Cardinal Wilton Gregory ordained 20 seminarians from the Pontifical North American College in Rome to the transitional diaconate on Thursday, urging them to have “a heart for charity.”
In a homily in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sept. 30, the archbishop of Washington recalled that charity is one of the essential elements of the office of deacon.
He said: “To be a deacon must first of all be an indication that you are a man of charity -- real and heartfelt compassion and concern for the poor, the neglected, and the marginalized members of our world.”
“A deacon without a heart for charity will be a hollow and worthless sign.”
Gregory, who took possession of his titular church in Rome earlier this week, celebrated the ordination Mass at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter.
Concelebrants included two other U.S. cardinals: Cardinal James Harvey, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, and Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master emeritus of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Also concelebrating was Cardinal George Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney, Australia, and prefect emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.
The Mass was attended by hundreds of the seminarians’ family members and friends.
In his homily, Gregory noted that from the earliest days of Church history, deacons have been required to “demonstrate by their lives that they were men of integrity, responsible, holy, and trustworthy.”
He said that “public ministerial office for people of faith is no casual undertaking -- for the ancients and most certainly not for us.”
The Church, therefore, has always held its clergy to high standards of holiness and integrity, said the 73-year-old cardinal, who received his red hat from Pope Francis on Nov. 28, 2020.
But Gregory acknowledged that no candidate for the diaconate is perfect.
“[These ordinandi] are not perfect -- perfection has never been a condition for ordination to any office in the Church. In fact, the Church consciously chooses men who may have flaws and weaknesses because God’s grace works most effectively, as St. Paul wisely reminded the Corinthians, in weakness so that God receives the glory rather than mere mortals,” he said.
During the ordination ceremony, the new deacons committed themselves to a life of prayer, celibacy, and obedience to their diocesan bishops.
When candidates make their promise of obedience, they place their joined hands between those of the presiding bishop.
Afterward, they prostrate themselves before the altar and kneel before the bishop as he lays his hands on their heads before saying the prayer of consecration.
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The newly ordained deacons then put on the stole and dalmatic, the vestments associated with the diaconate.
The deacons will undergo a further year of theological studies and spiritual formation before ordination to the priesthood in their home dioceses.
Eleven members of their class were already ordained transitional deacons in recent months.
Pope Francis greeted seminarians from the college, led by rector Fr. Peter Harman, at his general audience on Sept. 29.
He said: “In a particular way my greeting goes to the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College and their families gathered for the ordination to the diaconate. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you!”
Pope Pius IX founded the Pontifical North American College in 1859. The institution has formed more than 5,000 priests for dioceses in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
The new transitional deacons are: Christian Joseph Chami (Diocese of Venice in Florida); Grant Allan Dvorak (Diocese of Bismarck); Bradley David Easterbrooks (Diocese of San Diego); Joseph Anthony Ferme IV (Archdiocese of Boston); Samuel Robert Gilbertson (Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis); Daniel Richard Hammer (Diocese of Duluth); Guillermo Antonio Hernandez (Diocese of San Diego); Zachary Robert Jones (Diocese of Sioux City); Bijoy Joseph (Archdiocese of Sydney); Alex Christian Kramer (Diocese of Des Moines); Andrew John Kwiatkowski (Archdiocese of Melbourne); Alex Kirby Lancon (Diocese of Lafayette); Jacob Michael Magnuson (Diocese of Bismarck); James Michael Morgan (Archdiocese of Washington); Matthew Gary Pearson (Diocese of Madison); Carlos Mauricio Portillo (Diocese of Arlington); Thomas Sullivan Robertson (Archdiocese of Washington); Paul Thomas Sappington (Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph) Mario Alberto Torres Capilla (Diocese of Tyler); and Alexander James Wyvill (Archdiocese of Washington).
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In a memo sent to "the Community'' at the North American College (NAC), Rector Fr. Peter Harman announced that all Masses in the Extraordinary form will be permanently suspended at the most important American Catholic institution in Rome.