YONKERS — Nine young men cleared a major milepost on the path to the priesthood when they became transitional deacons during a Mass, Saturday, Nov. 7, at St. Joseph’s Seminary and College.
Sunshine and stunning autumn colors gilded the campus grounds in the Dunwoodie neighborhood of Yonkers. Meanwhile, an outpouring of pride, joy, and thanksgiving radiated inside the chapel for the new deacons on track to become priests in May.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn was the main celebrant. It also was the first transitional deacon ordination at the seminary since Auxiliary Bishop James Massa became its new rector in July.
“It just fills me with such gratitude to God for the gift of these men who will be serving our dioceses in the downstate New York area and also the Diocese of Bridgeport in Connecticut,” Bishop Massa said. “So, we are really proud of them.”
The new deacons received weekend assignments in either the Dioceses of Brooklyn, the Archdiocese of New York, or the Diocese of Rockville Centre. In these roles, they will assist in a wide range of tasks, such as helping priests and bishops in the liturgy.
They will continue their studies during the rest of the week until they complete their four-year seminary training and become ordained priests in May.
Bishop DiMarzio said ordaining transitional deacons is a vital part of a bishop’s responsibility to “make other priests.”
“It’s really the heart of the mission of the bishops,” he added. “We have to reproduce. We have to give men to the Church who will carry on the apostolic tradition. I think that’s very important, and I love to do it.”
But becoming a transitional deacon also is a declaration of the commitment to celibacy. During the homily, Bishop DiMarzio reminded the nine candidates what that means.
“You commit yourself now, and it will grow as part of your life,” he said. “It will give you the ability to attract others to Christ. That is why you make this commitment.
“You want to give yourself completely to the service of God and the Church, and nothing else should distract you from that mission. And that is why celibacy is your commitment today, and you shall live it for the rest of your life.”
During the ceremony, the nine candidates lay face-down before the altar. Later, Bishop DiMarzio lay hands on each man’s head and spoke the ordination prayer.
The new deacons included Dominik Wegiel, a member of the Holy Cross parish in Maspeth, Queens, in the Diocese of Brooklyn. His temporary assignment is at St. Agnes Cathedral of the Rockville Centre Diocese.
Deacon Wegiel already knows the diocese, having graduated from Stony Brook University, also on Long Island. There, he studied economics, applied math, and accounting.
The new deacon said he grew up in the Holy Cross parish, and his parents, immigrants from Poland, “really instilled the faith in me.”
Deacon Wegiel said he drew inspiration from St. John Paul II, a native of Poland, and the late Msgr. Peter Zendzian, who at that time, pastored Holy Cross. Msgr. Zendzian, who died in 2015, encouraged boys to consider the priesthood.
“And I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll think about it,’” the deacon recalled. “When I was in college, I got involved in the Newman Club there. It’s where my faith started to flourish. As I began to pray, I began to hear the call to the priesthood, and I said, ‘yes.’
“I’m so blessed to be here.”
Deacon Wegiel’s parents, Stanislaw and Iwona, attended the ordination with his twin brother, Kacper, a schoolteacher in Long Island City and a CCD instructor at Holy Cross.
“We’re so proud of both our boys,” the mother said, “but today is Dominik’s day for sure.”
Deacon Wegiel said he looked forward to finally becoming a servant.
“I think in today’s world, we see freedom as something that we use for ourselves,” he said. “But true freedom is using it for others, for love of God, and for love of neighbor. I hope that when I’m out there serving that I will proclaim the Gospel with the fullness of zeal, and truth, and with belief.
“As a deacon, the real challenge for me is not just to preach the Gospel but to live the Gospel as its minister and its servant. I’m in the public eye now. What I do gets scrutinized, so it’s a challenge for me to live a life of holiness that’s very public and in a very powerful way.”