Deacons called by God to serve

Six ordained to serve Spanish-speaking community

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.

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”