Jesuit Diaconate Ordination

Photo Credit: Richard Curran
Photo Credit: Richard Curran

by Margo Borders


On Saturday, October 12, eight members of the Society of Jesus and one member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer were ordained by His Eminence Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Boston, to the transitional diaconate at St. Ignatius Church.


The newly ordained deacons are Christopher P. Johnson, S.J.; Robert E. Murphy, S.J.; Mario M. Powell, S.J.; Michael D. Rozier, S.J.; Samuel J. Sawyer, S.J.; Paul J. Shelton, S.J.; Thomas M. Simisky, S.J.; David K. Verghese, C.Ss.R.; and Nathan C Wendt, S.J.

In his homily, Cardinal Seán first spoke of the “Jesuit treasure,” which is the ripple effect the Jesuit tradition has on the community. Cardinal Seán himself was deeply affected by the Jesuits through his father, brother, and uncle, who were all educated by the Jesuits.


Cardinal Seán also spoke about the life of service in the diaconate. He likened the servant-hood of the diaconate to the servant in the movie “Remains of the Day,” who sacrifices himself to duty, even when his employer did not appreciate him. Although this seems “puzzling” to contemporary audiences, this attitude should be emulated in the deacons’ lives of service. Jesus describes himself as a servant, and Cardinal Seán told the men, “Today, you are going to be ordained as servants.” He compared this servant-hood to Francis of Assisi, who dreamt of a life of service to Jesus Christ.


Emphasizing the role of scripture in the role of deacons, Cardinal Seán told the deacons that “they must pray the Word of God to be able to preach it.” He said that, as men of the Church, they are called to “break open the Word of God on our knees,” and they must be “men of action and men of prayer.”

The first deacons promoted unity and peace in the Church, especially between the Greeks and Hebrews at the time. Cardinal Seán called the men being ordained to imitate this by “overcoming divisions in the Church” and “bridging the gap between generations.” The way they do this will characterize their future as priests.


Cardinal Seán ended his homily with a quote from Pope Francis from the Chrism Mass, which emphasizes the deacon’s apostolic role to be “fishers of men.”


“It is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to ‘put out into the deep,’ where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is ‘unction’ – not function – and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus.”

After the homily, the candidates for ordination declared before the congregation their intentions to be ordained to the Order of Deacons. They completed a Promise of Obedience, and the congregation prayed the Litany of Saints while the candidates for ordination lay prostrate on the floor in a gesture of humility. Cardinal Seán then laid his hands on the heads of the candidates in the tradition of the Apostles, which signifies the descent of the Holy Spirit. He then offered the Prayer of Ordination before presenting each newly ordained deacon with dalmatics, liturgical vestments proper to deacons, and the Book of the Gospels of Christ.


After entering the Society of Jesus, it takes 11 years to become a priest. The formation process concludes with four years of studying theology, and in the last year of studying, the Jesuit is ordained a deacon. After eight months in the transitional diaconate, he is ordained a priest.


Deacons serve a formal liturgical function through preaching at Mass, saying the penitential rite, the prayers of the faithful, and the proclamation of the Gospel.


“A deacon is a representative of the people. They serve the needs of the people, as the Apostles did in the Acts of the Apostles,” said newly ordained deacon Paul Shelton, S.J.


Shelton, who is most looking forward to preaching at Sunday Mass after his ordination, will be serving as a deacon at St. Catherine Drexel Parish in Roxbury, MA. All of the newly ordained Jesuits will fulfill their roles as deacons at a parish in the community, including St. Ignatius Church and St. Joseph’s Chapel on campus.


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