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Arlington’s Bishop Burbidge ordains 4 new transitional deacons

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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge ordained four seminarians from across the Arlington diocese to the transitional diaconate June 13 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. With safety limitations still in place because of the coronavirus, a limited number of family and friends were able to attend the ceremony in person, but a cloud of 2,300 virtual witnesses watched the moving ceremony via livestream. 

The new deacons are Jonathan Fioramonti of All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas, John Paul Heisler of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, Jonathan Smith of the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria and Joseph Townsend of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Fredericksburg. 

The first part of the ordination ceremony was the Election of the Candidates, in which the four candidates were called by name to stand before Bishop Burbidge. Father Michael C. Isenberg, diocesan vocations director, testified that they had been found worthy, and Bishop Burbidge proclaimed that “we choose these, our brothers, for the Order of the Diaconate,” to the applause of those gathered.

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge noted that the names of the candidates all begin with the letter J, and said, “Maybe the Lord is trying to tell us something.” He focused his homily on three “truths and realities” being celebrated at the ordination, all starting with the letter J: Jesus, justice and joy. 

Bishop Burbidge said that during the imposition of hands in the ordination ceremony, “the Lord’s Holy Spirit will descend upon you and configure you forever to the very person of Christ as his deacons, and God-willing, one day soon, as his priests.” He said the candidates were called to imitate Jesus in his “perfect example of humility. He is the One who came to serve and not to be served; who treated all persons with love, mercy and compassion” and who offered the ultimate sacrifice in obedience to his Father for our salvation.

Bishop Burbidge told the candidates to remember that in the Gospel reading, “the Lord told his disciples ‘Don’t let anything weigh you down’ ”  in their mission. “Dear candidates, never be weighed down by fear, doubt or insecurity. Rely totally on Jesus.” 

He also spoke about justice, noting that they are being sent forth as deacons “at a time our nation is experiencing great turmoil and unrest.” He referred to the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice he celebrated last week, at which the community prayed “for the eradication of any form of injustice including racism, discrimination, violence and all evil acts against the dignity of the human person.” 

Bishop Burbidge said, “you know, all of us know, that our nation will only be transformed to the extent that we as a people are faithful to God’s commands and the Gospel of Life. It is this Gospel that you soon will be ordained to preach in all of its richness and beauty. You are called to inspire, encourage and respectfully challenge God’s people to live this Gospel and to share it with others.”

Finally, the Bishop spoke of the joy of ordained ministry and of responding daily to the pastoral and spiritual needs of others, “especially the poor, weak and most vulnerable.” He reminded them that it is prayer that sustains this joy, including meditation before the Blessed Sacrament, personal prayer and praying the Liturgy of the Hours, in living their promises of respect and obedience, in seeking the Lord’s mercy and in being strengthened with the Eucharist. “In him alone will you find the strength you need to live out your ministry, even in the midst of complex situations.” 

After the homily, the candidates each knelt before Bishop Burbidge, placed their hands in his and pledged obedience to him and his successors, then lay prostrate on the floor as the Litany of Saints was sung by the choir. Each candidate then approached Bishop Burbidge, who placed his hands on each of their heads before the prayer of ordination.  

Next came the investiture, during which the newly ordained deacons were vested by a chosen clergy member in putting on a deacon’s stole and the tunic-like vestment known as a dalmatic. Deacon John Eberlein of All Saints, who has been a deacon for 46 years, assisted Deacon Jonathan Fioramonti; Father Christopher Pollard, pastor of St. John the Beloved Church in McLean, assisted Deacon John Paul Heisler; newly ordained Father Joseph Moschetto assisted Deacon Jonathan Smith; and Father Stefan Starzynski, chaplain at Inova Fairfax Hospital, assisted Deacon Joseph Townsend. 

The newly ordained deacons then again approached Bishop Burbidge and knelt before him to receive the Book of Gospels, as he said, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.” Then the Bishop gave each of the newly ordained the Fraternal Kiss, and other attending deacons did the same.

After the Mass, the new deacons greeted family and friends outside.

Deacon Fioramonti’s aunt, Kathy Bomar, presented him with a family Bible that was his great grandmother’s, purchased at the Vatican in the 1950s. “It will be neat as a deacon to proclaim the Gospel with it,” he said. 

Deacon Heisler’s uncle and godfather, Peter Heisler, said he was “overwhelmed by the day. As his godfather, I have been to all his sacraments, and this is the only one I haven’t gotten to take a part in — I could only stand by and watch the Holy Spirit go to work.”

Deacon Townsend’s sister Elisa found the ceremony “beautiful and breathtaking.” She said it was “inspiring and moving to see these men offer their lives to God.”

Each of the new deacons began his diaconate assignment June 15. Deacon Fioramonti will serve at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. Deacon Heisler will serve at All Saints. Deacon Smith will serve at the Church of the Nativity in Burke, and Deacon Townsend will serve at the Basilica of St. Mary.

Contributing: Stacy Rausch  

Buy prints and keepsakes of the diaconate ordination at catholicherald.smugmug.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020