PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Serving God is a tradition in Michael Chirichella’s family — there are four priests in the family and a seminarian. Chirichella’s turn to serve came on May 29 when he was ordained a deacon after five years of study and intense preparation.
“I feel like I’m on top of the world today,” said Chirichela, a retired UPS driver and a parishioner of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Williamsburg. “I can’t believe I’m being ordained today. This is really a special, special day.”
Chirichella was one of 10 permanent deacons ordained by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio at a Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph on Saturday — one of the first large gatherings celebrated by the Diocese of Brooklyn as New York City comes out from under pandemic restrictions.
Hundreds of people came to the co-cathedral to share in the deacons’ big day.
In addition to Deacon Chirichella, the new permanent deacons are Robert Fedorowicz; Antonio Gordon; John Paul Kramer; Fil Myron Moran Lapinig; Harry Wilson Lopez Jr.; Michael McCarthy; Edwin Rivera; Jacob Rodriguez, and Jose Manuel Tavarez.
Unlike transitional deacons, who are taking their final steps toward becoming priests, permanent deacons are not destined for the priesthood. They can be married with children and usually have secular jobs. They perform many important duties like baptizing babies, witnessing marriages, performing funeral services outside of church, distributing holy Communion, and delivering homilies.
“They represent God’s people,” Bishop DiMarzio said. The fact that they are men with families and full-time jobs is important, the bishop said. “They can relate to people. They understand the struggles of life. They are in the parishes. They’re the stability in the parishes. Many times, the pastors move. But they (deacons) stay there. That’s their commitment. They’re like a bridge between the laity and the clergy.”
The Class of 2021 is a diverse group from all walks of life whose numbers include teachers, a nurse, a plumber, a podiatrist, a machine operator, an accountant, and a retired subway conductor.
What they all have in common is a desire to serve God and the Catholic Church.
Deacon Lopez said the road to becoming a deacon “is a very rigorous course” that includes five years of hard work and intense study. But he is proud to have made it.
“When the bishop lays his hands on us, it will be a very special moment,” he said before the ordination Mass.
The highlight of the Mass is the laying on of hands — the moment when the bishop puts his hands on the diaconate candidate’s head. It is at that instant they become deacons.
Deacon Lopez, a podiatrist, is a parishioner of St. Fortunata Church, East New York.
“I was hooked and reeled in,” he joked when asked how he decided to become a deacon.
Deacon Lopez was inspired by a priest at his parish who convinced him to become a lector, coordinator of the youth group, and eucharistic minister.
“Little by little, with the guidance of my pastor, I became more involved,’ he said.
Another highlight of the Mass is when Bishop DiMarzio announces the churches the new deacons will be assigned to work in: Deacon Chirichella (Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Williamsburg); Deacon Fedorowicz (Our Lady of Consolation, Williamsburg); Deacon Gordon (Our Lady of Grace, Howard Beach); Deacon Kramer (Holy Trinity and St. Luke, Whitestone); Deacon Lapinig (Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village); Deacon Lopez (St. Fortunata, East New York); Deacon McCarthy (St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights); Deacon Rivera (Sacred Hearts and St. Stephen, Carroll Gardens); Deacon Rodriguez (Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Astoria) and Deacon Tavarez (Transfiguration, Williamsburg).