By Elizabeth Lowe
Bill Fleming began volunteering at Camp GLOW (God Loves Our World), a residential summer camp for Baltimore-area adults with special needs, in 2001. He became its director in 2006.
“I’ve never felt closer to God than when I’m at Camp GLOW,” said Fleming, director of the Office of Disabilities Ministry for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. “It made me want to serve the Lord more fully.”
Fleming was one of four men ordained deacons by Archbishop William E. Lori during a nearly two-hour Mass May 10 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.
Family and friends, as well as Baltimore Auxiliary Bishops Denis J. Madden and Mitchell T. Rozanski, retired Auxiliary Bishop William C. Newman and dozens of priests, deacons and seminarians, filled the basilica for the liturgy.
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Fleming was ordained a permanent deacon, while Joshua David Laws, Christopher Uy de Leon and Francis Michael Ouma were ordained transitional deacons, the final step before being ordained to the priesthood.
In his homily, Archbishop Lori told the deacons that May 10 is the feast day of St. Damien de Veuster, also known as St. Damien of Moloka’i, a Belgian missionary priest who served in a Hawaiian leper colony for 16 years. He eventually contracted the disease and died from it.
“The feast day of St. Damien is the day he uttered a heroic, generous ‘yes’ to God’s specific plan for him,” the archbishop said. “On the day of his ordination as a deacon and as a priest, little could St. Damien have imagined the circumstances into which God’s providence would place him, just as the particular, future circumstances of your ministry in the Lord’s vineyard are now largely unknown to you.
“The four of you, each in his own way, have forsaken what the world has to offer, in order to follow joyfully the voice of the divine master, calling you to lay down your lives for his glory, and for the salvation of souls,” Archbishop Lori said. “This ‘yes’ to his call was made possible by his grace, and also by your generosity.”
As deacons, the archbishop said, the men will “entrust yourselves completely to God’s providence, which is the safest place you could possibly be. God has called you to this, and, as we see so clearly in the life of St. Damien, God’s providence would never lead you to where his grace would not sustain you.
“From this day forward, may St. Damien be your special intercessor, advocate and friend in heaven,” he said. “May his prayers deepen within each of you a capacity and a love for humble service, flowing from an ever-deeper friendship with Christ in the holy Eucharist.”
During the liturgy, the men placed their hands in those of Archbishop Lori, promising respect and obedience to him and his successors.
In an expression of their total dependence on God, they prostrated themselves on the floor as the faithful chanted the Litany of the Saints.
After the archbishop laid hands on each new deacon, the men were vested with the stole and dalmatic, signs of the office of deacon. The archbishop presented each deacon with a Book of the Gospels. He extended the kiss of peace, an action repeated by the auxiliary bishops and other deacons.
After Mass, Deacon Fleming was beaming.
“I’m on cloud nine,” he said. “This is one of the happiest days of my entire life. There are no words, it feels that good.”
Fleming first considered the diaconate five years ago to allow him to serve the church in a deeper capacity.
“The ministry of being a deacon is word, sacrament and charity,” he said. “I feel a strong draw to each of those. I’m at a point in life where I want to serve. I’m not in it for me.”
Fleming is the father of two adult children and has a newborn granddaughter. He expects that the first baptism he officiates will be his granddaughter’s this summer.
Smiling broadly, Deacon Ouma said he felt “joyful” and “incredible” following his ordination, and that its most powerful moment was lying prostrate as the Litany of the Saints was chanted.
“I’m very, very excited and grateful to everyone for their prayers and support, he said.
Deacon Uy de Leon credits the prayers of family and friends with helping foster his vocation. Many of his relatives and friends attended the liturgy.
“It’s through their prayers that this happened,” he said. “They get to witness the fruit of their prayers.”
As a deacon, Deacon Uy de Leon said he is most excited about “serving God in a deeper way and a sacramental way. It’s all about serving God, serving him better.”
Assignments for the new deacons have not yet officially been announced.
A deacon receives the sacrament of holy orders and becomes a member of the clergy. A deacon’s regular duties include proclaiming the Gospel at Mass and delivering homilies. In addition, he administers the sacrament of baptism and witnesses weddings. A deacon may also preside at rites of Christian burial, at eucharistic exposition and benediction, the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical rites. Deacons also are active in Christian outreach, ministering in a variety of roles, including within parishes, charitable agencies, hospitals and prisons.
Meet the new deacons
The Catholic Review asked the four new deacons: What ministry are you most looking forward to and why?
Deacon William Richard Fleming III
St. Andrew by the Bay, Annapolis
“To serve the Lord and the church and to share the joy of the Gospel. The service of word, sacrament and charity are integral to the diaconate and I look forward to being involved in the life of the parish where I am assigned as a deacon and, paraphrasing Pope Paul VI, to be a living sign of the servanthood of Christ’s church.”
Deacon Joshua David Laws
St. Stephen, Bradshaw
“I am most looking forward to being able to devote my life to accompanying people. In ministry there are so many opportunities to meet and walk with people of all different backgrounds and experiences of life. I am really looking forward to being able to continue getting to know, being inspired by and accompanying the people of God. I am also really looking forward to being able to preach the good news, facilitate at marriages, celebrate baptisms and join in the life of parish communities, especially as we give of ourselves in service to those around us who are experiencing struggles, poverty and injustice.”
Deacon Christopher Uy de Leon
St. Louis, Clarksville
“I am most looking forward to preaching. Nothing would give me greater joy than serving as God’s instrument to draw people to himself, to the sacraments, to conversion, to holiness; and to do so by preaching the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. After all, Jesus commanded his followers to ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.’ ” (Mk 16:15)
Deacon Francis Michael Ouma
Native of Gulu, Uganda
Sponsoring parish: Sacred Heart, Glyndon
“I like visiting the sick and homebound, teaching RCIA, Bible study and religious courses. I like working with the youth and young people and all other aspects of pastoral and liturgical ministry.”