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HARTFORD – Tears of joy flowed among family members and others as the Archdiocese of Hartford welcomed three men to the priesthood and five men to the transitional diaconate during a two-and-a-half-hour ceremony Dec. 1 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
It was the first dual ordination of priests and deacons performed in the Archdiocese of Hartford. It is believed to have been the first ceremony of its type in the United States since a new ritual was promulgated last year.
Ordained to the priesthood were Henry Alexander Avendaño Varon, Andrés Mendoza Floyd and Jorge Eliecer Castro Morales, all of whom were born in Colombia.
The new transitional deacons are William Agyemang, Piotr Buczek, John Robert Mariano, Carlos Andrés Piedrahita Echeverri and Michael Alberto Santiago.
The five deacons will continue their seminary studies while providing pastoral care at various parishes across the Archdiocese of Hartford. Once they complete their requirements, they will be ordained to the priesthood in the spring.
"It’s a wonderful day for all of us as we celebrate the ordination of these men," said Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, ordaining prelate. "We are grateful to those who have chosen to serve God’s people, and we gather asking for the blessing of the Holy Spirit on these men who will serve the archdiocese through the diaconate and priesthood."
Announcing parish assignments for the new priests, Archbishop Mansell said that Father Varon will be assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Bristol; Father Castro, to Most Holy Trinity Parish in Wallingford; and Father Mendoza, to Most Holy Trinity Parish in Wallingford before returning to St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla., to continue his studies.
"It’s a very important day for my family, especially my mother and father who are deceased," said Ricardo Mendoza Floyd, Father Mendoza’s brother. "My father wanted to see my brother become a priest. Our parents are in heaven now blessing him and watching this moment."
Father Mendoza earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in art from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield before starting major seminary at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in 2000. He also attended Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, where the other two priests also studied, as well as St. Vincent De Paul in Boynton Beach.
"Today is a big day," echoed Flor Ossa, wife of Deacon Tullio V. Ossa, who serves at Most Holy Trinity Parish in Wallingford. As tears welled up in her eyes, Mrs. Ossa explained that she and her husband have served as surrogate parents for Father Castro, whose parents live in Colombia and were unable to attend the ceremony.
"This is the way he wants to serve the Lord," she said of Father Castro. "He loves the Lord so much. It’s his vocation, his mission. He wants to serve the Lord with all his might."
Also emotional was Maria Varon, Father Varon’s mother, who came from Colombia with her husband Henry to see her son ordained. "This is a very special day and very important for our family," she said. "His father is so proud of him for this moment. We love him so much."
After the ordination, a jubilant Father Varon, who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in computer systems before beginning his seminary studies, said, "I am so grateful because I deeply believe that the priesthood is a gift from God."
Parents of the newly ordained deacons were also moved by the ordination.
"It’s a very, very special day," said Olinda Santiago, with tears in her eyes, about her son, who was baptized at Our Lady of Fatima in Hartford and received his first holy Communion and confirmation in Portugal. "It’s been a long journey and God has made it possible."
Also traveling a long distance were Deacon Buczek’s mother and brother, who came from Poland for the ordination; and Deacon Piedrahita’s mother and sister. Deacon Piedrahita holds degrees in business administration and finance from Universidad Eafit in Colombia.
Supporting Deacon Agyemang was a large contingent of members of the Ghanaian community, in addition to his family.
"It’s a very precious day because my son is being ordained to the diaconate," said Wial Agyemang, his mother.
She said that she and her husband adopted him in Ghana. "It’s been his dream all his life to be a priest," said his father, Lawrence Bempong.
Born in Waterbury, Deacon Mariano was raised in Naugatuck, receiving his sacraments at St. Francis of Assisi Parish there. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of Connecticut and a master's degree in environmental education from Southern Connecticut State University. He worked for 27 years as a middle school science teacher in Fairfield County.
"I feel like I have been walking through the stairs of life and the next is the priesthood," said Deacon Mariano, who graduated magna cum laude from the Angelicum, Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome.
"It was a long journey for him," offered Kathi Jones of Middlebury, a cousin, who added that his parents are deceased. "But he’s so excited. He will do so many good things for people."
Principal concelebrants for the ceremony were Archbishop Emeritus Daniel A. Cronin and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza.
There also were more than 70 priests, nearly 20 deacons and some of the 40-plus men who are studying for the priesthood for the archdiocese in attendance.