Five men lie prostrate behind the kneeling Archbishop Henry J. Mansell during a Mass in the chapel of the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary on Dec. 4 at which the Archbishop ordained them as transitional deacons. From left are Iain Highet, Diego Jimenez Olaya, George Mukuka, Anthony Smith and Robert Turner II. See photos by Lenora Sumsky in gallery here. .
BLOOMFIELD – The chapel in the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary was filled to capacity on Dec. 4 as Archbishop Henry J. Mansell ordained five men as transitional deacons for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Families, friends, women religious, deacons, seminarians, more than 65 priests and other supporters were on hand as Iain Highet, Diego Jimenez, George Mukuka, Anthony Smith and Robert Turner II took another step toward priesthood.
“I’m delighted,” said Archbishop Mansell. “This is such a happy day for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
“We are looking forward to their ordination [to the priesthood] this coming May. We are grateful for all those who are here, and especially for our five candidates,” said Archbishop Mansell, who noted that Anton Miranda, who served as the deacon for the Mass, is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood with the five other men.
“We give thanks for the great gifts that are here; all six are extremely well talented, with superb academic credentials but also superb life experiences,” he said.
The transitional deacons come from near and far. Deacon Highet, 45, is from Ontario, Canada; Deacon Jimenez, 27, hails from Antioquia, Colombia; and Deacon Mukuka, 42, comes from Southern Province, Zambia, in Southern Africa. Deacon Miranda is from Sri Lanka in South Asia. Two are Connecticut natives: Deacon Smith, 47, was raised in Ridgefield; and Deacon Turner, who is 25, hails from Seymour.
“We think of the continents throughout the world being represented; responding to God’s light and God’s love and to the inspiration he brings,” said Archbishop Mansell.
While there is a prescribed homily for ordination to the transitional diaconate, Archbishop Mansell added a few personal remarks before that homily.
He spoke with admiration about all 40 of the men who are preparing for the priesthood for the Archdiocese, describing them as very active, bright, quick and smart. He noted that six seminarians ran on Thanksgiving Day in the Manchester Road Race.
“They all finished and did very well,” he said.
For the race, the seminarians wore special T-shirts with a design inspired by the Archdiocese of Hartford’s coat of arms, which features a hart, or deer, crossing a river, or ford.
“They changed it a bit; used the same colors and had three deer on the symbol. And all the deer had running shoes.”
After the laughter subsided, Archbishop Mansell turned more serious, speaking of celebrations of life and death, of the larger life that is to follow, and of the gift of God for whom Christians prepare during Advent. He reflected on seasonal changes that bring longer nights and shorter days, and on art and music with symbolic themes that contrast darkness and light.
“We celebrate the gifts of light,” he said.
The Archbishop described the diaconate as “the celebration of God’s life.” He said the newly ordained men “will be bringing the Word of God in so many different ways, and officiating in various prayer services; who will baptize, who will be officiating in marriages and blessing marriages and who will be officiating at funeral services, and who will go forward doing the work of charity and works of mercy showing God’s life.”
Returning to the seasonal theme, he said the men will “rise every day throughout the year and every night throughout the year recognizing the … call to be people of light, reflecting Jesus’ light in the world.”
Father Michael Dolan, director of the Archdiocese’s Office of Vocations, said that the transitional deacons have completed Bachelor of Arts degrees in philosophy and four years of study in theology. He said their final preparation for the priesthood will continue with training by an assigned priest for further development of their pastoral care skills, and that they will be assigned to a parish within the Archdiocese prior to their ordination.