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Bishop Burbidge to ordain six new permanent deacons

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Within the Catholic Church there are three grades of ordained ministers: bishop, priest and deacon. Deacons, who assist the bishop and the priests, can baptize, witness marriages, perform funeral and burial services outside of Mass, distribute Holy Communion, and preach the homily. In the Arlington Diocese, six men will be ordained permanent deacons at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington Jan. 14 at 11 a.m.

Orlando Jesús Barros

“I believe the most important thing about being a deacon is to proclaim the Good News,” said Orlando Jesús Barros. 

For Barros, entering the order of the diaconate was answering God’s call to serve. Barros was born in Valledupar, Colombia, in 1962. After marrying his wife, Nora, and graduating from medical school he moved to the United States. 

The diaconate had been on his mind for more than 10 years, and while he was living in Florida, the pastor of his church expressed the need for deacons. Barros felt this was his call and entered the diaconate program for the Diocese of Orlando. At the time, he was the only one in the diaconate program. He moved to Northern Virginia in 2009. As a surgical assistant at INOVA in Fairfax, he said his co-workers know he is in the diaconate program. He hopes to be able to clear up misconceptions about the Catholic Church.

Barros and his wife are parishioners of St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax. He and his wife have raised their three children, Orlando, Andres and Mariana, to be faithful and active in their faith. His family has been “100 percent” supportive of his decision. “I think that my family has a very strong Catholic faith,” said Barros. Barros has two grandchildren.

“I’m so happy,” said Barros. “I want to serve God according to His will, not according to mine.” 

Timothy Slayter

Timothy Slayter, born in 1973, wants to serve the church, Christ and His people as a deacon. He lives in Dumfries and is a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Manassas.

As a permanent deacon, Slayter looks forward to connecting people to Christ through the sacraments, service and “helping people find Christ through His church in whatever way they have a need.”

He serves the parish community through the homebound ministry, as an acolyte and on a subcommittee for youth ministry strategy. 

Slayter earned a bachelor’s in economics from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a master’s from Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore.

He is the principal of Cameron Elementary School in Alexandria.  

Slayter said the kind of work he does as principal can be seen through a lens of service. “The schools I’ve worked at, that I’ve been led to by Christ, have always been Title I schools,” he said. “I feel compelled that those who have the least should have the best education opportunity possible like anyone else. The teachers and staff are also service-minded.”

Slayter and his wife, Stephanie, live in Dumfries and have three children: Noah, Josephine and Isaac. Slayter and his wife are foster parents and recently adopted Isaac after fostering him for years. 

Mark Maines

Before he and his wife, Renee, adopted their first daughter, Mark Maines decided it was time to formally join the Catholic Church. Though he was raised Protestant, he had attended Mass for years with Renee and wanted his children to see their one faith. Maines, born in 1957, was confirmed during the Easter vigil of 1997 and this January, he will be ordained as a permanent deacon.  

Maines is a public school math teacher, a second career after serving in the U.S. Navy.  He and his wife are parishioners of Sacred Heart Church in Winchester and have two daughters: Catharine and Suzanne. He began to discern a call to the diaconate after receiving encouragement from his fellow Knights of Columbus. 

“When I was Grand Knight, our chaplain asked me if I’d ever considered being a deacon,” he said. After praying about it and asking the other Knights, “I filled out the paperwork and let God decide,” he said. “I’ve left the whole thing up to Him the whole time.” 

After he started diaconate formation, Maines became more involved with Sacred Heart, serving as a lector, a Eucharistic minister, and a teacher and sponsor in the RCIA program. He is grateful for the support provided by the parish and his wife and family. “(I’m excited to be) giving myself to God and His service in whatever He wants me to do,” said Maines. 

Thomas Grodek

Thomas Grodek was born in Chicago in 1956 into a large Polish family. In the same city where his Catholic faith was nurtured, a longtime priest friend asked if he had ever considered becoming a permanent deacon. Years of discernment later, the parishioner of Holy Spirit Church in Annandale will be ordained. 

Grodek attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, and served as a naval officer for 20 years before retiring. He then worked as a systems engineer for many years. Now, he teaches at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, and will join Deacon Rich Caporiccio as the second deacon on staff. 

Grodek and his wife of nearly 40 years, Marilyn, have three children: Bridget, Thomas and Stephen. Their daughter, Maureen, died several months ago. 

Grodek is excited to have his 10 grandchildren and the high school students at Paul VI see him in this new role within the church. “PVI students are like my other set of kids, and it’s a great joy for them to witness my journey,” said Grodek. 

Michael J. O’Neil

Michael J. O’Neil, born in 1958 is a sales executive and parishioner at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria. He said the long and fruitful history of deacons at the parish, and having two deacons recently ordained gave him a close-up view of the formation process. “The diaconate didn’t seem like an abstract idea,” he said. “I have a real call to service and enjoy helping people.”  

O’Neil is excited to begin his ministry but also acknowledges some anxiety. 

“I am more than a bit nervous and very humbled to think of the responsibilities we are given in our roles to baptize, witness marriages and celebrate the lives of the dearly departed,” he said. 

He serves as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and does First Friday visits to Good Shepherd parishioners unable to make it to Mass. He assists in training altar servers and brings Communion to the hospital on Sundays. “I’ve found this a wonderful way to spend a portion of the Lord’s Day,” he said. 

He and his wife, Dale, volunteer at Christ House in Alexandria. He has coordinated the Good Shepherd youth group’s monthly evening meal for several years. 

“Recently I started facilitating the spiritual discernment program for the residents, which is part of Christ House’s transition program,” he said.  

O’Neil is the vice president of sales for Ultra Distributors based in Elmwood Park, N.J. He said mixing faith and business can be tricky, but he was able to share with colleagues inside and outside of his company that he was in the process of becoming a deacon. 

“I think my personal and spiritual development has led to a deeper prayer life that has widened my circle of praying beyond just my family and parish and into the wider business setting, where I spend a great deal of my time each day,” he said.

O’Neil and his wife have five children and two grandchildren. 

Gerard-Marie Anthony

Gerard-Marie Anthony is a native of the Arlington Diocese. Born in 1980, he attended St. Rita Church in Alexandria, Holy Family Church in Dale City and Our Lady of the Angels Church in Woodbridge. After earning his undergraduate degree in theology from Christendom College in Front Royal, he moved to Manassas, where he has been a parishioner at All Saints Church for 15 years. 

There was no specific moment when Anthony felt called to the order of the diaconate. His service to others frequently prompted many to say that he was already “living the life of a deacon.” Through “a lot of prayer and counseling,” Anthony discerned life as a celibate permanent deacon, as opposed to the priesthood. He says that while both vocations provide sacramental grace, the diaconate answers his call to serve. 

“A good father doesn’t just give life, but is present for the everyday events of his children,” said Anthony. “I love being with people in those little moments.”  

Anthony has a master’s degree in theology from Catholic Distance University. He left teaching at St. John Paul the Great High School in Dumfries to become a full-time student at Divine Mercy University, formerly known as the Institute for Psychological Sciences, to pursue a master’s in counseling. He was also the president of the Arlington Chapter of the Legion of Mary for two years. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017