ROCHESTER — Around noontime on Aug. 15, five men emerged from Sacred Heart Cathedral into radiant sunshine with a new, long-awaited designation: Catholic deacon.
Bishop Salvatore R. Matano ordained Deacons Johan Engstr√∂m, Vincenzo Franco and Roger Loucks as permanent deacons for the Diocese of Rochester, as well as Deacons Steven Lewis and Joseph Maurici as transitional deacons on the path to the diocesan priesthood. The ordination liturgy lasted approximately 90 minutes and took place on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.
The deacon ordination had originally been scheduled for May 23 but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. A limited congregation was on hand at the cathedral Aug. 15 in keeping with current state COVID-19 restrictions on the sizes of public gatherings. However, many more people witnessed the ordination virtually via a livestream provided by the Catholic Courier.
The three new permanent deacons now begin ministerial assignments following nearly five years of formation, during which they studied at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry and gained field experience. Permanent deacons serve 10 hours per week in the parish and community. By virtue of their ordination, they, as well as transitional deacons, serve at the altar, proclaim the Gospel and may preach at Mass, preside at baptisms, witness marriages and officiate at funerals outside of Mass.
Deacon Engstr√∂m, a native of Sweden, has been assigned by Bishop Matano to minister at St. Pius Tenth Parish in Chili, where he also serves as faith-formation director. He views his entrance into the permanent diaconate as a time “to celebrate service, living a life of service.” He added that he’s looking forward to receiving “the strength and the grace from God to be able to serve him.”
“I’m not doing this for me. I am saying, ‘Yes, Lord, I will serve — help me,’” Deacon Engstr√∂m said.
Deacon Franco, who has been assigned to Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Brockport, said he’s looking forward to “just getting started in ministry, and just really trying to discern what it is God wants from me in being a deacon, and the ministries he wants me to be involved in.”
“It’s really exciting for me, and I kind of can’t wait,” added Deacon Franco, a parishioner of St. Pius Tenth in Chili.
Deacon Loucks will minister at his home parish of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community in the Finger Lakes. He said that he’s eager to now be “putting what I learned into action. To be a deacon means to be a servant, and I really want to actually serve and help.”
Deacon Loucks added that he not only looks forward to the future, but also has cherished his formation process: “I’ve liked working with my deacon candidate brothers. I’ll miss that part — that part I don’t really want to end.”
Meanwhile, the Rochester Diocese’s two transitional deacons will return shortly to St. John’s Seminary in Boston, Mass., where they will complete studies before their projected ordination as diocesan priests in 2021.
“It’s kind of amazing that (the deacon ordination) is here already,” said Deacon Maurici, whose home church is St. Mary of the Assumption in Scottsville, a worship site of St. Martin de Porres Parish.
Deacon Maurici remarked that he’s excited to have now acquired “this very well-defined role in the church as I continue to prepare for priesthood ordination. It’s really kind of an amazing feeling.”
As for Deacon Lewis, he views his deacon ordination as affirmation of a decision made in 2014 to begin formation for the priesthood.
“That was a big jump out into the deep. I didn’t know what was going to happen back then, but I think that our good Lord has shown me that this is what he had in mind,” said Deacon Lewis, a native of Broome County in the Diocese of Syracuse, who worships with the Latin Mass community at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Irondequoit.
Deacon Lewis added that he’s looking forward to applying “that fine gift of flexibility” in his future role as a parish priest — “serving the needs of God as they exist in radically different circumstances, sometimes from one day to the next as we’ve seen with the recent pandemic.”