.- The Pontifical North American College in Rome is celebrating the ordination of 35 new deacons at an Oct. 6 ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica. The overriding sentiment of the newly ordained men was how joyful they are for their vocations.
“Ordained ministry in the Church is an expression of this command to love,” preached Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who presided over the ordinations at the basilica’s Altar of the Chair.
“Indeed,” the cardinal reflected, “it is the privileged way … to encounter the fire of divine love; to be transformed by it; and so impelled to share that same transforming love with the Church and the world.”
Before a congregation of over 1,200 people, Cardinal Levada explained that the word “deacon” means “one who serves” and that the 35 new deacons would now do just that “in the threefold ministry of the Sacred Liturgy, of the Word, and of charity.”
Following the homily, the ordinands prostrated themselves on the marble floor of the sanctuary as a gesture of humility and supplication before God. One by one, they were then ordained by Cardinal Levada, before donning their new diaconal garb for the first time - in this case, matching dalmatics and stoles of white damask silk with golden trim.
Friends and family looked on with pride, many wearing papal yellow and white flowers, while the choir of the North American College provided an impressive classical repertoire to match the grandeur of the occasion.
And after it was all over – and out of view of the congregation – it was time for hugs, tears and backslapping.
“Wow. I’m feeling great. It’s such an amazing experience to be ordained a holy deacon of God. So much peace. I’m just looking forward to serving God’s people now,” said 27-year-old Deacon Jason Adams from the Diocese of Savannah, Ga.
“I’m so excited. I’m so happy. It’s been such a huge build up and it’s just fantastic. I’m very, very emotional at the moment. That’s all I can say,” responded 28-year-old Michael Gallacher of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia.
There to congratulate them were the ambassadors to the Holy See from both Australia and the United States.
“It’s always a great opportunity to celebrate when others are ordained for service,” said U.S. Ambassador Miguel Díaz. This was “a great opportunity for us, especially as Americans, to celebrate the ordination of deacons who will return to service not only the Catholic people of God but all human beings.”
“I’m just very grateful for the gift of today,” said 25-year-old Deacon Jacob Strand of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee as he posed afterward for a family photograph.
He said that during the ceremony he was “was just sitting there with Our Lady and Our Lord and just kind of relishing the moment, enjoying every moment of it.” At the same time Strand was also looking forward with excitement “to see how life will now change being configured to Christ the servant.”
“It’s awesome. It’s a miracle-in-the-making right here,” said his dad, Jerry Strand, who stood next to his wife Bernadette and their two other sons – Fr. Luke who is a priest and Vincent who is a Jesuit seminarian.
“When your kids are happy doing what they’re doing, it’s just a fabulous thing, especially when Jesus is the center of their life,” he said.
Also present today were several members of the America episcopate including Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota.
“Well, when I see one of my own being ordained it gives me a great joy; I feel like a father. And as a shepherd I know the faith is going to continue to be handed on in the diocese,” Bishop Aquila said.
He added, “it just brings tremendous joy to my heart and gratitude to the Father for the gift of vocations.”
After the ceremony, the inner courtyard of the North American College hosted a celebratory reception beneath the warm afternoon Roman sun.
“It’s a beautiful day, of course, a great day of rejoicing for all of us, for all the good things the Lord has done for the Church and for these men,” said Monsignor James Checchio, rector of the college.
Msgr. Checchio said he hopes he has helped instill “a good solid relationship of the Lord” in the new deacons who will now “pass on that deep love that they’ve experienced in their relationship with Lord so that others can share in it too and know him more fully.”