Bishop ordains three men as transitional deacons

By Linda Andrade Rodrigues
Special to The Anchor

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Last week Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., ordained Matthew Gerard Gill, Juan Carlos Muñoz and Daniel Mark Nunes as transitional deacons at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.

And the faithful rejoiced.

Under darkened skies, a multitude of priests and deacons from throughout the diocese processed into the Sanctuary, while the choir sang: “Praise Him for His grace and favor / To His people in distress; Praise Him still the same as ever, / Slow to chide and swift to bless.”

A jubilant bishop greeted the congregation.

“My brothers and sisters welcome to our celebration here this morning,” he said. “What a wonderful day for the Church in the Diocese of Fall River! I am so joyful and blessed to see so many of our priests and deacons and parishioners.”

“As we come to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries,” the bishop added, “we come with the awareness of God’s love and forgiveness and compassion.”

The Liturgy of the Word was proclaimed in English and Spanish.

The Rite of Ordination began with the Election of the Candidates, who are called to serve God’s people. The men responded by announcing their readiness and willingness to serve as deacons.

“Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these, our brothers, for the Order of the Diaconate,” announced Bishop da Cunha. 

The congregation responded: “Thanks be to God” and demonstrated their consent with applause.

In his homily, Bishop da Cunha addressed the people and the elect about the office and duties of the deacon. 

“So my dear Matthew, Juan and Daniel, the Church of Fall River rejoices in you and welcomes you into the Order of Deacons and celebrates with you and your families as we give thanks to God for having called you and brought you to this day,” he said. “Thank you — William and Mary, Jorge and Maria, Paul and Karen — for passing on the faith to them, staying close to the Church of God, bringing them to this point in their lives and now giving them as a gift.” 

“Serve God and all His people,” he instructed. “Your service should never be seen as a burden or a cross. It is a joy to be in the service of the Lord. We belong to Him. You are here because God called you.”

He quoted from the Acts of the Apostles in the first reading: “The number of disciples increased greatly.”

“What an encouraging message for us, my dear Matthew, Juan and Daniel,” he said. “This is what we hope from you — that you are going to spread the Word of God in such a way that the number of followers of Jesus will increase not in Jerusalem but in the Diocese of Fall River.” 

“Don’t be afraid of showing your own limitations,” he advised. “Don’t be afraid that you are imperfect. You will be in a lot of company.”

The congregation laughed.

“But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels,” he said. “So my friends realize that you are not perfect, that you don’t have all the answers. All we need is to be among God’s people. Stay humble and you will find out that people will love and appreciate you so much.”

He added that God called them not because they were better than others, but because He found in them a heart with enough humility and sympathy that He wanted to give them this great gift to serve people in a very special way.

“This is given to you but not exclusively for you, but to be at the service of others,” he said. “Serve the people in love and joy as you would the Lord. Then on the last day when you go out to meet the Lord, you will be able to hear Him say: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”

During the Promise of the Elect, the men made the solemn promises of lifelong celibacy, prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, and respect and obedience to the bishop and his successors.

Bishop da Cunha laid his hands upon the head of each of the men and prayed in silence, which symbolizes the invocation of the Holy Spirit. He then prayed aloud the Prayer of Ordination, asking God to consecrate the deacons to service of the altar and the Word.

The newly-ordained were then vested as deacons, with stole and dalmatic. Deacon Matthew Gill was assisted by Deacon Del Malloy of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Attleboro; Deacon Juan Carlos Muñoz by Father Dennis Apoldite, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Trenton, N.J.; and Deacon Daniel M. Nunes by Father Edward J. Healey, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Mashpee.

The Book of Gospels was then placed by the bishop into the hand of the new deacons, symbolizing their commitment to proclaim God’s Word.

During the Sign of Peace, the diocesan deacons came up to the altar and embraced their brothers, the newly-ordained.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist and Communion followed.

In the concluding rite, Bishop da Cunha thanked the three new deacons and all those involved in their formation.

“We look forward to so much,” he said.

And as the priests and deacons processed out of the cathedral into the bright sunshine, the choir sang: “Alleluia! Not as orphans are we left in sorrow now; Alleluia! He is near us, Faith believes nor questions how.”

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts