‘With peace and goodness’: 14 candidates ready for ordination to diaconate

Compiled by Tom Maguire | Associate editor

The 2020 class of deacon candidates credits its instructors for selflessness, commitment, dedication, and excellence. An example of a teacher beloved by all was the late Father Louis Aiello, who directed the program.

One of the candidates quotes Father Lou: “‘I believe in the philosophy of spaghetti being thrown against the wall and seeing what sticks.’”

The pasta experiment has yielded 14 men — the largest class to date — ordained to the diaconate this week — “a big life changer,” as one of them calls it. For several joyful, enriching years they have balanced their studies and their home and work lives. Common traits are empathy; “a sense of something greater than myself”; an appreciation of the sacraments; humility; and a desire to serve. They are impressed by how much there is to learn about the faith, and they have responded to the challenge of homiletics and have grown in their relationship with the Lord and with those around them.

Through the years of the program they have gained lifelong friends, and now they are ready to minister in settings such as jails, hospitals, nursing homes, and the private homes of people who cannot get outside.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint (‘character’) which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all. Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity.”

Why did they get involved in all this? One of them cited a calming effect. For one of them, the answer was a perfectly timed phone call. Another was determined to match the faith of his mother. Here are their stories, shared with the Sun in advance of their ordinations:

 

Jeffrey Getman 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsJeffrey F. Getman
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Syracuse

Getman wrote in an email that he has worked for Frazer & Jones Co. for 40 years, mostly as purchasing manager. Getman, who is single, looks forward to retiring next year and devoting all of his time to “serving our community.”

“This journey began back in 2003,” he wrote, “when I was sitting with my girlfriend at Mass at the basilica. Msgr. Peter Gleba was talking about the Beatitudes and it was like someone flipped a switch in me. I began attending daily Mass, gave up my vices, and completely changed my life. A few years down the road I knew I needed to do more. That’s when I signed up for Formation for Ministry not knowing where this was leading.

“My first two years in Formation for Ministry left me hungry for more; more in terms of learning and expanding my faith and putting myself in a position to be able to give back to God in thanks for all that He has done for me. Once I was accepted into the diaconate program, I found myself surrounded by 13 new brothers. … Their depth of faith and dedication continue to inspire me to this day. My heart is heavy as I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that we will no longer be meeting as a group on a monthly basis for class instruction.”

Trying to come up with one person that impacted him over the last four years, he wrote, “is difficult to say the least. Maybe the best way to approach this is to look at it from the time I was first entering the program. What terrified me the most? Easy one, homiletics. I had no confidence that I could write a homily and then get up in front of a church filled with people and deliver anything that would be meaningful to them.

“Deacons Tony Paratore and Bob Fangio came to my rescue. I may not ever be considered a brilliant homilist, but these two gentlemen gave me the training and encouragement that I needed to, God willing, succeed. Deacon Fangio later became my liturgical mentor. Deacon Paratore became and continues to be my spiritual director.  For their training and guidance, I am eternally grateful. …

“The thing that surprised me the most about the program was how little pressure I was under. Father Aiello, God rest his soul, put together a program that allowed us to learn and grow in a relaxed atmosphere which, in my opinion, put us all in a better position to succeed.”

For a few years now, Getman has been the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults coordinator for the basilica.

“I get a lot of satisfaction,” he wrote, “seeing people go through our program and receive the sacraments at Easter Vigil Mass. I hope to continue in that role. Also, despite my early misgivings, I really do look forward to writing homilies and delivering them at Sunday Masses. It’s an opportunity to reach a large group of people all at once and deliver a message inspired by the Holy Spirit. I just hope and pray that the Spirit and I remain on good terms and he doesn’t desert me.”

No matter what challenges he faces, he is certain that God will be holding his hand.

He wrote: “I remember something that Father Saba Shofany asked us on day one of our pneumatology class, ‘Why are you here?’ We went around the room and each of us fumbled with the answer. When we got back to Father Saba, he said to us, ‘You’re here, because this is where God wants you.’”

Getman said anyone considering the diaconate should do himself a favor and check it out.

“The hardest part of the whole program,” he wrote, “was filling out the application paperwork and jumping through all the hoops necessary for acceptance. Once you’re accepted, it’s all downhill and I mean it when I say that the time flies by. The people that you will meet and the friendships that you will forge will provide you with love-filled memories that will last a lifetime.”

 

James Henck e1595359287618 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsJames E. Henck
St. Patrick-St. Anthony, Chadwicks

Henck, of Sauquoit, recently retired from a career as a union representative for the New York State United teachers. His 37th wedding anniversary with wife Jeannine is coming up in August. They have six children and seven grandchildren.

Henck wrote: “The time spent in formation has been amazing. Having the chance to … learn with a brotherhood is one of the great blessings of my life. The faculty [have] been great examples to me. I learned so much from them, sometimes it was even through their words.

“All of our classes were great but for me the most valuable by far was pastoral-care education. I have benefited so much personally [from] all of the theology and history but if that’s where it stops we simply become the new Pharisees who knew God’s law and Scripture so well but lost all empathy for their brothers and sisters. PCE was all about empathy and hearing a person where they are at and not where we think they should be. I think that is what the Lord wants from us and certainly should be a primary trait of a deacon servant.

“Our culture often seems too busy for that kind of empathy and I think pride gets in the way of realizing many of us need to take a breath and practice listening. To me the course showed me I needed to pray for humility to learn, and to try and put myself aside to be present for another.”

Asked what challenged him, he cited “the many different points of view within our Church, which at times seem to mirror the differences and divisions in our society.”

As a deacon he hopes to spend time as a prison chaplain: “This goal has been stalled for the time being due to the ongoing pandemic. I am also hoping to explore some options for working with refugees.”

Those considering a call to the diaconate, he wrote, should “pray, and more importantly listen for the answer.”

 

Kirk Lallier e1595359334475 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsKirk T. Lallier
Sacred Heart and St. Mary, Our Lady of Czestochowa, New York Mills

Lallier, of Cassville, Oneida County, who is single, retired in March from MetLife as a claim examiner for Group Life Insurance.

In his written response he recounts how he knew he had made the right decision:

“This journey started for me back in 2010 and it is then when I felt I was first being called. I was getting more involved in parish life and began to volunteer for more and more things. Then, different parishioners would come up to me and would say, ‘You know Kirk, you would make a good deacon.’

“This was happening more and more and then the pastoral associate for our parish told me the same thing. I kept hearing the whisper/knocking by the Holy Spirit without knowing what was happening. Then finally, my pastor called me and said that I would make a good deacon. This made me think and pray over this more. I finally came to realize that it would make sense for me to become a deacon, especially as I was getting more and more involved in parish life and it gave me joy when I gave back to the church.”

After he attended a seminar for men who were interested in becoming a deacon in the Syracuse Diocese, he received a call from Father Aiello to set up a meeting.

“We agreed that we would make it for a Saturday when he was going to be in our area,” he recalled. “He said he would call me the Saturday we chose to pinpoint the meeting time and place.

“That morning I was having my morning coffee and reading the autobiography of Pope St. John Paul II. I was reading the paragraph when the pope was told he was approved to start seminary school to become a priest when my phone rang. It was Father Lou Aiello calling me to tell me we would meet in about two hours. I actually got the chills when I received the call. I realized at THAT moment the Holy Spirit was definitely calling me. I will never forget that day!”

The years of formation, he wrote, “have been a lot of work and sacrifice trying to juggle everything and getting everything done, but at the same time it has always given me great joy.

“With the guidance of Father Lou Aiello and Deacon [Thomas] Cuskey, all my instructors have left a big impact on me. They have all formed me and prepared me for my vocation. On a practical level, all my instructors for homiletics have taught me much. What they have taught me will help me with all the homilies that I will be doing in my future as an ordained deacon.”

He considers the seven years of training “a good thing to be sure you are discerned and ready with the knowledge needed.

“What challenged me was the open-book test after the two-year mark of [diaconate study] and all the research needed to complete this. At the same time, it was well worth the effort with the knowledge gained.”

He will use that knowledge in service to his pastor and the parishioners wherever he is needed. “I also look forward to preaching and helping with pastoral care for our homebound and people in nursing homes in our area,” he said. “I also will probably get more involved with Hope House in our area which feeds the needy.”

Lallier advises other men considering the diaconate to “take the time to discern and be SURE that they hear the calling and that it is a good fit for them. This can take a few years on their journey; it is not instantaneous, and they have to be patient as this is a big life changer.”

 

Peter Lual 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsPeter T. Lual
St. Vincent de Paul, Syracuse

Lual, of Syracuse, came to this country because of the civil war in his native South Sudan in July 2005. He is a janitor at Upstate Community Hospital. He and his wife, Mary Anyuon, have six children: Akok, Lual, Thiep, Aluel, Aguer, and Dabb.

“My formation is very interesting. I love it,” he wrote in an email. He added: “During my formation the best is to be with Jesus Christ Our Lord to preach the gospel to the people.”

Lual’s family and friends are happy about his ordination, and he noted in a phone interview they are “part of the American community too.”

He said the newly ordained are all his friends, and they have “become the one team, and we are going back to do something good.”

He is grateful to the teachers, the diocese, and the St. Vincent de Paul community.

Now the new deacons will be “preaching the Gospel of God.”

Anticipating the ceremony, he said: “I am very excited.”

Other men who are considering the diaconate, he wrote, should be aware that God would love them to be with his Church.

 

Matthew Lumia e1595359415927 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsMatthew C. Lumia
St. Michael – St. Peter, Syracuse

Lumia, of Fayetteville, and his wife, Meg, have three daughters: Erin, 23, Elizabeth 22, and Emily, 16. He is a partner at Burns Bros. Contractors, LLC.

He wrote: “I can recall a desire to serve the Church in a meaningful way as far back as my undergraduate college days with the Franciscans at Siena College, perhaps even earlier growing up in a loving Catholic home on the north side of Syracuse; attending St. John the Baptist Church.

“However, it is at Siena that I gained a more profound sense of something greater than myself and the Holy Spirit moving me to serving God’s people, with peace and goodness.

“With the encouragement and ongoing prayers and support of Msgr. Robert Yeazel, Deacon Nathan Gunn, my wife Meg and other family members and friends, and ultimately, Father Lou Aiello, we made the commitment to pursue the diaconate. The formation process has deepened my relationship with the Lord. It has also strengthened relationships with my family and those around me. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned to recognize that this formation process never ends. It is humbling and challenging, but I am growing to be at peace and comfort in this humility, while increasingly trusting in the Lord.”

He views the talent and faithfulness of his class’s formation leaders and instructors to be a “true gift to us. Their selflessness and commitment to us has been a great example of what we are called to do. However the biggest impact on me during my formation process has been my wife Meg, three daughters Erin, Beth, and Emily, and immediate family and friends. I can’t imagine how this would be done without their love and encouragement.”

He cited a “humbling recognition about how much there is to experience” in the areas of “knowledge, spirituality, and relationship with the Lord, our Church, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. The transition from ‘daunting’ knowledge and information to ‘inspiring’ has been awesome!”

He looks forward to “especially working with families, young and old, and throughout our community to help regain an appreciation and understanding of the sacraments and a deeper appreciation of the love that we share from our Lord. Given the historically unusual circumstances of this year, we have a special opportunity (and obligation) to bring the love of Christ to our faith community, and all people — in and outside of our churches!”

Men considering the diaconate, he wrote, should “trust the Lord and cooperate (and act!) with what you may be feeling and experiencing from the Holy Spirit and the Church.”

 

Joseph Lupia e1595359435603 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsJoseph A. Lupia, Jr.
St. Mary of the Assumption, Minoa; St. Francis of Assisi, Bridgeport; St. Matthew, East Syracuse

Lupia and his wife, Kathleen, parents of four sons and four daughters (one daughter deceased), live in Minoa.

He is an attorney and an accountant, and for more than four years he has been the business manager of all three parishes.

Where will he find the time to be a deacon too?

“You’re inspired,” he said. “You’re inspired and inspiration gives you energy.”

The years of formation, he said, “went very fast, but they were pure joy. I loved the classes, and I loved my classmates.”

Asked which class was the most fascinating for him, he said, “I liked the spirituality classes — Sister Donald Corcoran,” a Benedictine woman religious with a doctorate in theology.

He was surprised by the amount of things to learn about the faith: “You go into the diaconate thinking you know an awful lot about your faith. And we are overwhelmed by how much we’re learning still.”

His favorite Scripture passage is probably John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

Asked what aspect of ministry he looks forward to the most, he said: “Funeral ministry. … I feel like it’s assisting the people.”

Of those who feel the calling to the diaconate, he said, “they should follow through. It’s extremely rewarding.”

 

Larry Messina e1595359569106 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsLarry P. Messina
Pope John XXIII, Liverpool

Messina, of Liverpool, wrote that he is committed to the idea of service in “all aspects of ministry in my parish or wherever else I am needed.”

He and his wife, Barbara, Director of Leadership Development and Mission Effectiveness in the diocese’s Catholic Schools Office, have three daughters, Kimberly, Suzanne, and Sara.

The retired accountant said: “I have experienced a tremendous growth in my personal relationship with the Lord, an increased knowledge of my faith, and an increased awareness of the importance of being of service to others in whatever way God needs me to be.”

He added: “Understanding and learning how to prepare and deliver homilies was very challenging as this was a skill that did not come naturally to me.”

Messina salutes the “dedication and excellence of our instructors and the faith and dedication of my classmates.”

He said he was also inspired by the “clergy who encouraged and supported me; the deacons who mentored me; and most especially Monsignor James O’Brien, Father Zachary Miller, Father Dan O’Hara, and Father Lou Aiello.”

Anyone considering the diaconate, he wrote, should “pray for guidance and direction. The Holy Spirit will provide you all that you need to respond to the call of providing service to others.”

 

Thomas and Lena Murphy 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsThomas J. Murphy, Jr.
St. Vincent de Paul, Syracuse

Murphy, and his wife, Lena, of Camillus, have three sons: Aaron, 27, a teacher; Andrew, 22, who just graduated from Onondaga Community College; and Nathaniel, 20, who attends Syracuse University.

He works at Marcellus Park and also as a chaplain at Upstate University Hospital. He formerly worked at the YMCA taking care of children in before-school and after-school programs.

“I owe my foundation in the faith to my parents Mary Jane and Thomas Murphy,” he wrote. “They gave me an excellent education and coming from a large family — five brothers and two sisters — gave me plenty of times to practice.”

His years of formation, he said, “have been transformative. They have changed me in several ways. I am calmer and more empathic.”

He also is inspired by a quote from Pope St. John Paul II: “There are no coincidences.”

“As far as doing the formation,” he wrote, “I would use the words of our most loved Lou Aiello: ‘I believe in the philosophy of spaghetti being thrown against the wall and seeing what sticks.’”

 

Daniel and Patricia Reynolds 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsDaniel John Reynolds
St. Margaret, Homer

Reynolds and his wife, Patricia, of Brewerton, have four sons: Gregory, Ronald, John, and James.

He is a professional freelance cartoonist/artist, author, and national speaker (Divine Comedy Presentation) on “How Humor Affects Our Faith Life.” On June 30, he left Divine Mercy in Central Square, where he was the parish-life coordinator, to be the pastoral associate at St. Margaret; he will commute from Brewerton for a year.

Regarding the diaconate, he wrote: “I heard the call shortly after battling cancer, but the Caller has been whispering to me my whole life.”

Asked how he responded, he said: “I prayed a lot. I served the church. There was some disbelief at first as to why me, but someone said to me, ‘The Lord doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.’ After this, I kept in mind St. Faustina’s ‘Jesus, I Trust in You,’ and knew if this was a true calling, God would open the way, which He has.”

He wrote that he looks forward to “being among the people and acting in the way Mother Teresa described as being ‘a little pencil in the Hand of God writing a love letter to the world.’” He will enjoy “working with people and being able to bring them closer to God through the sacraments.”

The years of formation, he said, were “enriching in mind, heart and spirit, and very enjoyable.” Those years, he said, have been an “important period of testing the mind and deepening the heart. A lot of reading, praying, practicing the Spiritual and Corporal works of mercy, and then doing it all over again. In between, meeting wonderful people who love the Lord, and who inspire a love in the Lord.”

The loss of Father Aiello, he wrote, “was a great loss to all of us.”

Reynolds said he was surprised that God called him: “I thought my number was unlisted.”

The two years of Formation for Ministry and four years of diaconate formation flew by as he balanced “studies and home and work, but it was worth it.”

Other men considering a call to the diaconate, he said, should not be afraid: “Keep repeating, ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’”

He also cited John 3:30: “He must increase; I must decrease.”

 

George Spohr 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsGeorge E. Spohr
Holy Trinity, Utica

Spohr and his wife, Linda, parents of daughter Kristen and son George (deceased), live in Deerfield.

The retired physician assistant wrote:

“I felt the interior call to the diaconate many years ago. Due to work and family constraints I did not apply to the program until several years ago. Formation for Ministry is the gateway to the program and I met many wonderful instructors and classmates. It was a rewarding two years of learning and friendships that continue to this day.”

He added: “After my first year I bowed out for personal reasons and was blessed to be reinstated two years later by Father Aiello, resuming the second year of the program. My original class was now two years ahead of me and was ordained in ’18. So in retrospect, I have been blessed to count two classes of men” as brothers.

“The bonding that occurs in the program,” he said, “tends toward the development of lifelong friendships as you struggle together toward your common goal, ordination, and the service that accompanies the diaconate.”

He said the work is challenging: “What struck me, and I am sure many of us, is what Father Lou Aiello told us right off the bat. In a nutshell he said that as important as the learning would be to our ministries, he felt it was of greater importance that the program orient our hearts toward Jesus and the Gospel message. Mission accomplished, Father Lou.”

Spohr is looking forward to working at Holy Trinity.

“My pastor, the Rev. Canon John Mikalajunas, and our retired priest, the Rev. Joseph Moskal, have been wonderfully supportive throughout these years,” he wrote. “The parish community has also been a blessing with their prayers and well wishes.

“I have also felt the call to do work as a chaplain in a hospital or nursing home setting but that will have to wait as my wife and I spend our week looking after our two young grandsons.”

The best advice he has for men who are considering the diaconate, he said, “would be to make the decision with your heart rather than with your head. If you have the calling, you will know it. You will find that you will have an inner peace when you have reached your decision if God is calling you to apply to the program.

“Realize as well that if you are married then your wife must be 100% in agreement with your becoming a deacon.”

 

Edward and Shelly Terzolo 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsEdward T. Terzolo
Holy Family, Syracuse

Terzolo and his wife, Shelly, parents of Stephen, Michael, Andrew, Anthony, and Timothy (deceased), live in Solvay.

A tax accountant and financial advisor, Terzolo wrote:

“My journey to the diaconate has been a wonderful experience. I first felt the desire to have a more active role in the Church when my oldest son first entered college, in 2003. I started the Formation for Ministry program in 2004, and after two classes, suspended it due to family obligations and simply lack of time. The thought of pursuing the diaconate never left me, and nudged me more and more until I reentered the program a few years later. Two years later I completed the program and applied for the formal diaconate program.”

“My years of formation,” he added, “have been such a blessing to me. I have made several friends in the program and see my classmates as brothers. I have definitely grown in my faith and my love for the Church and my desire to serve God’s people.”

Father Aiello, he said, “impacted me profoundly in the program. His loving, supporting, caring way, and sense of humor have left a lasting impact on me. Father Lou would teach us about humility in our ministry. He taught us that the charism of a deacon is service; service with humility.”

The amount of time spent in formation surprised him: “The program takes seven years; two in Formation for Ministry followed by a service and application/evaluation year, and four years in the formal diaconate program. When I look back now, I realize that I needed every one of those years. Formation is a journey; a journey I am still on. God continues his work in all of us.”

He cited the challenging course materials: “I learned quickly that the theologians that wrote our textbooks are brilliant people, and I am not.”   

As a deacon, he wrote, “I hope I can play a more active role in bringing others to Christ and can be a big help to my pastor and other priests and deacons in my parish. I love the Catholic faith and hope I can be a good representative of the Church.”

To men considering the diaconate, he says:

“Listen to your heart. Be aware of the thoughts and inclinations that God puts on your heart. That is how God speaks to each of us. Father Lou Aiello told us that our priorities as deacons should be family first, job second, and the diaconate third. Put God first, and he will show you the way.”

He also observed: “A person can serve the Church in many ways without being a deacon.  Many people, including my wife, are more active in the Church than I am. God uses all our talents to be the Body of Christ here on earth. You can serve the Church well without being a deacon. The diaconate, however, is a special ministry and God will show those called to the ministry the way.”

 

James Tokos e1595359607346 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsJames D. Tokos
Most Holy Rosary, Maine

Tokos just completed his 25th year of teaching elementary school. He has taught every grade level up to fifth grade and coached track and the Science Olympiad. He is also the Town of Maine supervisor.

He is single and has two adult children, Zachary, 34, and Carly, 33. Zac is married to Erica, and they have two children, Cameron, 4, and Zoey, 2.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the years of formation,” he wrote. “While it was a challenge keeping up with the work and traveling each month, I established a routine early on which made it work.”

All of the teachers in the program “collectively guided me on the journey,” he said.

He added that his classmates “were the most significant inspiration to continue with this endeavor. The biggest challenge was keeping everything in perspective and juggling all the events of my life.

“The recent pandemic gave me a chance, for the first time in a while, to have time to reflect and relax. There is no doubt that the aspect of ministry I look forward to most is serving others.”

His favorite spot to be, he wrote, “is in the kitchen preparing bereavement luncheons, cooking for benefits, appreciation dinners, and church festivals. Working with people is the best way to evangelize and recognize Christ in them. That is what touches my heart and feeds my soul. My advice for anyone considering a vocation is take time to discern and focus on your relationship with the Trinity.”

 

Aleu Tong e1595358251849 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsAleu T. D. Tong
St. Vincent de Paul, Syracuse

Tong and his wife, Ella, of Syracuse, are the parents of two girls and one boy: Aluat, 8; Aluk, 1½; and Lual, 5.

Tong, who came to this country from South Sudan in 2006, works at Stickley Furniture.

He wrote that it has been a long journey to the diaconate, but he said it has been good for him because it is a call from God. His wife has helped him a lot, especially with the kids. When he got home from work, Ella would tell him: “‘Go do your assignment first before you play’” with the kids. So she made his four years easy even though everything was new for him, and he thanks God for her. His classmates and their wives also showed him the love of Christ, he wrote.

When God first called him, he thought that he could not do it. But Scripture strengthened him. He cited Proverbs 1:24: “Because I called and you refused, extended my hand and no one took notice.”

He continued to read the Bible. What touched his heart was 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” And he noted that God called Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.

He prayed about it and talked to Ella, who told him, “‘If God called you go for it, he will help you out.’”

“So if you feel in your heart like you have been called for anything in the Church go for it,” he wrote. “God … will not leave you alone, will help you out.”

After ordination, he wrote, “the Lord will direct me where I should go. He called me and he will lead me.”

 

John Trendowski 150x150 - Holy Orders for humble servantsJohn R. Trendowski
Our Lady of Hope, Syracuse

Trendowski is an environmental engineer working in the field of air quality for industries and municipalities at C&S Companies. He and his wife, Nancy, have two children, Megan and John.

“A deacon’s call,” Trendowski wrote, “is one of service and I look forward to serving others in the parish and surrounding community, and being an example of God’s presence in the world.”

His journey to ordination, he said, “started with a sad event, the passing of my mother, Sophie Trendowski, approximately ten years ago. She lived her faith through prayer, service, and kindness to everyone. Although she was extremely sick, God blessed me and my family by allowing my mother to be present and share in my children’s confirmation on Nov. 1, 2009. She passed away peacefully one week later.

“Through her inspiration and the power of the Holy Spirit, I decided to attempt to match her faith in God by attending Mass and praying the rosary daily, which I continue today. This decision changed my life for as I grew spiritually, God provided more opportunities to serve Him by serving His people.

“Then, about 7½ years ago, Father John Manno delivered a sermon that you cannot be half Catholic, you need to be all in. This homily reaffirmed my thoughts that God was calling me to something more, which I believed was the diaconate. That week, I spoke with Father Manno and began the process, starting with Formation for Ministry then the diaconate classes.”

Trendowski cherishes the camaraderie between his classmates, teachers, and religious mentors. “The friendships and experiences will allow each of us to better serve our parishes and community,” he wrote.

He has read for countless hours over the past seven years, starting with Formation for Ministry in the fall of 2013, and he cited a paragraph expressing love for God in Father Henri Nouwen’s book “Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith.”

Trendowski noted that formation “requires the support of your wife, children, parish, classmates, and friends. It has been amazing the support received from friends and co-workers, many who are not Catholic. I thank God for everyone’s support and pray that my role of service as a deacon can help others realize God’s infinite love for all of us.”

“Over the years of formation,” he wrote, “there were times when you question if the diaconate is truly God’s call for you. It is those times when you need to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you in the right direction, and rely on your family, spiritual advisor, and classmates for support.”

A man who believes he is being called to the diaconate, he said, should “pray and attend Mass as frequently as possible. Talk with your pastor, priests, or deacons about the diaconate program and truly ask God for direction. It is not about your plans, but God’s Plan for you.”

 

Join the ordinations by livestream

Due to coronavirus restrictions, the diocese’s 2020 class of permanent deacons will be ordained by Bishop Douglas J. Lucia in four separate, private ceremonies at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. All celebrations will be livestreamed by Syracuse Catholic Television at youtube.com/syrdio.

• July 20, 6:30 p.m.: Peter T. Lual, St. Vincent de Paul, Syracuse; Thomas J. Murphy, Jr., St. Vincent de Paul, Syracuse; and Aleu T. D. Tong, St. Vincent de Paul, Syracuse

• July 21, 6:30 p.m.: James E. Henck, St. Patrick-St. Anthony, Chadwicks; Kirk T. Lallier, St. Mary, New York Mills; George E. Spohr, Holy Trinity, Utica; and James D. Tokos, Most Holy Rosary, Maine

• July 22, 6:30 p.m.: Joseph A. Lupia, Jr., St. Mary, Minoa; Larry P. Messina, Pope John XXIII, Liverpool; and Daniel J. Reynolds, St. Margaret, Homer

• July 23, 6:30 p.m.: Edward T. Terzolo, Holy Family, Syracuse; Jeffrey F. Getman, Sacred Heart Basilica, Syracuse; Matthew C. Lumia, St. Michael-St. Peter, Syracuse; and John R. Trendowski, Our Lady of Hope, Syracuse

What’s a permanent deacon?

Deacons are ordained through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, as are bishops and priests. Permanent deacons are ministers of the Word, liturgy, and charitable service and they represent an ordained presence of the Church in the communities and neighborhoods where they live.

By engaging in manifold works of justice and charity, the deacon, equipped with his unique gifts given by God, joins in the Church’s ongoing task of proclaiming the Gospel and building up the Kingdom of God. He may be involved in evangelization, reconciliation, administration, catechesis, and liturgy — whatever area of ministry the deacon is engaged in, he will always be present as a servant. In his ministry he will be accountable to God, himself, his family, others with whom and to whom he ministers, his fellow deacons, his supervisor, and his bishop.

Permanent deacon details

• 19,833: Estimated number of permanent deacons in the U.S., according to a study published by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in May 2020
• 85: Number of active deacons in the Diocese of Syracuse (including the Class of 2020)
• 23: Number of retired deacons in the diocese (many still ministering in some capacity)
• 1978: Year the first class of deacons was ordained for the Diocese of Syracuse
• 25: Total number of classes of deacons ordained for the diocese
• 1: Size of the diocese’s smallest class of deacons
• 14: Size of the diocese’s largest class of deacons — the Class of 2020
• 10: Number of deacon aspirants currently in year three of formation in the diocese
• 10: Number of diocesan deacon aspirants expected to enter their first year of formation in September

Interested in the diaconate?

Applicants to the permanent diaconate must have completed Formation for Ministry before they can be accepted to begin formation classes. The Formation for Ministry program provides education, ministerial training, field experience, and spiritual preparation for adult Catholics leading to certification and commissioning by the diocesan bishop in a specialized area of ministry. The process of application to the permanent diaconate begins after an interested applicant (age 35 minimum) attends an information session and has received the support and sponsorship of his pastor (and his wife if married). For more information, visit https://syracusediocese.org/offices/permanent-diaconate/, call (315) 470-1460, or email Deacon Tom Cuskey at tcuskey@syrdio.org.


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