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Deacons called by God to serve

The “unique vocation” of the deacon is his “treasure,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila told a group of six Spanish-speaking deacon candidates moments before their ordination Aug. 23 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Adding to the uniqueness of their vocation, the six men, all immigrants from Mexico, constituted the third class of deacons in the archdiocese to have received their formation in Spanish.

The group has been studying through the Denver Archdiocese’s St. Francis School of Theology for Deacons for more than five years, and their service as deacons will primarily be directed to the Spanish-speaking community, which the archbishop said was a “very important part of our archdiocese, and for whom there is so much to do.”

In the archbishop’s homily, which he gave in both English and Spanish, he thanked them for having said “yes” to serve Christ, reminding them that they have been “called from all eternity … to serve our Lord as deacons.”

“A deacon is a servant,” he continued. “Deacons receive the imposition of hands, not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry. This unique vocation is their treasure.”

“They are not priests nor quasi-priests,” the archbishop explained. “They are deacons who want to be like Christ the servant. They are configured to Christ the servant. They will serve in the sacred liturgy … and they are called to serve tables, to bring food to those who hunger, and most especially hope to those who suffer.”

The archbishop asked for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the new deacons to “be joyful and generous servants of the Church.”

The diaconate is one of three ranks of holy orders—deacons, priests and bishops—in the Catholic Church and dates back to the time of the Apostles. The Book of Acts relates that the order was established when the Apostles told the Christian community to select “seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom” to serve the community and free the Apostles to focus on “prayer and ministry of the word” (6:3, 4). The men were chosen and the Apostles “prayed and laid hands on them” (6:6).

Over time, the diaconate became a transitional step for men studying to be priests. It was restored as a permanent ministry by Pope Paul VI on June 18, 1967, as a result of the Second Vatican Council.

The first permanent deacons in the United States were ordained in 1971. The first in the archdiocese—10 men—were ordained by Archbishop James Casey on April 6, 1974.

The word “diaconate” comes from the Greek diakonia, which means “service.” Deacons may officiate at baptisms, weddings, wakes and funerals, and may preach and distribute Communion. They cannot consecrate the Eucharist, hear confessions or anoint the sick.

Today, there are 180 permanent deacons in the archdiocese; 135 of them are in active ministry. In addition to the class of six ordained Saturday, an English-language class of 10 men was ordained in January.

Meet the new deacons

Deacon Arturo Araiza, 43, an Alliance Residential employee, was born and reared in Juarez. He and his wife, Yolanda, have been married for eight years and have three children, Denise, Arturo Jr. and Sarai. They are parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua in Denver.

Deacon Pedro Mota, 48, a construction worker, was born and reared in Durango. He and his wife, Leticia, have been married for 27 years and have four children, Pedro, Daniel, Luzemma and Odalys. They are members of Our Lady of Peace in Greeley.

Deacon Antonio Guerrero, 48, the director of religious education at St. Dominic Parish in northwest Denver, was born in Candelaria and reared in Zacatecas. He and his wife, Maria, have been married for 18 years and have two children, Samuel and Analicia. They are members of St. Dominic’s.

Deacon Mario Alberto Vielma, 49, a King Soopers employee, was born and raised in Torreon. He and his wife, Maricela, have been married for 24 years and have two children, Mara and Mario Jr. They are members of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton.

Deacon José Antonio Rodríguez, 47, who previously worked in the hotel industry, was born and reared in Chihuahua. He is single and a member of St. John the Baptist Parish in Longmont.

Deacon Roberto Cuevas, 43, a U.S. postal carrier, was born in Toluca and reared in Puebla. He and his wife, Felicitas, have been married for 16 years and have three children, Jesús, Roberto and Rafael. They are members of Ascension Parish in Denver.

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