PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Nineteen men of faith took a major step in their lives when they were ordained permanent deacons in the Diocese of Brooklyn by Bishop Robert Brennan at a Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph on Saturday, May 27.
They came from different walks of life and the journeys they took to arrive at this moment were varied, but the one thing they all had in common was a deep desire to serve God and his people.
Deacon Thomas Gleason, a retired New York City Corrections officer, admitted that his journey was not a straight line. He explained that he had fallen away from the Catholic Church after his confirmation years ago. But he was inspired to return by his daughter McKenzie. He and his wife Amy decided early in their marriage to allow their children to select their own religion to follow.
At age 6, McKenzie asked to become a Catholic. Her faith formation inspired Deacon Gleason to come back to the faith and he started attending Mass at St. Columba Church in Marine Park. That was nearly two decades ago, and he is now active in the church as a sacristan, lector, and eucharistic minister.
“There’s no mistake. This was God’s plan from the beginning,” he said of his return to the faith. With his new role, he hopes to evangelize and welcome people to the Church.
Permanent deacons are not to be confused with transitional deacons, who are men training for the priesthood and who serve as deacons for a year prior to their priestly ordination. Permanent deacons, on the other hand, are ordained to the role for life and are often men who work secular jobs and are married with children.
A highlight of the Mass came when Bishop Brennan laid his hands on the head of each diaconate candidate’s head — the moment that made them deacons.
The new deacons are “strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Brennan, who praised them for “showing themselves to be servants to all.”
In keeping with the international flavor of the diocese, which is nicknamed the Diocese of Immigrants, the new deacons include men who hail from many nations, including Mexico, Guatemala, India, and South Korea.
Deacon Timothy Gladson is an example of the international diversity of the diocese. Born in India, he came to the U.S. In 1995. Even as a boy in India, he was active in his local Catholic church and continued that level of activity when he moved to America as an adult, serving as a lector and eucharistic minister at Our Lady of the Snows in Floral Park.
Deacon Gladson, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo Advisors, believes that his involvement in the Church opened him up to be able to listen to God’s call to become a deacon.
“I truly believe that this will be a transformation. When I walk out, I’m sure I won’t be the same person,” Deacon Gladson said as he waited for the Mass to begin.
Deacons have become integral to parishes over the years as the shortage of priests becomes more pronounced. Deacons perform many important duties, like baptizing babies, witnessing marriages, leading funeral services outside of church, distributing holy Communion, and delivering homilies at Masses.
“There’s great joy today. It’s different from happiness,” said Deacon John Leo Heyer II.
Deacon Heyer, a funeral director, thought about becoming a priest when he was younger. “I had discerned a vocation to the priesthood. But I was not being called. And I was certain of that even though I opened myself up to trying to discern,” he recalled.
Instead, he married his wife Maria and had three children and became involved in his parish, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary & St. Stephen. God may not have been calling him to the priesthood but He was calling Deacon Heyer to a different vocation. “I’ve always had this calling back to service and being there to serve,” he explained.
The deacons said they are looking forward to their new roles and to bring something new to the table. Deacon Heriberto Antonio Cabrera, who was born in the Dominican Republic, said he is eager to help build up the Spanish-speaking community at his church, St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
“Right now we have Mass in Spanish once a month. The idea is to raise up this community. I’d love to see a Spanish Mass every Sunday. So that’s the goal for me, the immediate goal, and I’m excited about it,” he explained.
The new deacons and the parishes they were assigned to serve are: Edwin Arguera (Holy Name of Jesus), Heriberto Antonio Cabrera (St. Bernard of Clairvaux), Alberto Jesus Cordero (Blessed Sacrament-St. Sylvester), Marcial Alfonso Cordon (St. Sebastian), Roberto Cruz (St. Sebastian), Timothy Gladson (Our Lady of the Snows), Thomas Gleason (St. Columba), John Leo Heyer II (Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary & St. Stephen), John Michael Lonie (Good Shepherd), and Daniel D. Maher (Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians).
The new deacons also include: Jose Ismael Muñoz del Cid (Divine Mercy), Rigoberto Pabon (Saints Peter and Paul and Epiphany), Yoon Richard Pak (Holy Spirit), Michael Pierce (St. Camillus-St. Virgilius), Eric Michael Peterson (Most Holy Trinity-St. Mary), Dimitri Santana (St. Michael’s-Queens), Edgar Saucedo Gutierrez (Our Lady of Guadalupe), Alonzo Torres (St. Agatha), and George Louis Velez (Saints Peter and Paul and Epiphany).