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On path to priesthood: Arlington diocese welcomes seven new deacons

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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge ordained seven men to the transitional diaconate at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington April 10. The men are Philip Briggs of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal; Peter Clem of All Saints Church in Manassas; John O’Farrell of the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria; Robert Renner of Holy Spirit Church in Annandale; Daniel Reuwer of St. William of York Church in Stafford; Daniel Rice of St. Timothy Church in Chantilly; and Peter St. George of St. Theresa Church in Ashburn. 

Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become.

As deacons, the men can perform baptisms, witness weddings, proclaim the Gospel at Mass and give homilies. They will likely receive their parish assignments next month for their diaconate year. The transitional deacons now are one step closer to being ordained priests next year. 

The rite of ordination began after the Gospel reading. As the seven men stood before Bishop Burbidge, Father Michael C. Isenberg, director of vocations, declared he and others had found the men worthy of the responsibility of the diaconate. The congregation’s applause resounded through the cathedral.

Read more about the new deacons and how they prepared for ordination.

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge encouraged the candidates. “The healing and unity for which we long as a nation, as a church, can only be found in Christ Jesus and the faithful proclamation and living of his Gospel,” he said. “So much is at stake and your urgency is required. Dear candidates, the church needs you. We need your energy, we need your zeal, we need your faithful witness to the truth that all who are united to Christ will share in his victory both now and forever.”

Then the men stood before Bishop Burbidge and promised to commit to celibacy, obedience and a life of prayer. The seven then prostrated themselves before the altar as a litany of saints was sung. When the litany had finished, they knelt one by one as Bishop Burbidge laid his hands on their heads, and then prayed the prayer of ordination. 

Now official deacons, the men were vested in a stole and dalmatic by a priest or deacon mentor. Deacon Clem was vested by Youth Apostles Father Peter W. Nasseta, chaplain of James Madison University in Harrisonburg. Father Nasseta has known Deacon Clem’s family for many years and he was chaplain of George Mason University in Fairfax when he was a student there. 

“(Deacon Clem is) a great man with deep faith, and honestly he has a gift for preaching,” said Father Nasseta. “When he was a sophomore I had him give a talk on a retreat with freshmen, (and) I remember sitting there in awe going, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy’s really got it.’ ”

Now vested, the men one by one knelt in front of Bishop Burbidge as he placed the book of Gospels in their hands saying, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become.” Finally, Bishop Burbidge and several deacons gave the men a fraternal kiss — in this case, a hug or a bow. 

After Mass, the new deacons greeted friends and family members under tents outside the cathedral. Michael Reuwer, younger brother of Deacon Reuwer, said he was happy to witness the culmination of years of preparation. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “Growing up we’d be like 5 and 8 and he’d be like let’s do play Mass. You get some generic bread and squish it down to wafers and some Juicy Juice grape juice.”

Nancy Briggs, mother of Deacon Briggs, said she was feeling full of joy and gratitude to God.  “It's always such a mystery to see your children developing into who God has intended them to be, and we’re very humbled and joyful that he’s responded to this call,” she said. “He’s been such a great gift to our family and now he’ll be a gift to our whole diocese.”



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021

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