Bishop Salvatore R. Matano delivers the homily at the 2019 Deacon Ordination Mass. Bishop Salvatore R. Matano delivers the homily at the 2019 Deacon Ordination Mass. (Courier file photo)

Deacon candidates to embark on ministry of selflessness, service

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus:

As we continue to address the effects and many consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, we all look for signs of hope. I would like to believe that as a diocese we do find hope in ordinations to the priesthood and to the diaconate which have and are taking place so that the ministry of Word and Sacrament will continue throughout our diocese now and in the years to follow.

On June 13 last, with all health precautions in place, Father Joseph J. Martuscello was ordained to the holy priesthood at St. Mary’s Church in Corning. It was a much different circumstance for Father Martuscello than he had anticipated, with many family members and friends only able to be present via the livestreamed ceremony.

Father Martuscello began his priesthood making real sacrifices. He could have asked to postpone his ordination to a later date with the hope of fewer restrictions, but when presented with this option he responded without hesitation that he desired to be ordained, and he accepted the restrictions and protocols that had to be followed. And so it happened, that filled with zeal and enthusiasm for the Gospel, love for the church and with awe and reverence for the person of Jesus Christ, Father Martuscello became a wonderful addition to our presbyterate as he now serves the faithful of Our Mother of Sorrows and Holy Cross Parishes as parochial vicar.

On August 15, five candidates will be ordained to the order of deacon: two as transitional deacons, Steven B. Lewis and Joseph P. Maurici; and three permanent deacons: L. Johan Engström, Vincenzo M. Franco and Roger J. Loucks. I know you join me in thanking God for the commitment to ministry in service to God’s people these candidates are making also with love and enthusiasm. I am also deeply grateful for the support of their families and friends, their pastors and parish communities.

It is indeed fitting that we celebrate these diaconate ordinations on the Marian Solemnity of the Assumption. In the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution of the Church entitled Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations), we read that the diaconate is a ministry “dedicated to works of charity,” a ministry of service (no. 29). In serving God’s people, the deacon seeks not his own personal preference for ministry, but rather he goes where he is needed to bring God’s presence to his sisters and brothers. He is called to repeat daily the “Fiat” of Our Mother Mary, “Thy will be done.” His service will bring him to hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, to the poor and alienated, to schools and universities, to parishes and to migrant and refugee communities, all of which culminate in his proclamation of the Gospel and assistance at Holy Mass and the church’s sacramental life. His ministry will only be as effective as is his personal witness to the faith within the community of believers, as well as non-believers. His “I believe” must cause others to say “I, too, believe.”

Imitating the faith and humility of Mary, deacons must be a source of encouragement and support to God’s people, who also serve in so many ways and are deeply devoted to the Most Holy Eucharist: our daily Mass communicants; adorers of the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration; extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion; our catechists and youth ministers; those who reach out to the poor, the neglected, the refugees and forgotten; those who have devoted countless hours in service to the gift of life, whether to protect the unborn or to serve and support the newly born child or to comfort the sick, the elderly and the homebound; those who serve the causes of justice and peace and seek an end to violence and prejudices; those who serve in food pantries and the list goes on and on. These wonderful people must be supported by our deacons, who are called to mirror this same dedicated spirit of selflessness, which is the hallmark of charity.

As our candidates for the transitional diaconate continue their path to the priesthood, they are to be mindful that selfless service must accompany and be a constant and integral part of their priestly lives. Service is not for a period of time, but for a lifetime.

Our candidates for the permanent diaconate bring with them the solemn commitments made to their spouses and children and which must continue, now bringing this generous spirit of service to the wider community of faith, witnessing to the beauty of marriage and family life as the domestic church now serves the church universal.

Let us pray for our deacon candidates that in their ministry they will reveal God to His people, be bearers of the truth of the Gospel and enable those whom they serve to know, to believe and to find hope in the words of Jesus: “Know that I have come that you may have life and have this life to the full” (John 10:10).

With gratitude to all who serve the church and our diocese as priests, deacons religious and laity, I remain, invoking the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, Mother of the Church,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend

Salvatore R. Matano

Bishop of Rochester

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