11 New Deacons, Rest Of 2004 Class, Ordained
Published: February 19, 2004
ATLANTA—As their 11 classmates, ordained the previous weekend, served as acolytes, the remaining 11 men of the class of 2004 were ordained to the permanent diaconate on Feb. 7 at the Cathedral of Christ the King.
Friends and family of the men packed into the church, where they expressed joy in seeing the men make a commitment in service to the church and shared stories of how their dedication to Christ had touched and shaped their lives.
Elaine Thorpe was one of those friends packed into a pew this happy morning in support of George Smith, one of four members of the class originally from Louisville, Ky. She first met him 25 years ago on her 30th birthday, and considers him like a brother, as with his generous spirit he has helped her, in living alone, with everything from replacing her dead car battery and leaking hot water heater to taking care of her cat and giving her son a job when he was only 15. And he has both a realistic and joyful outlook.
“He seems to enjoy everything about life,” she said. “He’ll give what he has. He has a real appreciation for just living and being on this earth. He was a Vietnam veteran and I think he knows how precious life is from that experience.”
As she is not a practicing Catholic, he has encouraged her to pray, read the Bible and come back to church. She has found that his influence has helped her to become more open to spirituality. “He’s very eager to help people find God.”
Smith and the 10 other new deacons at the Feb. 7 ordination are married men, ranging in age from 41 to 63. They serve eight parishes, including the churches in Winder, Clarkesville, Blue Ridge and others in the metro Atlanta area.
Professionally the men work as an executive assistant for a mobile dental care organization, international bank consultant, account executive for a service company for construction-related businesses, business owners, engineer, homebuilder, electrical contractor, dental lab director, and contractor. One is retired from AT&T and another from engineering management with the Coast Guard.
Special interests of the men include adult and children’s education, preaching, Knights of Columbus, stewardship development, ecumenical outreach, liturgy, parish finance and the Cursillo movement and ministry to the sick.
As the rite of ordination began, Deacon Alfred Mitchell, director of deacon personnel, called each man by name, and they stood up where they were seated, alongside their families, throughout the Cathedral. Deacon Loris Sinanian, director of deacon formation, then presented the candidates to the archbishop. Each man knelt before the archbishop with head bowed and held his hands as he pledged obedience to him and his successors.
The archbishop opened his homily thanking the families of those ordained for their support, saying a vocation is always a gift. “To each of these participants in the harvesting and gleaning of these vocations, the Church offers her gratitude for a job well done, and a job well done for the sake of love. And last in this litany of thanksgiving, we commend the generosity, the perseverance, and the devoted spirituality of these men themselves, who have heard the call and not turned aside, but like Jeremiah of old, placed their trust in the Lord, taking their confidence from His words: ‘To all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.’”
He reminded the soon-to-be deacons that they can always find the Lord in the triptych of duties involving the Word, the altar and charity.
“Christ is always present at the altar—in the Sacraments which lead us to the altar, and in the Sacrament which flows from the altar itself. The deacon’s place at the altar is truly a place next to the Person of Christ Himself—and it is the deacon’s special privilege, in many ways, to turn to the People of God and say, ‘See what I see—the Lord is here among us, and He brings us life,’” he said. “And finally, Christ is always found among those you serve, and so you must serve them with love, with respect, with unending patience, and with the perseverance necessary to see healing brought about, to see problems resolved, to see pain and suffering, even if not eliminated, still shared in equal amounts, between you, and those you will serve. Remember that our Lord did not reveal His life and His truth by walking among the great ones, among the rulers, among the accomplished and renowned … The Lord will always be found in those He has given us to help.”
He called all present to take “from this unending treasury of spiritual power” of the church “the strength we will need to live the rest of our lives according to the goodness we find here.” Finally, he asked them to pray for those called to serve the church from which “the harvest to follow is greater than anything we can conceive or measure.”
The men then lay prostrate down the center aisle as the Cathedral’s contemporary choir led the congregation in the litany of the saints. After the archbishop laid hands on the men and then led a prayer of consecration, the men were vested in their stole and dalmatic by wives, friends and family, as digital cameras steadily flashed from the congregation, capturing the excitement of the day.
Midion Smith, son of Deacon Smith, said, while walking to the reception afterwards, that “when I saw my Mom up there with him and put on his robe it was kind of a happy, sad moment, a joyous moment.” His father “has guided me and my sister very well in the church and has just kind of guided us in our faith. He’s a very good and generous person. He’s always been so connected to the church. I’d be getting up at 5:30 a.m. to go to school and he’d be getting up at 5:30 for Mass at church.”
His wife, Faye, said that her husband works a lot with children and the elderly in a retirement home and will continue to be a religious education instructor. And “he’s done a lot of one-on-one talking. I think his special ministry will probably be in working with married couples and couples interested in getting married.”
Deacon Luis Londono, a native of Colombia, expressed joy and happiness about his calling to serve the church. He hopes to improve his English to serve the entire community at St. Matthew’s Church, Winder, but is focused for now on its Hispanic population. “It’s growing more and more every day. The needs are growing and I can help in this.”
Father Jaime Barona, pastor of St. Matthew’s, is grateful to have his help.
“We are very happy to have Luis Londono as our first Hispanic deacon,” said Father Barona. “He’s very loved and liked. He’s a great person. He connects very well with people. He’s a very spiritual man. His spiritual reflections bring the community together … He’s dedicated to the poor. We have a great majority of Mexicans and he’s very committed to his ministry.”
His sister-in-law, Maria Alvarado, came down from New Jersey, where Deacon Londono lived until relocating to Georgia about two years ago. She said as he gradually became more involved in ministries in New Jersey a priest invited him to consider the diaconate.
“He’s been my inspiration. He’s a very compassionate man. When I was pretty sick, he and his wife and all the family were there for me taking care of me in bed day by day … I call him like my brother,” she said. “I spoke with him yesterday and he was so happy … He’s so happy he moved down. God moved him with his family down here and I think God did this with a purpose.”
His son, Louie, said his father is the type of man that people feel comfortable with and naturally go to for advice.
“And I really look up to him because of the way he is with people and the way he helps people,” he said. “We have a lot of joy right now. We’re very pleased with him. He wanted to take this path.”
Peter Riddett, 21, said that the path of his father, Deacon Robert Riddett Jr., has inspired him in his faith.
“I think it’s really incredible. It’s a very sacrificial experience … He’s wanting to dedicate a lot of his time to the church. It gives me a sense of reassurance of my faith. Lately I’ve been slacking off, losing some energy with the church, so it’s good to see him,” he said. “I know he reads everything. He’s very letter-of-the-law sometimes. I’m sure he wants to make sure he knows everything … If he doesn’t know he’s always ready to learn more to answer people’s questions.”
Deacon Riddett’s wife, Mary, said that her husband converted to Catholicism after their marriage, not growing up going to church, and that he always would accompany her to church and just gradually became more involved. She spoke of “his love for spreading the Word, to preach the Gospel using words if necessary.”
Raphael Hanson feels his father, Deacon David Hanson, is suited for the diaconate. He said he has held their family together with his spiritual leadership—and that’s with seven children. His strength is his prayer life, as he makes time for it daily and is “always reading his breviary.”
“He’s been real cool, always very dedicated to the church. He’s got a real fervor for it,” he said. “When it comes to the church when there’s something that needs to be done he’s there to do it.”
Deacon Hanson, who was raised in a Baptist church, said he had been planned to become a Protestant minister before marrying a Catholic and converting, as he’s always felt called to church service. He particularly enjoyed studying canon law, with its intention to “bring people to Christ and guard the rights of individuals in the church.”
“I really feel the Catholic faith has the answers and we’ve been developing them for 2,000 years,” he said.
He has a “tremendous sense of relief” to complete the program and is happily jumping into baptismal and wedding preparation and helping with annulments at his Clarkesville parish. “The opportunity to bring people to Christ through the sacraments is what I see as the principal element of my service. ”