Eight men ordained permanent deacons for the Diocese of Orlando

“For many years your parishes have prayed for you and now you are about to be ordained deacons,” Bishop John Noonan told the eight men ordained to the Order of Deacon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando on June 9. “Today we will pray that God will bless you in your ministry of service to God and his people. May we always model ourselves after Jesus the Good Shepherd who came not to be served, but to serve.”

The new deacons are: Louis Bartos, Jr. of Sacred Heart Parish, New Smyrna; Thomas Cuff of St. Margaret Mary Parish, Winter Park; Mark Fry, of Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Winter Park; Hector Fabio Isaza Zapata of Our Lady of the Lakes Parish, Deltona; Anthony Medina Cruz of St. Mary Magdalen Parish, Altamonte Springs; Wilmar Rojas Clavijo of St. Joseph/St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish, Orlando; Edward Struttmann of Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Indialantic; and Wilfrid Tilus of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Kissimmee.

The Ordination occurs at a particularly special time, the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Orlando as well as the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate by Pope Paul VI. Bishop Noonan reminded those gathered: “The founding of the Permanent Diaconate goes back to the Acts of the Apostles, when a need arose for helpers. The people’s temporal and spiritual needs were being neglected. The people asked the disciples for help. Praying over the matter they chose seven men.”

In Haiti, there is no Permanent Diaconate so for Deacon Wilfrid Tilus, this was all new. He is the first Haitian deacon in the Diocese of Orlando and is very excited to serve the Haitian community. He told his wife, Evelyne, “The Haitian community needs a way to know the Church serves them as well.” That was enough for her to get on board. “We are part of this community so we are more ‘arms’,” she explained. “When you look at the diversity we have in that community, this is an added blessing.” It was a dream of Wilfrid’s mother to have a child in the service of the Church, so for him and all of his family, this is a dream come true.

As Bishop Noonan spoke personally and specifically to each of the men and their wives, the words revealed the beauty of each individual call and how the Holy Spirit was at work within them and their families. Wilmar and Martha Rojas reflected this when they spoke of their commitment to their two daughters. Martha noted, “We will continue evangelizing our daughters through our example and, with strong faith Christ has begun in our hearts so that they know that the best decision they can make in their life is to walk with Christ.”

Gloria and Mark Fry pointed how the journey had strengthened their marriage and each of them individually. “It’s a trust in the Holy Spirit,” said Mark who had struggled with the rigorous course schedule while working full-time. Gloria noted, “This is a journey for both of us… I want him to do well because I want his ministry to do well. So, as a wife, that’s what I am here for, to love him and support him and encourage him.” The day was also the couples’ 11th wedding anniversary.

Bishop Noonan asked the deacons to live the beatitudes, quoting Pope Francis’ most recent Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete Et Exsultate meaning “Rejoice and be Glad.” In it, the pope “emphasized that the following of Christ—the path to holiness—is ‘a way of life,’ not an intellectual exercise.”

The pope notes, “Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the beatitudes,” which are “the Christian’s identity card.” He asserts that “If anyone asks: what must one do to be a good Christian?” Then “the answer is clear. We have to do, each in our own way, what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount.”

The bishop also remarked on Pope Francis’ address to deacons in 2016 during the Jubilee year. There he said; “Dear deacons, this is a grace you can implore daily in prayer. You can offer the Lord your work, your little inconveniences, your weariness and your hopes in an authentic prayer that brings your life to the Lord and the Lord to your life. When you serve at the table of the Eucharist, there you will find the presence of Jesus, who gives Himself to you so that you can give yourselves to others. In this way, available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.”

In closing he again voiced the words of Pope Francis reminding them, “Carry out the work of Christ’s ministry with genuine joy and love, seeking only to please God and not yourselves and others. Seek to bring the faithful together into a unified family and to lead them effectively to God the Father, through Christ and in the Holy Spirit.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – June 13, 2018