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Church Needs ‘Tenderness,’ Cardinal Encourages Newly Ordained Deacons
Chris Sheridan
NEWLY ORDAINED—After the Mass of Ordination, the eight new deacons of the archdiocese take a group photo with Cardinal Dolan. They are, from left: Deacon Michael Brescia, Deacon Ralph Rios, Deacon Jose Salvador Ungco, Deacon Vincent Astarita, Deacon George Pitula, Deacon James Fiorio, Deacon John Lyttle and Deacon John Carr. At far right is Deacon Francis Orlando, director of the Diaconate Formation Program.

In an often-harsh world, one of the greatest charisms deacons can bring through their ministry is tenderness, said Cardinal Dolan at the Mass of Ordination for eight deacons who will serve in the archdiocese.

“Perhaps, in a dramatic way, the deacon is called to the charism of tenderness in the life of the Church,” the cardinal said June 8 to the eight men he ordained as deacons.

In their work as deacons, they are called to assist priests, bring Holy Communion to the sick, administer the sacraments, perform other ministries of service, among their life as men with families and careers.

The cardinal said it was fitting the Mass of Ordination at St. Patrick’s Cathedral was celebrated on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the day after the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Cardinal Dolan said if the deacons carry out their ministry with tenderness, “then, for sure, ‘Gaudet Mater Ecclesia,’” which is Latin for “Mother Church rejoices.”

The new deacons are Deacon Vincent J. Astarita Sr., of St. Christopher’s parish, Buchanan; Deacon Michael J. Brescia, St. Joseph’s, Middletown; Deacon John P. Carr, of Infant Saviour, Pine Bush; Deacon James E. Fiorio, St. Martin de Porres, Poughkeepsie; Deacon John W. Lyttle Jr., Holy Cross, Callicoon; Deacon George W. Pitula, St. Gabriel’s, Riverdale, the Bronx; Deacon Ralph P. Rios, Sacred Heart, the Bronx; and Deacon Jose Salvador C. Ungco, Church of the Magdalene, Pocantico Hills.

The Mass of Ordination was filled with tradition and ritual. The cardinal carried out his responsibilities during the Rite of Ordination with purposeful seriousness, adding to the sacredness of the occasion.

In a gesture symbolizing their service to the Church, the eight men lay prostrate on the altar as the beautiful Litany of Supplication was sung with reverence.

During the Promise of Obedience, the cardinal asked each of the eight men, one by one, “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?” after which he told them, “May God who has begun this good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”

The men were then invested with the placement of the stole and dalmatic, placed on them by deacons and priests, in a joyous moment.

The Mass was the last step in a five-year formation process, but the first step in their journey as ordained deacons.

In an interview with CNY, Deacon Francis Orlando, director of the Diaconate Formation Program, said that the dedication of the eight men showed through again and again during their formation.

“Their heart and soul are in this,” he said.

Deacon Orlando explained that the formation process itself is a great commitment, with periods of inquiry, discernment, coursework, spiritual direction, retreat work and performing ministries in their own parish.

“I’m looking for men who have the heart of a deacon, who have the absolute desire to serve God and his people,” Deacon Orlando said. “We are striving for that kind of commitment.”

Among the eight men ordained was Deacon John P. Carr, who told CNY he was asked by his pastor seven years ago to consider a call to the diaconate. An active parishioner, he was involved in the R.C.I.A. program, the men’s prayer group, the parish council, Knights of Columbus, and Cursillo movement at Infant Saviour parish in Pine Bush.

“The more I prayed about it, I felt God might be calling me to the diaconate, so I humbly went into the formation process and continued to discern, and God led me the rest of the way,” he said.

The formation process was not always easy, he said. “I would leave work at 4 p.m., and head to the seminary. I would get home at 11:15 p.m. or 11:30 p.m.” The deacon said his wife, Jennifer, also made sacrifices to support his call to the diaconate.

Despite the sacrifice, his wife said, “It’s a beautiful experience, and I’m thankful that my husband was able to go through it.” She said that she attended some of the classes with her husband, and learned a great deal about her own faith along the way.

“I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about Catholicism until I went through the program with my husband,” she said.

Mrs. Carr also noted that the experience brought the two closer together. “It’s made me more connected with my husband, and definitely helped my faith immensely.”

During the formation process, Deacon Carr he read a book, “The Father’s Son,” by Father James O’Connor, pastor of St. Joseph’s parish, Millbrook.

“One of the points of the book was that Jesus Christ was undivided in his mission,” he said.

“That struck me so powerfully,” he said. “How can I not dedicate my life fully to Jesus Christ and bring forth his Gospel and his love for his people?”

Deacon Appointments

The parish appointments for the newly ordained deacons, effective immediately, are:

Deacon Vincent J. Astarita, Sr.: St. Christopher’s, Buchanan

Deacon Michael J. Brescia: St. Joseph’s, Middletown

Deacon John P. Carr: Infant Saviour, Pine Bush

Deacon James E. Fiorio: St. Martid de Porres, Poughkeepsie

Deacon John W. Lyttle, Jr.: Holy Cross, Callicoon

Deacon George W. Pitula: St. Gabriel’s, the Bronx

Deacon Ralph P. Rios: Sacred Heart, the Bronx

Deacon Jose Salvador C. Ungco: Church of the Magdalene, Pocantico Hills


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