‘Icons of Christ the Servant’: Fourteen men answer the call to serve as permanent deacons

On June 22, Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez ordained 14 men to the permanent diaconate. “To serve is the highest honor in the Church,” Bishop Rodriguez told the men during his homily, and iterated that “deacons are icons of Christ the Servant” in the liturgy. Get to know each of the men and how they received their calls to the diaconate.

Daniel Cook, St. Mary (Breckenridge) and Our Lady of Peace (Silverthorne)

Deacon Cook heard his calling to the diaconate as he prayed with his wife in front of the San Damiano Cross during a pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy. St. Francis of Assisi has played an important role in his walk of faith: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I received my calling in his hometown,” he said. As deacon, one of his greatest joys is “assisting the priest at the altar and distributing communion to the people.”

A.J. Misiti, Spirit of Christ (Arvada)

In his childhood, Deacon Misiti developed a great love for the Liturgy and the Eucharist as an altar server, and he considers this the beginning of his call to the diaconate. After moving with his family to Denver in 2011, that call became persistent. He thanks his wife, Liz, for being the most important person in this journey, and is “thrilled to get to serve our priests during the celebration of the Eucharist nearly every day.”

Chris Tranchetti, Our Lady of Loreto (Foxfield)

Deacon Tranchetti’s calling came “gradually.” Having served as a husband, father and U.S. Navy officer, he sees that “being ordained a deacon is not simply another manifestation along the continuum of my call to serve, but rather the capstone for a lifetime of service.” As a deacon, he hopes “to help and serve those in the universal church impacting not only human lives, but eternal souls”, and is excited to bring the hope of Christ to all he might encounter.

Pedro Reyes, St. William (Ft. Lupton)

Deacon Reyes had no idea God would call him so clearly to the diaconate during a retreat. While he was praying with his eyes closed, God allowed him to see himself vested as a Deacon at Mass. This led him to serve more as an altar server and eventually to the diaconate. “What brings the most joy and excitement… is that I will be able to show my love to and for God through all those I will be serving,” he said.

Huan Nguyen, Nativity of Our Lord (Broomfield)

Deacon Nguyen converted from Buddhism, after 18 years of marriage with his wife, Vana, who was Catholic. “My conversion began with several personal encounters with the Lord Jesus in the adoration chapel,” he said. After years of service to the Church with his wife, the call to the diaconate intensified. “It brings me joy to see the love of God as I encounter the people who are sick, dying, poor, homeless and less fortunate in our society [as a deacon],” he said.

Thinh Le, Our Lady of Fatima (Lakewood)

When a priest approached him to ask him if he had considered becoming a permanent deacon, Deacon Le didn’t know what that meant, “because there weren’t any in Vietnam,” he said. But after doing research, he felt God calling him. He took a break after his second year of formation to discern this calling further but returned four years later to finish it. “There is nothing more happy and joyful than when I know I’m not worthy of this vocation,” he said.

John Ferraro, St. Gianna Molla (Denver)

Deacon Ferraro first thought about the diaconate as a campus minister at Regis Jesuit High School but decided it was not the right time. Years later, he decided to take the step and see if God confirmed his calling. “God blessed me with graces that made it clear he had called me to this vocation,” he said. “What brings me joy about serving the Church as a deacon is being a conduit of Christ’s presence for the people I will serve.”

David Simonton, St. Thomas More (Centennial)

Six years ago, at the age of 53, Deacon Simonton heard the call to the permanent diaconate while in the adoration chapel at St. Thomas More. “Jesus was telling me, ‘Go, run, don’t walk … submit your request to enter the diaconate … NOW!’” he recalled. As a deacon – and a father of seven – he’s most excited about help people begin their journey of faith through baptism. “It doesn’t get any better than that, my friends,” he said.

Tom Piccone, Risen Christ (Denver)

Born and raised in Denver, Deacon Piccone has been a parishioner at St. Thomas More for the last 30 years. Over the course of many years helping with prison and youth ministry, he found purpose and joy in leading others to an encounter with Christ. While the patron of his home parish is important to him, “no patron is so important as our Blessed Mother,” he said. “We’re always seeking her help in following and growing closer to her son.”

Joseph Vu, All Saints (Denver)

Deacon Vu escaped from Vietnam in 1975 when communists took over Saigon City and came to the U.S. as a refugee. After discerning out of seminary and getting married, he eventually responded to the “fire-voice” that “burned in my heart” to serve God’s people. In addition to Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration, Deacon Vu attributes his vocation to Our Lady of LaVang. “I am humbled and give thanks to God for having called me to serve him daily,” he said.

Richard Hamilton, Our Lady of the Pines (Conifer)

Deacon Hamilton was called to the Church at 21 years old after a difficult time in his life. Happily married with three children, he said that he has “witnessed the Risen Christ” in the restoration of his marriage. After a 31-year career as an elementary school teacher, he now coordinates children’s ministries at St. Mary Parish in Littleton. As a deacon, his desire “is to help people, especially those who are suffering, to have a true meeting with Jesus Christ in their lives.”

Tim McCann, Guardian Angels (Mead)

After three separate invitations to consider the permanent diaconate within a two-week span, Deacon McCann decided to discern whether God was calling him to it. Turns out, he was. As a deacon, he is challenged to do ordinary things extraordinary well. “I can serve ordinarily, and the work may be done, but if I serve in love of God maybe that same service can be something more,” he said.

John Doubrava, Our Lady of the Plains (Byers)

On the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Deacon Doubrava had a charismatic encounter with the Holy Spirit that planted the seed of his vocation. “After the encounter, I was left with a question: ’Now that I KNOW he is, now what?’” he said. Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, it became clear that the permanent diaconate was what was next. He looks forward to joyfully serving others in Word, Liturgy and Charity.

Scott Ditch, Sts. Peter and Paul (Wheatridge)

After an invitation from the pastor at Spirit of Christ Parish, Deacon Ditch decided to look into the permanent diaconate and see what it was all about. Now, as a deacon, he’s grown to understand his prayer life better with the help of St. Teresa of Avila, and he looks forward to serving the people of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Wheatridge – all while retaining his job as Director of Information Technology at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield.

Featured image by Brandon Young

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.”