Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 17, 1891 when Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon dedicated St. Bernard Church, Enfield.
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DeacA_Mordecai_011Newly installed acolyte John Mordecai with his family, from left, son John, daughter Elisabeth and wife Clementina.

BLOOMFIELD – Fourteen men from parishes across the Archdiocese of Hartford continued their journey of faith and commitment to the permanent diaconate on Nov. 22 at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary.

They were installed in the Ministry of Acolytes at a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso of Hartford.

Installation in the Ministry of Acolytes is a final step for the candidates, who are expected to be ordained permanent deacons next June, he said.

The Church calls men who are ordained on the path to priesthood transitonal deacons. Permament deacons are not.

Their journey began in the spring of 2007 when they applied to the diaconate studies program. Over that summer, 19 of the 45 applicants were accepted, and began the program in September of that year.

The formation program for the permanent diaconate includes a year of aspirancy, or discernment, followed by four years of classroom instruction and pastoral training.

"All of the classes are condensed versions of what priests would learn," said Stephen Savarese, one of the newly instituted acolytes and a parishioner at St. John of the Cross in Middlebury. "The first one was the Old Testament," he said. "We learned all 46 books of the Old Testament again. Going forward, we would write papers."

A typical paper might require candidates to select a story from the Bible, study the exegesis, understand the historical relevance and then reflect upon its meaning, said Mr. Savarese.

Diaconate candidates receive formal grades each semester. Prior to ordination, they must take a comprehensive oral and written exam and pass a liturgical and preaching exam.

The program challenges candidates in many ways. There is a lot of reading, studying and speaking practice. In addition to meeting requirements of the formation program, candidates must also balance family life and their day jobs.

"Probably the biggest challenge for some people is when they have young children," said Mark Stevens, a member of Blessed Sacrament Church in Waterbury, who went through the program with Mr. Savarese.

"[For me, the biggest challenge was] just studying at my age. I am 54 years old and it’s not the same as when you are 18 and going to college," said Mr. Stevens.

"You are away from that for several years and you’ve been working; you’ve got a house, a wife and family and all of a sudden, you’re studying again. To get myself back into that routine of reading, writing and studying, that was the biggest challenge," he said.

Mr. Savarese said that although his class is made up of different people, "we have a lot of similarities. We all love the Church, but we have very different backgrounds. We have a police officer from Bridgeport, retired firefighters and programmers from CIGNA," said Mr. Savarese, who is an attorney. "We have a man from Ghana and a man from Puerto Rico who is very musically oriented," he added.

Other newly installed acolytes are Robert Barry, Manuel Cordero, Salvatore Fusco, Alan Germain, Peter Hyde, Edward Kensah, Robert Magnuson, John Mordecai, Henry Szumowski, James Tanguay and Richard Wisniewski.

Despite the challenges, most candidates successfully complete the program. While a few drop out, one member of this class "fell up." That’s how the new acolytes described former classmate James Gentile’s decision to enter the priesthood.

Classes meet Tuesday evenings at Sacred Heart Parish in Bloomfield. They are taught by Father Aidan N. Donahue, director of the diaconate’s Office of Formation and pastor of Sacred Heart; and Deacon Robert Pallotti, director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate.

"They do a very nice job. We all enjoy each other’s company; we have summer retreats together and get to know the class ahead of us," said Mr. Savarase. "They pay a lot of attention to us, so I think that’s why we drive ourselves to do our best work."

Current classes are focused on homiletics. While only those ordained as deacons can deliver homilies, the candidates prepare homilies based on Mass readings and present them to their classmates, priests and to Father Donahue for critique.

The group also is involved in pastoral service.

Mr. Savarese has served at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury and was involved in campus ministry in Waterbury. Mr. Stevens serves in a prison ministry.

"Deacons are to serve; that’s what the word comes from," said Mr. Savarese. "It’s a great honor to serve the Church in this way, and we look forward to assignment within a church."

During the ceremony, Bishop Macaluso referenced words from the instruction in his homily. "Live more fully the Lord’s sacrifice; mold yourself; offer yourself; share the one bread," he said.

"It is precisely because you are aware of your inadequacies and fortunate that God has chosen to work through you that [you should] continue your journey," he added. "You have a special role in the Church [and] responsibility to assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministries."


alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.