ROCHESTER – Based on numbers alone, the deacon ordination held June 2 at Sacred Heart Cathedral would qualify as one of the more strikingly positive events in diocesan history.
Eleven men were ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Matthew H. Clark. With eight becoming permanent deacons, this was one of the largest such classes ever in the Diocese of Rochester. As for the three who became transitional deacons, it’s the first time in many years that so many have advanced simultaneously to within one step of the diocesan priesthood.
"The Holy Spirit spoke to a lot of people and apparently, in our (new deacons’) case, a lot of people were listening," remarked Deacon Matt Dudek, a freshly ordained deacon from St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Churchville, as he posed for pictures with numerous well-wishers on the cathedral steps following Mass.
Further swelling the crowd that morning were several dozen permanent deacons and priests who surrounded the new deacons during the liturgy, as well as a congregation that filled the cathedral almost to capacity — including many attendees from out of state and even out of this country. The two-hour Mass also featured hugs, applause, the Knights of Columbus and powerful music from the Diocesan Festival Choir, all serving as supplements to the pivotal period midway through the event when each of the 11 new deacons knelt one by one in front of Bishop Clark and were officially brought into the diaconate.
Deacon Michael Costik, one of three transitional deacons along with Deacon Peter Mottola and Deacon Sergio Chávez, said he was especially impressed with Bishop Clark’s homily, during which the bishop implored the men he would soon ordain to remember all their loved ones who helped in some way to further their vocation.
"One of the best ways that you can appreciate your call to serve others is to remember how you have been served by the people gathered in this church today," the bishop said during his homily. "No one of us today would be here unless others had taken seriously, generously and sacrificially the words of Christ. … If you remember them, it will only reinforce and deepen that call to service that we celebrate today."
Meanwhile, Deacon Ed Knauf said he became overwhelmed during the Litany of the Saints as he reflected deeply on relatives who predeceased him.
"I could see their faces very clearly, and I was inconspicuously trying to wipe tears away," recalled Deacon Knauf, of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Irondequoit, during a post-Mass reception in the cathedral narthex.
Deacons Dudek and Knauf were joined in their class of permanent deacons by Deacon Dan Callan, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Rochester; Deacon John Pattison, Church of the Assumption, Fairport; Deacon Tom Ruda, Schuyler Catholic Community; Deacon Elmer Smith, St. Charles Borromeo, Greece; Deacon Dave Snyder, St. John of Rochester, Fairport; and Deacon Mike Zuber, Rush-Henrietta cluster of Good Shepherd/Guardian Angels/St. Joseph.
Bishop Clark noted during Mass that this is the 31st ordination of permanent deacons since the order was restored in this diocese in 1982, and that one of the men he ordained that day would be the 200th to enter the permanent diaconate over that three-decade period.
All eight of the new permanent deacons will soon learn of their first assignments. Deacon Dudek said that despite the joy he felt over having achieved ordination after years of studying and field work, "the real work is about to begin." Bishop Clark alluded to that point during his homily, observing that upholding the motto "I Have Come to Serve" printed on the event’s program cover will involve walking with people who are economically disadvantaged, in emotional pain, marginalized by society, without friends, suffering from the effects of addiction and mourning the loss of a loved one.
Meanwhile, Deacons Costik, Mottola and Chávez are on track to return to Sacred Heart Cathedral a year from now for their priestly ordination.