It is with great joy and thanksgiving to God that I welcome you to this beautiful Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe on this the 9th day of June. We are here to pray for eight of our brothers who are about to be ordained in service to God as Permanent Deacons. We welcome your wives, who have accompanied and supported you over these last six or seven or many years. We welcome your families and friends to this special day in your lives. I offer a special word of thanks to those who formed you, helped you, and guided you; Deacon David Gray, Deacon Joe Gassman and the many others who helped in your formation. I am eternally grateful to you and ask God’s blessings to be upon you.
On this 50th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Orlando, we are blessed to ordain you as our new deacons. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate by Pope Paul VI. 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.
For many years your parishes have prayed for you and now you are about to be ordained deacons. Today we will pray that God will bless you in your ministry of service to God and his people.
We hear from the Book of Numbers you are to be servants, you are to work and perform duties for the people of God. Pope Francis “Carry out the work of Christ ministry with genuine joy and love, seeking only to please God and not yourselves and others, nor seeking other interests . . . 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.”
In Paul’s letter to Timothy we hear concerns about leadership in the church. “Church leaders must have a good character; must be sincere; they must not drink too much nor be greedy for money; they should hold to the revealed truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” These guidelines must be lived out first in your home – in your relationship with your wife and family, so that you can teach what you live. I will ask, “Are you resolved to conform your life to the example of Christ?” You will respond, “I will” but add “with the help of God.” Remember it is only with God’s help we can do all things. St. Paul said, “It is Christ working through me.”
Lou and Kathy, you have been married for 43 years. The Lord has blessed you. One day your son reminded you, like Jesus reminded Peter, that the Lord wanted you to become a fisher of men; that was always God’s plan. “I wish to be able to return even in some small measure the love, support and prayers our family has received over the years.”
Tommy and Amy, the Lord has brought you together to help you both to grow in your faith. Your faith has led you to this moment. You said, “I feel blessed beyond measure to have journeyed through diaconate formation with my family . . . they shared in my discernment of God’s call every step of the way . . . it is a source. I have great joy to witness the happiness and closer relationship to God that this process has brought to me and my family.”
Mark and Gloria, today is also a very special day in your lives! It is your 11th wedding anniversary. The Lord brought you together for a special reason. That reason is love and God asks you to share that love with your family, your parish community and the greater community.
Hector and Yelena, your journey began in Colombia and Panama with stops in Philadelphia and Alaska. St. Paul reminds us we don’t know why God has chosen us. Your prayer, “I pray to be the deacon God always intended me to be.” So, let the Lord lead you and guide you.
Anthony and Rosa, you both fell in love in your native Puerto Rico; made your home here in Orlando. Your love for people with special needs began your journey of faith. This love has brought you to the diaconate. “My vision for the future as a deacon family is to live my life as an example of service to those in need.”
Wilmar and Martha, Colombia is your place of birth and now Orlando is your home. Your life and family have been enriched in service to the church. “Formation helped me realize that I was far from my potential and true calling. The call to the diaconate was subtle, yet so powerful that I couldn’t deny it.” Wilmar you have responded to the Lord’s call, so go and serve the Lord.
Edward and Barbara, products of Holy Name of Jesus and Our Lady of Lourdes Schools and Melbourne Central Catholic High School, of which you said, “Working and serving people while immersed in a deep Catholic school environment helped me to be grounded. This is where I learned to see the struggle in each individual life and to do what I could to help.” Edward, you have heard the call, so go and serve God and his people.
Wilfrid and Evelyne, born in Haiti, met in New York, and lived in California; but, now Florida is your home. You are the first Haitian deacon to be ordained for the Diocese of Orlando. The Lord called and you have responded and we are very grateful to God and your family. You said, “I am looking forward to the day when I will be fully united with a group of people who have the desire to be the icon of Christ, the servant.” Go and serve God and the People.
During the Jubilee year of 2016, Pope Francis, in an address to Deacons 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 his latest exhortation Gaudete Et Exsultate “Rejoice and be Glad” Pope Francis emphasized that the following of Christ—the path to holiness—is “a way of life,” not an intellectual exercise.
“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.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In the Gospel of John we are reminded when Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”
May we always model ourselves after Jesus the Good Shepherd who came not to be served, but to serve.
June 9, 2018, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe