Future deacons ready to serve the Lord, faithful

May 2, 2024

ORLANDO | On June 8, 2024, Bishop John Noonan will ordain 18 men to the Permanent Diaconate. In formation for the past five years after one discernment year, they are prepared to enter a life of diakonia or service to their communities, guided by the Holy Spirit. The next two issues will offer an insight to these men as they approach their ordination at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. For those unable to attend ordination, the Mass will also be available to view via livestream on the Diocese of Orlando’s Facebook page or the Diocese of Orlando’s YouTube channel.

St. John the Evangelist Parish, Viera


Thomas Buddington Jr. recalled beginning his journey back to the Lord sometime after his parents divorced and the family drifted away from the Church.

“I found a plastic rosary in my sock drawer that someone must have given to me after First Communion. I learned how to pray it, and started spending time in prayer as a boy,” he said. “As I came to hunger for the Lord’s presence through prayer, I began to realize that the Lord never stopped journeying with me, and that prayer was compelling me to serve others.”

After serving in the Navy, Buddington explored a priestly vocation but found it wasn’t meant for him. He pursued a career supporting the acutely ill in mental health hospitals in central Florida. There he met his wife of more than 30 years, Valorie, a psychiatric nurse. They married and he started work as a social worker specializing in supporting people with developmental disabilities in the community, which he did for 28 years.

For the past three years, he has been a hospital chaplain with HealthFirst Hospitals and is the chaplain at Cape Canaveral Hospital.

“This has been a profound and sacred experience of service and accompaniment with people who have undergone trauma or who are sick and suffering,” he said. “It is an amazing ministry wherein you get to encounter the profound sacredness in all of God’s children, often in their rawest moments, and serve them as a pastoral presence. And you become powerfully aware of your own need for grace and healing after encountering the crucified Christ on a daily basis.”

As a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist since 2005, he’s enjoyed interacting with those seeking to deepen their relationship with Christ and teaching the faith through the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults.

He said he and Valorie recognized early on that both of them were called to serve others in difficult places and circumstances. “For us that is the sacred space we are meant to be in, and God sustains us in being there,” he said. Both look forward to serving God wherever he calls them, “with love and fervent dedication.”

Most Precious Blood Parish, Oviedo


Miguel Carrion was born in the Bronx, to parents Miguel and Maria. He has one brother.

“I grew up in a humble home,” he said. “My mother and father share stories of a great relationship with the community priest who visited our home often to partake in dinner and fellowship with us.”

The Carrions moved to Puerto Rico when he was 6 years old. It was there he met his future wife, Mayra.

They were married in 1987 and have two children and five grandchildren.

He and Mayra joined Most Precious Blood Parish in August 2013, upon relocation to Orlando when he retired from the U.S. Army after 25 years of service. He currently works for the U.S. Department of the Army as a product support manager.

Carrion has been engaged in several parish ministries over the years such as a lector, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, usher, choir member, sacristan and Juan XXIII ministry. He also serves with the Catholic Services Prison Ministry at the Central Florida Reception Center. He entered the Permanent Diaconate program in 2018, and has enjoyed the journey and challenges of academia and workshops as part of the formation program.

“We truly love the formation process and how it has transformed us, not only as individuals but as a married couple, as we grew exponentially in spirituality and love for one another,” Carrion said. “We surely are going to leverage all that we have learned to better assist our bishop, priests, and parish community wherever the Lord’s entrusts us to minister in diakonia (service).”

St. Joseph Parish, Lakeland


Josue Diaz’s story started in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, where he was born Oct. 13, 1979. He grew up in a family of eight. He met Jackeline Rivera in high school and the couple married in 2003. They have two sons.

Amid professional uncertainty and prospects of new opportunities, the family decided to leave Puerto Rico and settled in central Florida. Lakeland quickly became home.

For more than two decades, roads and highways have been Diaz’s mobile office as he consults on transportation projects as a civil engineer.

“But life isn’t just about blueprints and deadlines,” he said. “In 2013, I entered through the doors of St. Joseph Catholic Church, which welcomed me into its community.”

There, he received an invitation to consider diaconal formation. During that time of discernment, he was involved in the ministry to the incarcerated at the Avon Park Correctional Facility. Diaz also began ministering to elder residents of local assisted living facilities, a ministry often including his wife and children.

Although he had moved to Florida, he said his journey was not paved with sunshine alone. “Moments of doubt, the loss of loved ones, changes and uncertainty in the professional realm, and health-related challenges and realities have been my companions at times,” he said. “Through it all, the love and support of my wife, the unwavering faith of my community, the guiding words and actions of spiritual guides, and the quiet moments of prayer and divine providence, have steered me forward.”

“This formation process, a beautiful mix of hardship and grace, has been an intense exploration of self, leading me to discover aspects within myself I never knew existed,” he continued. “As I walk this diaconal path together with my wife and children, I envision a future of service for the people of God, the Church, and all those whose paths I cross, but service rooted on family foundation, that is, my call to the married life and my role as a father.”

St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Orlando


Born in Dosquebradas, Colombia, Jorge Gómez is the youngest of 17 children. He recalled being raised in the Catholic faith, praying, participating in the celebration of Mass and a daily rosary.

“My father taught us from childhood to serve others at all times and to be very respectful to everyone,” he said.

Gómez and his wife, Maria Eugenia, met 37 years ago in Colombia, but it would be 14 years before their paths crossed once again in Orlando.

“That reunion helped us both walk together in the ways of the Lord,” said Gomez who has a 29-year-old son. The couple married and have seven children in heaven. Gómez is a cook at the Walt Disney World Company, where he’s worked for 32 years.

Quoting Jeremiah 1: 5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Gómez said he believes the call to the diaconate was always there.

“For many years I was far from God’s ways, but He looks for a way to rescue us. It was through a consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary that everything began to make sense,” he said.

He began attending Mass daily and making small changes. One day before the Blessed Sacrament, he felt the Lord calling him to the diaconate, something others had proposed before.

Gómez and Maria Eugenia have ministered at St. Charles Parish for 14 years as lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, sacristans, and in sacramental preparation. They also volunteer at Catholic Charities Agape Mission Market in Rosemont.

Despite the challenges encountered in the formation process he said, “It is a great blessing to understand more deeply what the diaconate is in its human, intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral dimensions.”

As a deacon, Gómez sees himself working with the children and young people of his parish “to foster in them the call to a vocation to the priesthood, religious life, and sacramental marriage.” He said, “I ask God every day to continue to form me so that I can give the best of myself and thus win many souls for the glory of God.”

Most Precious Blood Parish, Oviedo


Angelo Guevara, 58, hails from Cabimas, Zulia, Venezuela. Embarking on a journey that would shape his life’s trajectory, he relocated to Dayton, Ohio, in 1983 at the age of 16. Shortly after arriving in the United States, he pursued a career in systems engineering.

After graduating from Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio, he worked for 15 years in electronic data systems, before working the last 20 years at Lockheed Martin Corporation. He holds several master’s degrees in the engineering and computer fields, an MBA, and two doctorates in theology.

Married to Sorelena Malavé for 29 years, the couple is blessed with three children. The Guevara family has actively participated in the life of Most Precious Blood Parish since 2005, weaving a rich tapestry of shared experiences within the community. In Guevara’s evolving spiritual journey, he said a recurring theme emerged — a call to the permanent diaconate.

“This divine summons prompted me to trust and surrender to God,” he said. He remains focused on discernment and to listen to the Lord’s will.

Guevara serves at HOPE Helps, aiming to prevent hunger and homelessness in central Florida. HOPE empowers individuals and families for self-sufficiency through Housing, Outreach, Prevention, and Education. He also visits Benton House Assisted Living for a Rosary and Communion Service.

“My heart is enriched as I witness the transformative impact of these organizations in our community,” Guevara said. “Through visits and attentive listening, I deepen my understanding of being present for others.”

In the future, he envisions active involvement in addressing the needs of his local and parish community, supporting his pastor, and collaborating with the bishop. He expresses a profound surrender to God’s will, demonstrating unwavering trust and reliance on divine guidance in every moment of his life.

St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Orlando


Felix Hernández was born in Comerio, Puerto Rico, Dec. 8, 1961, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Puerto Rico, and was commissioned as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army.

He completed an MBA in healthcare administration from the University of Miami in 1997, and is currently the state of Florida’s associate director of field reimbursement for Novartis Pharmaceuticals. In 2012, he pursued and obtained a doctorate in theology.

Hernández married his wife, Becky, in 1993, and moved to Orlando a decade later with their three children. The couple became parishioners of St. Isaac Jogues Parish 21 years ago.

“We are surrounded, supported, and blessed with a life of peace, joy, and faith in Christ by our faithful community, family, and friends,” he said. “When we study the Scriptures, we speak to the degree that we are spoken to by God. … Our prayers will arise out of the immersion in Scripture.”

Inspired to serve others in the image of Christ beyond his parish, he works with Tour de Pink Young Survivor Coalition patients and caregivers. The organization provides resources for women diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages of 20 and 40. He also provides Catholic communion services at the Central Florida Reception Center for the incarcerated.

Looking toward his Ordination with awe and excitement, Hernández said he imagines the fulfillment of Acts 6:3. “Men full of the Holy Spirit devoting our lives to word, ministry, and charity. Digging deep into ourselves to surrender to the will of God to be the image of Christ to others. I am looking forward to continuing spiritually discerning and growing in discipleship and “diakonia” (service) to my brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Holy Family Parish, Orlando


Originally from Tacloban Leyte in the Philippines, Edgar Jecino immigrated to the United States in 1979, when he was 11. In 1990, he moved to Orlando from Jacksonville to study nursing and met his wife, Lynette. The couple married Dec. 18, 1993, at St. James Cathedral in Orlando.

The couple has two daughters and a son whom they lost early in Jecino’s diaconate formation. For the past 25 years, he has worked in the telecommunication industry for Brightspeed and is currently a technical support technician.

Jecino and Lynette became parishioners of Holy Family Parish 29 years ago, after Lynette fell in love with the perpetual adoration chapel. They joined the St. Vincent de Paul ministry where they feed the hungry in their community, prepare hot meals for the homeless, and visit the homebound. The couple is also involved in the pro-life movement.

“The whole formation journey has been one of transformation, lifting my wife and me to another level, not only in our relationship as a married couple, but also it drew us closer to God,” he said.

“God has been in the midst throughout our entire journey. God indeed has been our strength and our refuge through the good times, the hard times, and especially the time when our son passed away in our first year of formation,” he said.

Jecino recalled wanting to throw in the towel and walk away from formation. He credited the Lord’s goodness for helping him. As a deacon, he believes it is important to rely on God’s plan and His grace to serve those who are in most need.

“He definitely held us in His loving arms and carried us through the most trying times in our lives,” Jecino recalled. “We witnessed God’s love in the community. The support was immense and unimaginable. God be praised.”

Sacred Heart Parish, New Smyrna Beach


Thomas Meyer was born and raised in New Smyrna Beach, to parents Richard and Fredie Meyer. He and his wife, Theresa, have been married for 34 years and are co-founders of T&T Photography & Publishing, Inc. in New Smyrna Beach. The couple has been a part of Sacred Heart Parish for more than 20 years.

Meyer has served in numerous ministries at Sacred Heart and has been an active member of the Liturgy Committee for more than 10 years. He serves as treasurer of the Legion of Mary and is also actively serving with Catholic Charities of Central Florida where he makes follow-up phone calls with Volusia County residents who received assistance during the previous month.

“It brings me so much joy talking with all these nice people each month,” Meyer said.

He credited diaconate formation with providing him with the skills needed to serve well in this ministry. Meyer looks forward to serving as a deacon and also hopes to get stronger in his faith through the community of his fellow deacons.

Meyer’s final assignment in his last class at St. Leo University was to create a mission statement for himself as he is sent on this new mission as a deacon. Meyer said, “a missionary of hope walking in the footsteps of Christ the servant” would nicely sum up his quest.

Holy Cross Parish, Orlando


Danilo Paugh described his diaconate studies as “a remarkable journey of faith and service.” Born at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, he is the proud son of a West Virginian father and a Puerto Rican mother. He and his wife, Ivette, have been blessed with five sons, one of whom joined the Lord in April 2005.

After 17 years of dedicated service in the U.S. Navy, Paugh retired and found his spiritual home at Holy Cross Parish in Orlando in 2008.

“Our faith journey at Holy Cross has been a transformative experience for both Ivette and me,” he said.

In 2012, inspired by their faith, they co-founded Watoto Wetu, Inc., a nonprofit organization created to provide education and housing for underprivileged and orphaned children. What began with 80 boys in humble wooden huts has evolved into the Roman School for Boys, a substantial complex that now houses more than 300 boys and a secondary school.

His commitment to service extends to being a volunteer Chaplain at Nemours Children’s Hospital and the Lake Nona Veterans Hospital.

“These roles have allowed me to bring the comforting presence of faith to those facing challenges and adversity, fostering healing and hope,” he said. “The call to the diaconate came as a shared vocation for Ivette and me. Embracing this challenge together has deepened our relationship, strengthened our faith, and enriched our love for each other.”

As he embarks on the journey to become a deacon, Paugh said he recognizes the importance of continuous spiritual formation. He plans to attend workshops, seminars, and retreats to deepen his understanding of Catholic theology, Scripture, and the teachings of the Church.

“I am committed to honing pastoral skills, fostering collaboration within the parish, and extending my outreach to those in need,” he said. “May this vocation be a source of inspiration for others and a testament to the transformative power of faith in action.”

Staff Report