SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The Archdiocese of Los Angeles ordained 60 men to the permanent diaconate June 16. It was the largest group of deacons ordained at one time in the history of the archdiocese and possibly in the country.
Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who is in charge of the archdiocese’s Santa Barbara pastoral region, oversaw the formation process of the deacons since they began in 2002. He delivered the homily at their ordination and described the event as “one of the most glorious days of my 40 years of priesthood.”
The ordination Mass was celebrated at Santa Barbara City College’s La Playa Stadium one week after the ordination of seven priests in Los Angeles.
The deacons’ ordination showed the success of pastors in the Santa Barbara pastoral region, which covers Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, to draw forth more men to ordained ministry.
Referring to the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Bishop Curry reminded the deacons and the assembly of the archdiocesan synod’s first pastoral initiative, which “speaks to our call to evangelize, to testify to the power and goodness of the risen Lord.”
“As deacons, believe that God has called you to continue the renewal of the church by testifying to the faith and power of God manifested in you,” he said.
At the start of the celebration, the 60 men, along with the wives of the 56 married candidates, processed into La Playa Stadium to the sounds of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” in front of more than 3,000 cheering family, friends and parishioners from around the region. Several wiped tears from their eyes as the group made its way down the middle of the football field.
“This is an importa
nt and historic occasion,” Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said in his opening remarks. “We gather with great joy as you receive the sacred order of deacon. And we are so proud of you in this region, for the initiatives you have taken to bring forth the laity into this service.”
The formation process took place at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Santa Barbara, and was led by Jesuit Fathers Luis Quihuis and Thomas McCormick.
Father Quihuis said the process was launched at the behest of pastors in the region who saw a shortage of Spanish-speaking priests and deacons in their area, where the 38 parishes are between 40 and 200 miles from downtown Los Angeles.
Pastors were invited to identify and recommend deacon candidates, “all of whom were actively involved in their parishes,” Father Quihuis told The Tidings, the Los Angeles archdiocesan newspaper.
In addition to the ongoing service component, the first two years of the formation process were heavily Scripture-based “to provide a solid foundation to build on,” he said. Christology, systematic theology, church history and homiletics were also included in the process, with married candidates’ wives – also involved in service to the church – encouraged to participate.
One of the single deacons was John Barry Harper of St. Julie Billiart Church in Newbury Park, whose mother Dorothy and sister Maureen Robinson were among family members from West Chester, Pa., in attendance.
“I am thrilled for Barry,” his mother said. “He has always been active in church, and he brings a goodness of heart and a willingness to help others to his ministry.”
Twenty-eight of the 38 parishes in the Santa Barbara pastoral region were represented in the diaconate class. The class included seven deacons from Our Lady of Sorrows.
“Their willingness to step forth and serve in this ministry, at a time when the church has been in crisis, is a great inspiration to all of us,” Father Quihuis said.
Bishop Curry told the deacons in his homily that they “are a light shining in the darkness, evidence of the grace of God, the vitality of God, the goodness of God in his people.”