Last summer, seminarians Steven Lewis and Joseph Maurici were ordained transitional deacons on the Aug. 15 feast of the Assumption of Mary, a day that held personal significance for each of the men. Next month, they’re set to be ordained priests on another day of great significance — the vigil of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
“It seems like a very fitting day for a priestly ordination,” Deacon Lewis told the Catholic Courier in April. “The sacrifice that I will be ordained to offer is Christ himself present under the sacramental signs. That mystery is what we celebrate in the liturgical calendar that weekend.”
Deacons Lewis and Maurici are set to be ordained priests of the Diocese of Rochester by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano June 5 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester. The ordination Mass will be livestreamed on the Catholic Courier’s website and YouTube channel.
After years of study and preparation, both men are excited that their ordination date is finally drawing near.
“We’re ready to get out and do what we’ve been aiming for all this time,” remarked Deacon Maurici, who grew up attending Scottsville’s St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, now part of St. Martin de Porres Parish.
Deacon Maurici earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., and spent six years working in retail before entering Becket Hall, the diocesan pre-theology program for men discerning priestly vocations, in 2014. The next year, he began studying at St. John’s Seminary in Boston, Mass.
Like Deacon Maurici, Deacon Lewis also has been studying at St. John’s Seminary. He grew up in Greene, which is in Chenango County and is part of the Diocese of Syracuse. Here in the Rochester Diocese, he considers the Latin Mass community at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Irondequoit to be his spiritual home. He studied mathematics and computer science at the University of Rochester then earned a master’s degree in public administration from SUNY Brockport in 2006.
He worked in information technology at SUNY Brockport for 14 years before entering Becket Hall in 2014 and moving on to St. John’s Seminary in 2015.
After being ordained as transitional deacons last summer, both Deacons Lewis and Maurici returned to St. John’s Seminary to continue their studies. While completing their final year of classes, the transitional deacons also performed hands-on ministry in parishes near the seminary, although the pandemic did curtail some of this work, Deacon Maurici said.
“Normally, we would spend our entire weekend in the parish, whereas this year, because of the health concerns and restrictions, we’ve basically been going out on Sunday morning and coming back on Sunday afternoon,” he explained.
The two deacons did gain quite a bit of pastoral experience, however, when they returned to the Diocese of Rochester in early February to help out at local parishes, Deacon Maurici added. They remained in the diocese through Easter, preaching and helping with baptisms and other parish events while taking their seminary classes online.
“It’s a bit of a juggling act, but it has been good,” Deacon Maurici said.
“Serving as a deacon now has been pretty great and a very different experience, even with all the headaches of the pandemic. I am eager for that next step of priesthood,” Deacon Lewis added.
Learning the ropes of pastoral ministry while working within the restrictions of a global pandemic has been challenging, but has helped the men gain both confidence in their abilities as well as a hunger to more fully serve the faithful and connect them with the sacraments of the church, they said.
“I think the thing that I’m looking forward to the most is being able to sit down and meet parishioners, have full conversations with people,” Deacon Maurici said.
Celebrating Mass, offering the sacrament of reconciliation and anointing the sick are among the responsibilities Deacon Lewis is eager to take on after his ordination. The sacraments are “mediated divine encounters” that “elevate our ordinary life to bear a divine character,” he said, noting that the pandemic has greatly disrupted the faithful’s ability to receive these sacraments, in which priests play an essential role.
“It is my sincere hope that the limitations that we endure today will help us appreciate all the more these wonderful gifts that Christ has left us,” he said.