.- Thirty-three new deacons from Rome’s North American College were ordained Oct. 4 at a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, bringing both excitement and joy to the men.
“This is really a wonderful day for the Church and certainly for the College, too, and for myself,” said college rector, Monsignor James F. Checchio in remarks to CNA after the ordinations.
“The men who laid down their lives in service of the Church today are good men, men who have prepared themselves well by coming to know Christ well and serving him and his people,” Msgr. Checchio added.
The nearly three-hour ceremony at the basilica’s Altar of the Chair was presided over by Archbishop John F. Myers of Newark. The ordinations coincided with the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, who was ordained deacon but never a priest. All but one of the deacons comes from an American diocese, while another ordinand hails from the Archdiocese of Sydney in Australia.
“Overjoyed,” was the one word Deacon Colin Wen of the Diocese of Sacramento used to describe the whole occasion.
“I think what struck me most was laying out prostrate,” he said. “There’s just a great symbolism there of giving your life over, a real sense of no longer leading your own life but really letting God lead – in that sense of just putting it all before the Lord.”
Following the ceremony, the deacons processed in their new vestments to a quiet corner of the St. Peter’s where they hugged and high-fived each other amid an air of relief and delight.
“I’m overjoyed, excited and overwhelmed,” said Deacon Jun Hee Lee of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“The only thing I could think about during the service was ‘amen,’ that word that just kept coming to me over and over again, just ‘amen,’ ‘let it be.’” He believes the hallmark of a good deacon can be summed up in one word – service.
“Not out of pride. Not to gain something, of course. But really service out of love and only love,” said Deacon Lee.
The 33 new deacons were ordained only days before the launch of the Church’s Year of Faith and the opening of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, which will chart a “new evangelization” of traditionally Christian countries like the United States.
Deacon Nicholas Nelson of the Diocese of Duluth said that when he first considered entering the Catholic priesthood he thought, ‘hey, if I want to be a priest then I want to do it all the way, be really radical and be a missionary priest.’
But now he sees things differently.
“I’ve realized that people in my hometown of Duluth need Christ and need the Gospel just as much as people in Africa or the jungles of the Amazon.” Along with his 32 other classmates, he is now excited by the prospect of his priestly ordination in the coming months.
“As a man you want to do something great with your life and that’s what I look forward to doing. I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” Deacon Nelson said.