinary minister of Baptism, and will be able to preside at weddings, assist the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and preach as well as preside at wakes and funeral services.

As a man who is committed to becoming a priest, transitional deacons make a promise of celibacy.

The remaining 12 men will be ordained as permanent deacons for the Diocese. When Bishop O'Connell confers the Sacrament of Holy Orders on them, the men will have the faculties to preach and preside over weddings, Baptisms, wakes and committals. From various careers and life experiences, the men are all married with families. Their five years of formation has included completing studies that are consistent with the intellectual norms established in the National Directory of Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. 

Alan J. Bridges looks forward to preaching as transitional deacon

When Alan J. Bridges is ordained a transitional deacon, he hopes to be able “to share my love of Christ with others through preaching at Mass.”

Being a transitional deacon is a step toward becoming a priest, and Bridges said that, when he was in the Navy 2014-2021, he recognized that many of the things that attracted him to the service – self-sacrifice, discipline and fraternity – “were in fact perfected and sanctified in the priesthood, and at the service of the greatest mission of all: saving souls.”

“In boot camp I began taking my faith more seriously, but it wasn’t until about two years into my service in the Navy that I really started seriously discerning a call to the priesthood,” he reflected.

Bridges said “a mix of things” contributed to this seismic shift. “I got to know some great priests who became mentors to me and, observing their example – especially their deep faith and devotion to the Eucharist and Confession – prompted me to look into the priesthood.”

Bridges was born Aug. 27, 1996, in Rahway to Jack and Barbara Bridges. The family attended St. John Vianney Parish, Colonia, and later Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Newark. Bridges and his older brother, John, attended St. John Vianney School, and Bishop George Ahr (now St. Thomas Aquinas) High School, Edison. Following graduation in 2014, Bridges joined the U.S. Navy, earning the rank of Fire Controlman 2nd Class. Serving briefly on the U.S.S. Gunston Hall (LSD-44), he followed that with anti-submarine warfare in Norfolk, Va.; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and Naples, Italy.

While still a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, Bridges entered Seton Hall University, South Orange in 2017, earning a bachelor’s degree in theology. He spent 2019-2021 in the university’s St. Andrew’s Hall College Seminary, then in 2022 transferred to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., where he continues studies for a master of divinity degree. His summer assignments have included Visitation Parish, Brick, in 2022, and St. Mary Parish, Middletown, in 2023.

At ordination to the diaconate on May 18, Bridges will be vested by Father Daniel C. Hesko, pastor of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, the parish Bridges currently calls home. His year of ministry as a transitional deacon will be served in Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, as well as working at the diocesan Chancery Tribunal, Lawrenceville.

Bridges enjoys the outdoors, including fishing, hunting and hiking, and loves to cook. He said he also has a special heart for the Sacraments he will one day be able to celebrate as a priest.

Prepared by EmmaLee Italia, Contributing Editor


Following are profiles on the men who have answered God’s call to serve the Church as permanent deacons.


Nelson R. Abreu

Sponsoring Parish: Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony, Hamilton

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Princeton; 1963

FAMILY: wife, Nancy Cruz Abreu; son, Jared, 31, daughter, Lea, 25; parents, Julio and Carmen Abreu

EMPLOYMENT: Senior loan officer, The Money Store, Hamilton

EDUCATION: Steinert-Hamilton High East, Hamilton (graduated 1981); bachelor of arts degree in business/economics, Glassboro College/Rowan University, Glassboro (graduated 1989); master of theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (graduated 2023)

CERTIFICATES/HONORS/TECHNICAL TRAINING: Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: In Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, served as a member of the parish council, assisted with RCIA, taught Confirmation, Virtus instructor. In Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, served as an acolyte, baptismal prep, respect life group organizer, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, lector, assist at daily and weekend Masses, assist at weddings, funerals and wakes, member of the Holy Name Society. In St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Yardville, was member of the King’s men’s group. Also the Mercer County representative for the Catholic Men for Jesus Christ

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? I have lived a very blessed life, but about 20 years ago, my wife/best friend was diagnosed with cancer. I was devastated by the news and got on my knees and prayed like never before. I begged God to save her, and if he would do that for me, I promised to dedicate the rest of my life to him. Here it is 20+ years later and she is still with me. Thank you Lord!

VESTING PRIEST: Msgr. Thomas N. Gervasio, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, and diocesan vicar general


Stuart Altschuler

SPONSORING PARISH: Our Lady of Good Counsel, Moorestown

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Philadelphia; 1964

FAMILY: wife, Darlene; sons David, 31, Daniel, 29, Michael, 26, daughter, Rachel, 24; parents, Louis and Edith, both deceased

EMPLOYMENT: President, Disability Navigators LLC, Moorestown; directors of analytics and insights, Trenton Health Team

EDUCATION: Chews Elementary School, Glen Landing Middle, Gloucester Township, (1971-1978); Highland Regional High School, Gloucester Township (1978-1982); bachelor of science in industrial and systems engineering, Rutgers University, (1982-1986); master of science degree, industrial and system engineering, Rutgers University (1987-1989); master of arts in systematic theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (2019-2023)

CERTIFICATES/HONORS/TECHNICAL TRAINING: The Pope Francis Medal for outstanding achievement in theological studies; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Pre-Cana (Corpus Christi Parish, South River); RCIA coordinator, social concerns, youth ministry, special needs religious education (St. Ann, Raritan); cantor, lector, acolyte, Knights of Columbus (Grand Knight, financial secretary), special needs religious education coordinator (Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown)

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? Since my conversion to the faith from Judaism in 1991, I have felt the call to preach and serve. Due to family, work and volunteer obligations, I waited – and had practically abandoned the idea – until my wife, Darlene, suggested that I respond to a call to the diaconate formation in our parish bulletin. I have been encouraged by the enthusiasm of my pastors, my fellow parishioners and my brother deacons in my formation class.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Jim Grogan, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown


Mark F. Degenhart, Sr.

SPONSORING PARISH: St. James, Red Bank

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Hazleton, Pa.; 1963

FAMILY: wife, Karen; daughter, Kristen, 36, son, Mark Jr., 34, son, Karl, 30; grandchildren, Hugh, Eliza Jane, Livia; parents, Emily and Gilbert Degenhart, both deceased

EMPLOYMENT: Hospice chaplain, Hackensack Meridian at Home, Wall; previously spent 34 years in New York City financial services

EDUCATION: St. Joseph Memorial School, Hazleton, Pa. (1968-1977); Bishop Hafey High School, Hazleton, Pa., (1977-1981); bachelor of science degree in marketing, University of Scranton, Pa. (1981-1985); master of arts in theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (1999-2003)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Board certified chaplain and board-certified spiritual counselor; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, Riverview Hospital; violist in St. James Parish folk group for 30 years, Knights of Columbus, RCIA team member

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? In about 2014, I followed my mom’s example to become an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in Riverview Hospital, Red Bank. On any given day, 40% of the Catholics on my census list would decline Holy Communion for a variety of reasons. Over a short time, I learned to talk with them, offer to pray with them and encourage them to return to a relationship with God and to the Church. Being an extraordinary minister led to my decision to become a deacon, which later led me to be a chaplain. None of this was on my radar 10 years ago. He leadeth me.

VESTING PRIEST: Msgr. Joseph N. Rosie, pastor of St. James Parish, Red Bank, and episcopal vicar of Monmouth County


Vincent P. Delle Grotti, Sr.

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Gregory the Great, Hamilton Square

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Trenton; 1957

FAMILY: wife, Rosemarie; son, Vincent Jr., 35, daughter, Alessandra, 32, son, Anthony, 25

EMPLOYMENT: Podiatrist, self-employed podiatric physician, New Egypt

EDUCATION: Our Lady of Sorrows School, Hamilton (1967-1971); Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville (1971-1975); bachelor of arts degree, La Salle University, Philadelphia, (1979-1982); doctor of podiatric medicine, Barry University, Miami Shores, Fla. (1995-1999); Seton Hall University, South Orange (2019-2023)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Professed Third Order Lay Dominican; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Speaking engagements in parishes and schools on the topics of Right to Life, traditional marriage and sexual morality

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? My selection as a diaconate candidate came unexpectedly. Based upon my pastor’s suggestion and after a yearlong investigative process, I found myself seated among 11 “holy” men in pursuit of this ministry. I recognize too, that many of my brothers had fire and zeal well beyond my limits. After all, who am I? Nevertheless, through prayer, study and many discussions with family and friends, I identified the calling to service to those I encounter.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Michael Hall, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square


Richard Gerbino

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Mary, Colts Neck

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Staten Island, N.Y.; 1960

FAMILY: wife, Maria; son, Richard, 33, son, Justin, 28, son, Michael, 26: grandchildren, Madeline Grace and Giuliana Marie; parents, Richard (deceased) and Constance

EMPLOYMENT: Senior associate attorney, Feing, Such, Kahn & Shepard, P.C., Parsippany

EDUCATION: Holy Rosary School, Staten Island, N.Y. (1966-1974); Monsignor Farrell High School, Staten Island, N.Y.  (1974-1978); bachelor of arts degree in history, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Brooklyn (1978-1982); juris doctorate, Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, 1982-1985; master of arts in theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (2019-2023)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Theta Alpha Kappa, National Honor Society for Religious Studies/Theology; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Parish council, lector in St. Mary Parish

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? Praying the Rosary and the Divine Office every day inspired me and awakened a desire for a deeper understanding of the doctrine of the Church. As an attorney, I am a trained advocate for those I represent. As a deacon, I see myself as an advocate for Christ and his Church and hope that my experience will aid me in conveying to others the richness and beauty of our Catholic faith, especially in these challenging times.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Jeffrey E. Lee, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck


Richard J. Huegi

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Mary, Barnegat

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Englewood; 1970

FAMILY: wife, Jennifer Allison Huegi; daughter, Emma Grace, 21, daughter, Olivia Rosemarie, 19; parents, Richard Huegi (deceased) and Joanne Santagleo

EMPLOYMENT: Senior research technician, Universal Display Corporation, Ewing

EDUCATION: Peter Cooper Elementary School and Martin J. Ryerson Middle School, Ringwood; Lakeland Regional High School, Wanaque (1985-1989); associate’s degree in science engineering electronic technology, Eastern Florida State College (1991-1993); Stockton State University (1993-1995); master’s degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (2019-2023)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: In St. Mary Parish, served as RCIA, seventh and eighth grade religious education teacher, Pre-Cana, youth ministry; presented talks on my conversion experience and “My Relationship/Journey with God” for a variety of groups in my parish as well as for Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River students, a Men’s Cornerstone retreat in St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Brant Beach, and Stella Maris Retreat House, Harvey Cedars

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? What inspired me to become a deacon is to serve Christ and the Church. It has been said “a deacon takes the grace of the altar into the streets and the need of the streets to the altar.” When I came into full communion with the Catholic Church from the Protestant faith in 2011, I became passionate about serving Christ and his Church that he started.

VESTING PRIEST: Msgr. Kenard Tuzeneu, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat


John C. Italia

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Paul, Princeton

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: New Brunswick; 1973

FAMILY: wife, EmmaLee; daughter, Elizabeth, 18, son, Thomas, 15; parents, Janet and John P. Italia

EMPLOYMENT: director of global business metrics and analytics, Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, Hopewell, 1999-present; part-time lecturer, teaching microeconomics and business management, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, 1995-present

EDUCATION: St. Matthias School, Somerset (1979-1987); St. Joseph High School, Metuchen (1987-1991); bachelor of science degree in economics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick (1991-1995); master of science degree in applied economics, Rutgers University (1995-1997); master of theology degree, Seton Hall University, South Orange (2019-2023)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Theta Alpha Kappa, National Honor Society for Religious Studies/Theology; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: In St. Paul Parish, coordinated parish liturgical ministries and volunteers for several years; sacristan, lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and usher. Also help with Loaves and Fishes, Eucharistic Adoration, homebound ministry and seasonal liturgical decorating

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? After extensive involvement in ministry as a young adult, I spent many years minimally involved in my current parish beyond attending weekly Mass. A serious but temporary illness 10 years ago and the persistent nudging from the Holy Spirit helped reprioritize where I was choosing to invest my time and talents. It reinvigorated my desire to make faith and service to others a more visible focus of my daily life. An emphasis of my diaconate ministry will be helping encourage others back into the full participation of their faith especially during sacramental preparation. As students and the many people I interact with in industry have seen me in formation, it’s been a great conversation starter and helped them think about their own faith journey.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Christopher Dayton, administrator of St. Paul Parish, Princeton


Thomas McDonald

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Mary of the Lakes, Medford

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: New Brunswick; 1968

FAMILY: wife, Elizabeth; son, Brendan, 26, daughter, Margaret, 23; parents, Anthony and Marianne, deceased

EMPLOYMENT: Freelance writer and editor since 1991, including electronics and Catholic publications; author, editor

EDUCATION: Carl Kumpf, Clark, (1975-1980); Wardlaw-Hartridge, Edison (1986); bachelor of arts/bachelor of fine arts, English/film production, New York University, 1990; master of arts degree in theology/Church history, Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Cromwell, Conn. (2013); master of arts degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University (2023)

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Certificates in diaconal ministry and catechesis; Oblate of St. Benedict (St. Vincent Archabbey); Theta Alpha Kappa, National Honor Society for Religious Studies/Theology; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Catechesis, Sacrament prep, Baptism prep, Pre-Cana, adult faith formation, RCIA, hospital and consolation ministries, reader, sacristan, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, Third Degree member of the Knights of Columbus

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? I was away from the Church for many years until a profound experience of God’s love led me back. In the process of learning about a faith I hadn’t really understood, I was drawn to teach others about it. That drew me deeper into learning, prayer and service, and at each step I felt the call to go further and do more, which led me to the diaconate. At every step, my wife, Elizabeth, and my family and the community of St. Mary of the Lakes, have been a support and inspiration.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Daniel Swift, pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford


Joseph Lawrence Sbarra

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Anthony of Padua, Hightstown

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Binghamton, N.Y.; 1960

FAMILY: wife, Alejandra Cabria; son, Joseph Daniel, 32; grandchildren, Ean Segura, Noah Silva, Ela Silva, ; parents, Joseph Donald and Kathleen Sbarra, both deceased

EMPLOYMENT: Director of operations, J&A Health & Safety Solutions, Hightstown

EDUCATION: Melvin H. Krepps School, East Windsor (1969-1974); Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, (1974-1978); bachelor of science degree in environmental science, Rutgers University, 1978-1983; bachelor of arts degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, 2021-present

CERTIFICATES, HONORS, TECHNICAL TRAINING: Certified Industrial Hygienist by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene; certified safety professional by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals; certificate of recognition from the City of New York for the World Trade Center Recovery Project; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: In St. Anthony of Padua Parish, altar server, CYO youth leader, cantor and music minister (since 1977; will continue following ordination); FOCCUS facilitator and trainer for the Diocese of Trenton; member of Pre-Cana team (Spanish) for the Diocese of Trenton (2017-2021)

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? Because of my parents, Joseph and Kathleen Sbarra, who were active in many different ministries in church as I grew up, I have always felt the desire to serve the Lord. Their example of service laid the foundation for me to serve Jesus Christ with joy in my heart and to trust in his plan for my life. To serve Jesus Christ and his Church as a deacon is what I believe he has called me to do and I willingly accept.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Oscar Sumanga, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, and diocesan judicial vicar


Michael Stephen Shuflat

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Pius X, Forked River

BIRTH PLACE/YEAR: Passaic; 1965

FAMILY: wife, Maria Lynn Shuflat; daughter, Kori Lynn, 24, daughter, Kylie Madison, 21; parents, Catherine Sonia Dul and Michael Shuflat

EMPLOYMENT: Retired captain of Elizabeth Fire Department, Elizabeth, after more than 25 years of service; owner, Shuflat Electrical Services LLC, Lanoka Harbor

EDUCATION: Clifton Public Schools (1970-1979); Sparta High School (1979-1983); associate’s degree, fire science, Purdue University, Lafayette, Ind. (2012-2014); master’s degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University, (graduated in 2023) theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (graduated 2023)

CERTIFICATES/HONORS/TECHNICAL TRAINING: Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

MILITARY SERVICE: Retired Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Parris Island, S.C. (1985-1987)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: founding member, St. Pius X Men’s Discipleship Ministry; extraordinary minister of Holy Communion for Mass and the homebound living in Spring Oaks Assisted Living Facility; lector, adult altar server

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? I have spent immeasurable hours throughout my life praying to our Lord, trying to figure out his plan. In the process, I have protected my country as a United States Marine, serve the public trust as a professional fire captain in Elizabeth, and served my community and my Lord as a faithful Catholic – continuously trying to serve others, striving to find the good in my fellow man and in myself. My faith, love and relationship with Christ has evolved and I have concluded one truth, that I will never figure out God’s plan. I have lovingly and with great humility in my heart accepted his will. Guiding me to transition from my great joy of saving lives to his gracious gift of nurturing his flock.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Richard Basznianin, pastor of St. Pius X Parish, Forked River


Joseph Stillo

SPONSORING PARISH: St. Mark, Sea Girt

BIRTH PLACE: Brooklyn, N.Y.

FAMILY: wife, Elise; two children

EMPLOYMENT: Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Encompass Health Corp

EDUCATION: Brooklyn Prep High School; bachelor of science degree in chemistry from LeMoyne College; doctorate in chemistry from the University of South Carolina; medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina; residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine with Board certification and subspecialty in Spinal Injury Medicine; master of arts degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (graduated 2023)

CERTIFICATES/HONORS/TECHNICAL TRAINING: : The Pope Francis Medal for outstanding achievement in theological studies; Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023); Theta Alpha Kappa National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology, Alpha Omicron Chapter, Seton Hall University (2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, lector, acolyte, liturgical committee and parish council in St. Mark Parish, and That Man Is You

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? I feel that this arcs back to my childhood consideration of the priesthood (followed by periodic pokes from the Holy Spirit) culminating finally, within my admitted human brokenness and associated limitations, in my discernment and answer to the call to diaconate formation and ordination by the laying on of the Bishop’s hands. I am blessed to experience the peace and joy of my discernment and to be able to humbly pledge my service of liturgy, Word and charity.

VESTING PRIESTS: Divine Word Father Miguel Virella, pastor of St. Mark Parish, Sea Girt, and Msgr. Sean Flynn, retired pastor of St. Mark Parish


James J. Turro

SPONSORING PARISH: Sacred Heart, Bay Head, and St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Lavallette

PLACE OF BIRTH/YEAR: New York, N.Y.; 1956

FAMILY: wife, Barbara; son, Tom, 40, daughter, Ellen, 38, son, John, 34; grandchildren, James, Grant, Isaac, Brielle Marie; parents Anthony (living) and Jean (deceased)

EMPLOYMENT: Physician and associate program director, Ocean County Medical Center Internal Medicine Residency, Hackensack Meridian, Toms River

EDUCATION: Nativity Grammar School, Midland Park (1962-1970); Paramus Catholic High School, Paramus (1970-1974); bachelor of arts degree in biology, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. (1974-1978); medical doctor, Cornell University Medical College, N.Y. (1978-1982); master of arts degree in systematic theology, Seton Hall University (2019-2023) theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange (graduated 2023)

CERTIFICATES/HONORS/TECHNICAL TRAINING: Seton Hall University Certificate in Diaconal Studies, (2019-2023)

AREAS OF MINISTRY: My medical practice provides care to many patients where we are their only option; choir member, St. Patrick Parish, Yorktown Heights, N.Y., for 25 years; Bible study facilitator, St. Patrick Parish and Sacred Heart Parish

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A VOCATION AS A DEACON? “If not you, who?” It seems like I have been hearing this question for many years. I have always found great peace in prayer, but never thought I could set aside enough time to pursue this vocation. My medical practice barely allowed the time for a weekly choir rehearsal. It took more prayer and great encouragement from my wife to move to a practice situation that while challenging, allowed me to ask our pastor at the time, Father Doug Freer, about the diaconate. I have the great example of my uncle, Msgr. James C. Turro, who combined great wisdom and great humility in his vocation as a priest. In my mind, I can spend more time in prayer and add care of the spirit as a deacon to care of the body as a physician. What a fantastic opportunity. I am frequently humbled by the various trials my patients endure and suspect I’ll be humbled as a deacon in a similar way. Fortunately, diaconate formation has provided many tools I can use in this vocation, and I have learned to trust God more and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

VESTING PRIEST: Father Joseph Hlubik, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Bay Head, and St. Pio of Pietrelcina Parish, Lavallette

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