Members of the Diocese of Rochester’s third class of permanent deacons are celebrating their 25th anniversaries this year. The following men were ordained to the diaconate on April 28, 1984, by Bishop Matthew H. Clark at Sacred Heart Cathedral. They received their diaconal training at St. Bernard’s Seminary and St. Bernard’s Institute in Rochester.
Deacon Thomas J. Driscoll had begun working full-time for the Catholic Church in 1973. So, when the opportunity to enter the diaconate came along, "It just seemed like a logical progression," said Deacon Driscoll, who currently serves as pastoral associate for Holy Family Parish in northern Steuben and southern Livingston counties.
Deacon Driscoll, 59, grew up in Rochester’s St. Anne Parish and attended Aquinas Institute. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from St. John Fisher College, his master’s in liturgy and systematic theology from St. John’s University in Minnesota, and his doctorate of ministry in social-justice education from Colgate Rochester Divinity School.
His previous parish assignments were at St. James, Irondequoit; St. Jerome, East Rochester; St. Louis, Pittsford; and St. John the Evangelist, Spencerport. Deacon Driscoll also served as director of continuing education at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry.
Among notable past endeavors are serving as chair of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission from 1978-81; as cofounder in 1987 of The Elderberry Express, a free transportation service for senior citizens in Pittsford; and as cofounder in 1997 and director of the Pittsford Food Cupboard. He is currently active in Jewish studies.
"I think the thing I’m most proud of is the Pittsford Food Cupboard," he said of his many initiatives over the years. In addition to serving its immediate area, he said "it serves two very large ZIP codes in the City of Rochester. The fact that it’s existed that long shows that it’s needed."
Deacon Driscoll and his wife of 34 years, Michele, reside in Victor. They have four children.
An encouraging word from a good friend, the late Father Dave Faraone, got Deacon John Giugno started on his path toward the diaconate.
"He said, ‘You should become a deacon,’" Deacon Giugno recalled, adding that he was flattered — except for one problem that reflected the newness of the permanent diaconate: "I had no idea what it was."
Deacon Giugno, 61, has obviously learned the vocation well, as a quarter-century’s ministry would indicate. A native of Rochester’s Holy Apostles Parish, he later became a parishioner of St. Theodore in Gates and served the first 11 years of his diaconate there. In 1995 he moved to Rochester’s Most Precious Blood Parish, which later became part of The Cathedral Community. Deacon Giugno now ministers at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
He said that in all his assignments, his pastors have made him feel at home: "Every one of them has been extremely supportive of my ministry, especially in the beginning when there was a lot of tension between priests and deacons."
Deacon Giugno ranks the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program among his ministry highlights: "You share stories of faith, and it’s a reinforcement of your own faith." He’s also pleased — and a bit surprised — about the positive feedback he’s received for homilies, since he doesn’t particularly care for the limelight.
"God was raising me up to a different level. It was the grace of a sacrament that would allow me to walk up to a pulpit, because that was the last place I thought I’d ever see myself," he said.
Deacon Giugno is a longtime building-code coordinator for the City of Rochester. He and his wife, Roberta, reside in Greece. They have two children and six grandchildren.
The duties of a deacon can undoubtedly cut into family time. Yet there also are huge potential rewards involving the family, as has been the case for Deacon Richard E. Mahany.
"I’ve had the privilege of baptizing all of my grandchildren; I have seven of them. And, I heard my only daughter’s marriage vows," he said.
Deacon Mahany, 81, was born in Dansville and attended the former St. Patrick Parish. He joined the U.S. Navy before finishing high school and graduated after completing his duty. He is a retired offset printer for the Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Co. and has four children.
Deacon Mahany said his interest in the diaconate was spurred by a longtime penchant for church involvement, from serving at the altar when he was young to lectoring as an adult.
"I had always loved being connected with the church," he said.
Following ordination, Deacon Mahany became rooted at his parish, St. Rita in Webster. All 20 years of his active ministry were spent there, although his involvement was restricted during the years he cared for his wife, Mary, who suffered from multiple sclerosis. She died in 2007.
Deacon Mahany has been retired from the diaconate for five years, but still ministers at times to the St. Rita community, performing funerals and Communion services, and visiting area nursing facilities.
The top moments in ministry have been giving homilies. "I’ve loved the preaching. I’ve always relied on the Holy Spirit to do my homilies," he said. He also has placed an emphasis on "giving myself to people no matter what their problems were, and bringing people back into the church."
Integrating ministry with his expertise as a medical doctor has been a constant in Deacon Fernando Ona‘s life.
During his 16 years of diaconal ministry in the Diocese of Rochester, Deacon Ona was responsible for establishing several health ministries. He has maintained that focus since moving to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2000.
"It’s witnessing to the call of being servants of the Lord," Deacon Ona said. "We have to use every possible gift that the Lord gives us to apply that."
Deacon Ona was born in the Philippines. He moved to the United States in 1967 and settled in Rochester in 1974 as a University of Rochester faculty head of gastroenterology, serving at St. Mary’s Hospital. His parish assignments were at St. Helen in Gates and St. Catherine of Siena in Mendon.
In 1984 he became a founder of Mount Carmel House, a home for the dying for the poor. His efforts earned him an honorary doctorate from Nazareth College. Deacon Ona also led the establishment of clinics at Ss. Peter and Paul and Corpus Christi parishes.
"Rochester is a wonderful place. We were blessed with wonderful people we have worked with and prayed with," said Deacon Ona, 64. He and his wife, Celia, have two children.
He currently serves as deacon at St. Philomena and Holy Family Parishes in Honolulu. Deacon Ona has continued to develop health ministry to the poor in Hawaii, and also remains highly involved with a free clinic he established in his native Philippines in 1997 to serve more than a dozen villages.
How has he been so active in ministry even with the demands of the medical profession? Deacon Ona cited the famous verse from Matthew 19:26.
"With God all things are possible," he said.
Deacon Michael J. Piehler said he’s frequently been asked how a car dealer becomes a deacon. But for him, one’s profession has little to do with it.
"God’s grace is available to all of us," he stated.
He acknowledged that his longtime role as owner of Piehler Pontiac is quite time consuming, yet "when we begin to put God in our life, then we begin to get our priorities straight and you realize you do have time (to be a deacon.) The priorities become clear and acceptable to you when you ask God to lead you through this deal."
Deacon Piehler, 62, grew up in Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish. He graduated from Rochester’s Aquinas Institute and St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, and after working in administration at St. John Fisher, entered the family automobile business at age 29.
His first diaconal assignment was for two years in Rochester’s Holy Redeemer/St. Francis Xavier Parish. Since 1986 he’s been at Pittsford’s Church of the Transfiguration, where he’s a founding member of the parish, which opened in 1983.
A top ministerial activity for Deacon Piehler is leading an annual parish men’s retreat to Booneville, Ky., where he said surgeons and CEOs mix freely with residents in one of the country’s poorest rural areas. He’s also involved with a parish men’s fellowship group that promotes the ideal that "men are no longer embarrassed to talk about their faith," he said.
Deacon Piehler and his wife, Kathleen, have two children and two grandchildren. He said his call to the diaconate was nurtured by many, from his family who "gave me the grace and courage," to his staff at the dealership who are "dependable enough to allow you to do these things," to all of his pastors.
"I’m surrounded by a tremendous amount of love," he said.