Meet Denver’s six new transitional deacons

Denver Catholic Staff

Deacon John Croghan

Deacon John Croghan grew up on a farm near Hudson, Colo. He was one of seven children, and he remembers being outside a lot with his brothers and sisters.

After high school, at the age of 19, he began attending seminary. However, after a time, he decided to leave and instead pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering, which he got. He spent the next 16 years working in the aerospace industry.

Eventually, he felt the Lord calling him back to the seminary.

I was encouraged by a lot of people telling me I should try, and my family and Knights of Columbus council,“ Deacon Croghan said. “I think it is important to tell people when they think they have a vocation, the reminders reinforce God’s vocational call.”

Since his call to the priesthood came a little later in life, deacon Croghan has been studying at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary in Boston, which specializes in later vocations.

A strong devotion to the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph has been an important part of Deacon Croghan’s vocation. He also looks to the examples if Sts. Patrick, Brigid and Colm, as well as the Venerable Fulton Sheen.

As he prepares to become a priest, Deacon Croghan is most excited about celebrating the sacraments, being with God’s people and sharing Christ’s message.

“It is such rewarding work and I am blessed to be a part of it, he said.”

Deacon Anthony Davis

Deacon Anthony Davis was born and raised Catholic. Because of his father being in in the Air Force, he and his family had to move several times during his childhood, something Deacon Davis took as a blessing in his life.

While attending the Colorado State University, he encountered a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary who had a huge impact on him. With the missionary’s support, his Catholic Fraternity (Phi Kappa Theta), his pastor, and his parents’ influence, Deacon David was able to discern a call to enter the seminary, but with just a little desire to be a priest.

“I entered seminary expecting God to tell me I was not called to the priesthood, but then, during the Spirituality Year at St. John Vianney, God not only called me to the priesthood, but he put on my heart the desire to serve the men and women of the Military Services as well,” he said.

His parents never gave up either. With prayers and huge support from them, Deacon Anthony found his true spiritual path.

“They never gave up on me when I was going down the wrong path in high school and college. I firmly believe the prayers of my parents, specifically my mother, are the reason I was able to discern this incredible vocation.”

Deacon Davis hopes to continue to give his life in service to the Church and participate in God’s work.

“The call to the priesthood is a complete gift, and I am so grateful to have been called,” he concluded.

Deacon John Almeida

Deacon John Almeida was raised in the rural town of Heath in western Massachusetts. The fourth of eight children, he remembers faith being a central part of his family and his upbringing. His father taught him the value of hard work, praying and the importance of Sunday Mass.

At the age of 12, Deacon Almeida’s mother died in an automobile accident, leaving his father to raise the eight children on his own, whose ages ranged from 17 to one. This put a huge strain on Deacon Alemeida’s father, whose health began to decline, and it also put a strain on his own relationship with the Lord.

“I became very embittered and closed to the Lord and in many ways also to my family members,” Deacon Alemeida sad. “I still went to Mass and prayed at home, but my heart was far from the Lord.  I looked for happiness in having money, success, having friends and being educated, but I wasn’t at peace and couldn’t fill the void in my heart.”

This all changed when he became part of a Neocatechumenal Way community.

“It was through the Neocatechumenal Way community that I discovered my vocation,” Deacon Almeida said. “It was the place that I first ever heard the words that God loved me as a sinner.”

Deacon Almeida is excited to partake in the moments of grace which the Lord uses the priest to facilitate.

“I am really looking forward to being a part of the most precious moments of peoples’ lives, whether that is the baptism of a child, a wedding, or even a funeral, they are all special moments of grace where the love of God for man can be made manifest,” he said.

Deacon Sean Conroy

A Colorado native, Deacon Sean Conroy grew up attending Protestant schools all the way through middle school. Although he didn’t grow up attending Mass every week, he was naturally drawn to Scripture and religion. But it wasn’t until he went to Mullen High School when he had a conversion experience.

Inspired by his Confirmation sponsor, Deacon Conroy began his journey and deepened his faith and relationship with God during his four years in high school. In his freshman year, he attended a Confirmation retreat, in which he had the opportunity to go through the sacrament of Reconciliation, encountered God and had one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of his life.

“The peace and joy that I experienced is indescribable, not to mention the freedom from the shame, embarrassment, and guilt that I experienced as the priest spoke those words: I absolve you of your sins,” Deacon Conroy told the Denver Catholic.

During his senior year in high school, as he attended adoration and prayer at his home parish, St. Frances Cabrini, he heard his call to priesthood. After high school, he entered the seminary.

“I began to ask God, ‘what do you want me to do with my life?’ God would always flood me with grace, joy, peace, his love, and with the answer ‘priesthood.’ After much arguing with God, He gave me the courage to accept this call,” he said.

Deacon Peter Srsich

DENVER, CO – AUGUST 24: Peter Srsich poses for a portrait at the Archdiocese of Denver on August 24, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/A&D Photography)

For Deacon Peter Srsich, the idea that he might be called to the priesthood touched home as he witnessed a priestly ordination his sophomore year in high school. Growing up in Genesee, Colo., and being involved in youth group and music ministry at Christ the King Church in Evergreen, brought to him the idea of a vocation, but never before had it become so personal to him. Years later, he joined the seminary, as he realized his desire for the priesthood grew.

As his time to become a priest approaches, he is most excited to celebrate the sacraments. “God gives a special mission to His priests to baptize, to confect the Eucharist, to witness marriages, to absolve sins, to anoint the dying, and to pour out grace in countless other ways throughout the day. These are the most incredible gifts that God gives to us and I cannot wait to be an instrument for Him to continue to bless His children in this way”, he said.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Maximillian Kolbe and Blessed Chiara “Luce” Badano are among the figures who have deeply influenced him. Chiara, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died at a young age, played a special role because he himself was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 16. “Her example and intercession give me the strength whenever I am in need,” he said. “When she had absolutely nothing left in this world, she is remembered as saying, ‘I have everything.’”

Deacon John Stapleton

The Blessed Virgin Mary played a unique role in Deacon John Stapleton’s vocation story – and at a time when he still had a girlfriend. As he sought to grow in his faith in order to better defend it, he came across The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Monfort, a book that changed the way he saw prayer and the devotion of the rosary. “As I grew deeper in the devotion [of the rosary], I felt the Lord inviting me to open myself up more and more to him, to give myself to Him,” he said.

He decided to attend a series of meetings for young adults interested in the priesthood. At one of these meetings, he remembers feeling great peace and wonder at the simple question: “What goes on at the seminary?” “That [wonder] made me want to enter the seminary, to give it a shot and see if it was really my vocation,” he said.

He is looking forward to celebrating Mass and the sacrament of Reconciliation when he is ordained to the priesthood, but he is also enjoying the gift of consolation God has given him through his diaconate ordination.

“It’s a great joy and a great grace [to become a deacon] – especially getting to the moment of the ordination, and in that moment being filled with much confidence and peace, as well as seeing God bring about the good work that he’s done in my life, bringing that to fruition,” he said.

COMING UP: Archbishop to new transitional deacons: Look to the examples of Sts. Peter and Joseph

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On Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila ordained six men to the transitional diaconate during a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Marking this important step toward the priesthood were John Alemeida, who is studying at Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary; John Croghan, who is studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass.; Sean Conroy, Anthony Davis and John Stapleton, who are all studying at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary; and Peter Srsich, who is studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

In his homily, Archbishop Aquila noted the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter and spoke of the readings for the day, taken from the book of Jeremiah.

“In our readings for today, we hear the Lord speak to the prophet Jeremiah, and he speaks to you too,” the archbishop told the men. “‘I formed you. I dedicated you. I appointed you. I send you. I command you. I am with you to deliver you. I place my words in your mouth.’ And all of those point to action of God in your lives.”

In meditating on these words, Archbishop Aquila said, it becomes apparent that the vocations of the six men – and each of God’s children – was God’s will from the beginning.

“You, my beloved sons, your vocation began at the time of your baptism. And that is true for each and every one of us,” he asserted. “In making us at our baptism his beloved sons and daughters in Jesus Christ, the Lord pours out his love upon us, unconditionally and freely.”

Citing the Gospel of Matthew, Archbishop Aquila explained that even today, there is still confusion about who Christ is, but as Christians, we must look to the example of Peter and the apostles, who states, “You are the Christ, son of the living God.”

This is a proclamation all sons and daughters of God must make, the archbishop said, and in doing so, we “respond that Jesus is the son of the living God. That he is the Lord. That he is the savior. He is the redeemer. He is the brother and friend. And it is living in that relationship and believing it and trusting it and opening our hearts to receive it that we discover our vocation.”

The archbishop then urged the men to always remember the vocation to which the Lord has called them, that it is not their own will that they should seek to do, but the will of the father.

“In your preaching, you must have confidence in the Holy Spirit and in the words given to the prophet by God: ‘I place my words in your mouth,’” Archbishop Aquila said. “You are not to preach your opinion. You are not to preach your personal preferences. You are not to lead people astray. You are to lead them into the truth of Jesus Christ. You are to lead them into the encounter with Jesus. You are to preach Jesus’s words. And certainly, you are to use personal examples of where you have encountered Christ, helping people to see that, yes, in 2020, it is possible to encounter Jesus Christ.”

In the wake of media reports on Querida Amazonia and the question of priestly celibacy, Archbishop Aquila urged the men to accept their celibacy as gift from Jesus Christ, so that they can offer their vocation as a self-gift for God’s people.

“The priesthood is not functional, it is sacramental. And so, too, is celibacy,” the archbishop told the men. “You give witness to the truth and to the world that the virtue of chastity can be lived. In this sex-crazed culture that we live in, it needs more than ever that witness to the gift of chastity and to how to live that virtue and the incredible freedom and joy that it gives you.”

In the struggle of celibacy, the archbishop suggested the newly ordained men to look to the example of St. Joseph, who he said is the “best example of spiritual fatherhood and what it means to be a father as a celibate.”

“St. Joseph was called by the Father to be the father of Jesus in his humanity, and in that call, he responded wholeheartedly,” Archbishop Aquila said. “He became the protector of Jesus and Mary and he lived that out in his lifetime. That encounter with Joseph can teach us what it means to be a spiritual father. Listening to the words of Jesus, ‘I have come not to do my own will, but the will of the Father. My very food is the will of the Father.’ St. Joseph was obedient to that.

“You are making a lifelong commitment today,” the archbishop concluded. “Stay faithful to Jesus in that. Remain strong and steadfast in Jesus.”

Featured image by Daniel Petty