Diocesan News

Joyfully Ordained A Transitional Deacon, His Journey to the Priesthood Continues 

Deacon Tlatelpa’s ordination was attended by, from left Auxiliary Bishop James Massa, Deacon Tlatelpa, Bishop Robert Brennan, and Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio. (Photo: Bill Miller)

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Since coming to the U.S. from Mexico in the early 2000s, Nelson Gerardo Tlatelpa developed a servant’s heart at his home parish, Our Lady of Refuge in Midwood.

He helped whenever asked, and soon he regularly served as an usher and worked with the youth. Father Michael Perry, pastor, (now pastor emeritus) saw potential in the young man from Chinantla, a small town about 135 miles southeast of Mexico City.

“He’s the one who told me, ‘You know, you should try to go to the seminary,’” Tlatelpa recalled. “I always said, ‘No, Father, that’s for somebody else. That can’t be for me.’”

Then one day, he opened the Bible and saw the verse that stated, “You are a priest forever (Psalm 110:4).”

“Now,” he said, “I see everything very differently.”

His pursuit of the priesthood took a major step forward Sunday, June 30, when he was ordained a transitional deacon at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn.

Deacon Tlatelpa, 43, is now on track to be ordained a priest in June 2025.

The new deacon said his faith was not very strong when he came to the U.S. at age 20 with his sister and three brothers. Their parents, Genaro and Gabriela, (both have since passed away) had arrived in Brooklyn first.

He found restaurant work in Brooklyn and Manhattan, doing everything from washing dishes to waiting tables and a little bit of kitchen work.

Deacon Tlatelpa credited women in his family — his mother, sister, and a sister-in-law — for setting Godly examples for him. Eventually, he accepted invitations to learn how to pray the Rosary, and his spiritual life had a new trajectory.

He started volunteering at Our Lady of Refuge, and then, about a dozen years ago, Father Perry began urging him to consider the priesthood.

Next, he read Psalm 110:4 — which is backed up by Hebrews 7:17 — and his vocation intensified.

Deacon Nelson Gerardo Tlatelpa lies prostrate during his ordination to the transitional diaconate Sunday, June 30, at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn. (Photo: Bill Miller)

He lived in the diocese’s Pope John Paul II House of Discernment in Cypress Hills before entering Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass., that educates seminarians who are age 30 or older.

Whenever available, Deacon Tlatelpa has helped at several parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Now, with a clearer vision of his future, he’s prepared to go anywhere Bishop Robert Brennan assigns him after his ordination to the priesthood. Still, he hopes it’s a parish where the parishioners are poor, because he has a special place in his heart to serve them.

Deacon Tlatelpa said he wants to encourage vocations among the youth, just like Father Perry did for him.

Bishop Brennan was the main celebrant at the ordination Mass. Auxiliary Bishop James Massa, rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Dunwoodie, Yonkers, concelebrated.

Also concelebrating was Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio, who was given a special introduction by his successor, Bishop Brennan.

“Gerardo began his formation under Bishop DiMazio’s care,” Bishop Brennan said, “and I’m so glad that he’s part of our celebration.”

Other attendees included Father Brian Kiely, rector of Pope St. John XXIII Seminary, and Father Joseph Zwosta, a Brooklyn priest on the faculty there, who serves as coordinator of intellectual formation.

Bishop Brennan also gave recognition to the new deacon’s family, plus members of parishes throughout the diocese where Deacon Tlatelpa has served during his formation.

Filling the cathedral were people from: St. Sebastian, Woodside; Mary of Nazareth, Fort Greene; Corpus Christi, Woodside; Our Lady of Fatima, Jackson Heights; and Our Lady of Refuge.

He is currently serving at Mary of Nazareth.. Father Henry Torres, pastor, joined Father Patrick West, pastor of Corpus Christi, and St. Sebastian, in helping don the deacon in the vestments of his new ministry.

Bishop Brennan said the packed cathedral was proof of Deacon Tlatelpa’s passion to bring people to Jesus and to help them experience the depths of His healing.

“You’ve already shown yourself to be very generous and effective in doing so in your formation,” Bishop Brennan told him. “You can see we’re very proud of you, and we’re very happy for you.”

After the Mass, family and friends swarmed around Deacon Tlatelpa, giving him hugs and posing for photos like he was a rock star.

“I surrendered to God,” he said, during the well-wishing. “He’s the one who’s leading me to this journey. So, I feel very happy.” He is also proud of what he has accomplished so far, but the bulk of his pride is placed elsewhere.

“I’m proud of God,” he said. “Because everything is about God. Without God — nothing.”

2 thoughts on “Joyfully Ordained A Transitional Deacon, His Journey to the Priesthood Continues 

  1. Thank you, senior writer Bill Miller, for this article/photos about a joyous/blessed occasion! Next year the Diocese will have another new priest. God bless Deacon Nelson Gerardo Tlatelpa on his continued journey to the priesthood.