Meet the archdiocese’s eight new transitional deacons, ordained Feb. 13

Denver Catholic Staff

On Feb. 13, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila ordained eight men to the transitional diaconate at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Get to know each of the Archdiocese of Denver’s newest deacons and learn about how they discerned a call to the priesthood by reading the short profiles below.

Deacon Joe Bui 

Growing up in Vietnam, Deacon Joe Bui learned about the sacrifices his parents made for him and his siblings early in life. In Vietnam, sending children to school is very expensive, and Bui never took this for granted. 

“At the age of six, I seriously learned how to respect and value my parents’ sacrifices by doing my best to have good behavior at school, so [as] not to put more weight on their shoulders by worrying about me,” Deacon Bui said. 

After his youngest brother was born, Deacon Bui’s mother became ill and was no longer able to care for him and his siblings. This forced each of them to step up and care for the family, which meant going to buy food, making meals, walking to school and caring for their mother. 

“Like many other kinds grew up in poor families, we were more mature than other kids who were in our same age,” Deacon Bui recalled. 

Through the hardships, faith was a constant. Deacon Bui’s family was a faithful Catholic one, and every evening they would pray the Rosary together, asking Mary to intercede on their behalf for healing for their mother and for the Lord to provide for their family. 

“Praying with my family daily is how I received the Catholic faith,” Deacon Bui said. “Moreover, I had a good number of Catholic friends in the neighborhood, we went to school, to Mass, and to Catechism classes together.” 

This foundation of faith planted the seed for Deacon Bui’s vocation to the priesthood, which he discovered at the age of 16. Now, as a newly-ordained transitional deacon and ever closer to becoming a priest, Deacon Bui is very much looking forward to “bringing God’s healing grace to this wounded world by preaching the Good News and by leading people to the Triune God whom they can touch and talk to” through the Mass and the Sacraments.

Deacon Felipe Colombo 

Born and raised in Taguatinga, Brazil, Deacon Felipe Colombo was raised as an only child of a single mother who always taught him the importance of faith and the Catholic Church, and the fourth child of his father who always tried to be present in his life.

During his youth years, he tried to stay involved and participated in youth groups at his parish, but at the same time, he had doubts and curiosity about what was out in the world. At the age of 18, he joined the Neocatechumenal Way at his parish and attended his first retreat with this formation in 2012.

“God gave me the grace to meet the Neocatechumenal Way and through it, He started a revolution in my life,” Deacon Felipe said. 

Through his first retreat with the Neocatechumenal Way, he felt the Lord’s call for priesthood. At this point of his life, he was finishing college, had a girlfriend, and was considering marriage, but God had different plans for him. After resisting God’s call, he finally accepted it with gratitude for what the Lord was doing in his life. Later, during a different retreat for aspiring seminarians, he was chosen to be sent to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Denver for his studies and priestly formation. 

“Christ has given me the opportunity to have a new life thought the announcement of the Good News,” Deacon Colombo said. “I look forward to bringing to others these same Good News that changed my life, so that they may encounter Christ, as He encountered me.”

For Deacon Colombo, his pastor in Brazil, Father Pedro, who always encouraged his vocation, and his Neocatechumenal Way Community where he has seen miracles in his life and others, have had a huge impact on his vocation and helped him throughout the process. He is also often reminded to stay humble and listen to what God wants from him. 

“St. Philip Neri used to say: ‘God do not take your hand from Philip’s head, otherwise he will be lost.’ He always reminds me to be humble and to ask God for help,” the new deacon concluded.

Deacon Luis Guilherme Da Silva Mendes

Deacon Luis Guilherme da Silva Mendes was born and raised in Brasilia, capital of Brazil. He was raised in a Catholic family with eight siblings.

During his teenage years, he started having strong doubts about the Church and his faith. For many years, he ran away from God thinking he had nothing to offer and that he didn’t need him. When he was 19, as he witnessed a priest ordination, Deacon Da Silva finally gave up and realized the Lord had been calling him and was waiting for him with unconditional love. 

“The Lord touched me with His grace, he showed me that He was not asking me to give anything, but He was the one offering me unconditional love, a meaningful life, his Holy Spirit and, above all, His forgiveness,” Deacon Da Silva recalled. 

Although the sign of the new priests laying on the floor and offering their lives to God got stuck in his head, he didn’t answer God’s call at the moment. Luis had plans of what his “ideal life” would be, without realizing that God had a different path for him. Once he achieved some of his personal goals with a successful career, a steady job, and a fiancé, he finally realized that his life wasn’t complete and that he was trying to escape God’s call. 

Deacon Da Silva then recalled Luke 9: 24-25: “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”; and immediately decided to take a different path, the one God had been saving for him.  

“That was the moment I radically answered to God’s call, leaving the nets and following him in the adventure of the new evangelization, allowing Him to send me wherever He wanted, to announce his love and the forgiveness that I have received in abundance,” he concluded. 

Deacon Micah Flores

Deacon Micah Flores joins the list of thousands of faithful whose life has been impacted by St. John Paul II teachings. 

“The intercession and consistent presence of St. John Paul II in my life has carried me through seminary,” Deacon Flores said. “The clarity of his teaching, the conviction of his faith, the incredible sign of hope he has been for our world, and his fatherhood to the whole world have consistently blown me away and strengthened me to wake up every day and say ‘yes’ to Jesus.”

Born and raised in Colorado, Deacon Flores grew up in a Catholic family, playing sports and enjoying the outdoors while encountering God in a significant way through his creation. During his high school years at Regis Jesuit High School, he experienced a powerful encounter with God at a silent retreat. After this retreat, God planted the seed of vocation, but it wasn’t until after three years of college, at CU Boulder, that he said yes to the Lord’s invitation. 

For Deacon Flores, celebrating Mass and reconciliation have been his strongest desires since he was in college.

“These sacraments have been the two greatest gifts in my life, and I cannot wait to invite everyone into these wonderful fonts of grace and share them with the world,” he said. 

In addition to St. John Paul II, another important mentor in his life and vocation has been Father Brady Wagner, who helped him in his discernment to enter the seminary and was an example to him of what a joyful priest, confident in his identity as a son of God, truly is. 

“I stand in tremendous gratitude for both of these holy men and many other men and women,” he said. The Body of Christ is real, and we truly do build one another up.”  

Deacon Trevor Lontine 

Deacon Trevor Lontine says the greatest gifts his parents imparted to him were a devotion to the “Little Way” of St. Thérèse and a good work ethic. Indeed, these two gifts have likely served him well in his journey toward the priesthood. 

Deacon Lontine grew up near Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn, where he and his older brother were homeschooled by his mother. He comes from a faithful Catholic family and went to daily Mass until he was in middle school. 

At the age of 15, Deacon Lontine heard the call to the priesthood while Father Daniel Barron was preaching a homily on vocations at Holy Ghost Parish in Denver. 

“Though I initially resisted, I ended up going to seminary in Nebraska for two years after graduating high school,” Deacon Lontine recalled. “The learning curve was steep, so I discerned out, went to college, worked for 3 years, and then heard the call, very powerfully and joyfully, to return to seminary in 2016.” 

The second call came after a dear friend of his had died. He experienced what it was like to intercede for his friend’s soul and came to a deeper understanding of the beauty of the Church as the Communion of Saints. 

“I wanted to serve that reality with my life,” he said. 

Now one step closer to the priesthood in which the Lord is calling him to serve, Deacon Lontine seeks to “learn to love as Jesus loves, in a way that gives God the Father complete and total worship each moment of life. 

“Obviously, this is the general Christian call,” he continued, “but the priest participates in this in a particular way, as a spiritual mediator between God and his People.” 

Deacon Lontine is thankful for the mentors and important figures who have encouraged him and helped him along the way, not least of which are his patronesses St. Catherine of Siena and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. 

“Each has guided me since I was a child, and have guarded my vocation carefully,” he said. 

Deacon Miguel Mendoza

Although Deacon Miguel Mendoza was raised in the Jehovah’s Witness faith, the Lord had different plans for him that changed his life.

Deacon Mendoza grew up in Greeley, Colorado away from the Catholic Church. However, when he was 16 years old, his life changed as he felt the Lord’s call to priesthood. Through the example of St. John Paul II, Deacon Mendoza decided to get baptized, setting an example for his family, who also returned to the Catholic Church after seeing his conversion. 

For Deacon Mendoza, St. John Paul II was a role model for his vocation and looks forward to celebrating the sacraments, especially the Holy Mass and confession, in the near future. 

“His [St. John Paul II] example of charity and fatherly love was very inspiring. Father Crispin was also very influential in my vocation. He really encouraged my calling and guided me through it all,” he said. 

Deacon Sam Munson

Deacon Sam Munson moved to Colorado from Chicago at the age of five. He grew up in the northern towns of Mead and Loveland.

As a junior in high school, Deacon Munson began to feel attracted to the priesthood when he became more serious about his prayer life.

“Prayer for me became more intimate with the Lord and I begin to see him more as a friend and as a companion to my life,” Deacon Munson said.

However, it was while he was in college at the University of Northern Colorado when he actually heard God calling him to become a priest, during the Bear Awakening retreat his freshman year.

“When I first received it, I was frightened of the call and avoided it for several years,” Deacon Munson explained. “It wasn’t really until I graduated from college and began asking the Lord, ‘who am I to you?’ that I really began to accept the call. One night in particular in Adoration, I felt His loving gaze upon me in a really deep way: ‘Sam I love you, you are Mine, and I’m calling you to be My priest.’ In that moment I was no longer afraid to pursue the call!”

Along the way, Deacon Munson had one saint in particular who was a crucial intercessor for his vocation.

“It’s often said that we don’t necessarily choose the saints in our lives but that they choose us. This is certainly true for my life in regard to St. Gemma Galgani,” he said. “Throughout my time in seminary Saint Gemma has taught me to be less afraid of suffering, and to have a trust and constant desire for intimacy with the Lord, especially in regard to his passion and death on the cross. Since my time in seminary, I have always kept her image on my shelf and even received a first class relic of her from the Mother Superior of the Carmelite Order here in Littleton! I consider St. Gemma as a dear friend and even a sister, a beautiful woman who has been crucial in my Vocation.”

Now, as he takes one step closer to the priesthood, Deacon Munson is most looking forward to being “an instrument of the mercy and love of the Lord, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and in spiritual direction.”

“The glory of God is man fully alive and it is my desire as a priest to show the beauty and fullness of humanity that can only come through the Church,” Deacon Munson concluded. “We live in a society that condemns often and forgives never; therefore, people think that their identity comes from what they do and not from who they are. It is my desire that people know to the very core of their being that they are who they are because they are made and formed in love and perfectly known by Him who knows them better than they know themselves!”

Deacon Michael Tran 

Deacon Michael Tran grew up instilled with a strong love for the Virgin Mary, due to his village’s close proximity to Our Lady of Lavang Shrine in the Quang Tri province in Vietnam. In 1798, Our Lady appeared at this site to console the persecuted Christians of Vietnam. 

“I was brought up in the strong faith of our fathers and under the protection of Our Lady of Lavang,” Deacon Tran said. “At all times, we have a great love for Our Virgin and we trust in her intercession for us. When I was young, I used to visit the shrine with my pastor, friends, sometimes alone, every Saturday morning to pray or to attend Masses there. 

At the age of nine, Deacon Tran, heard God calling him to the priesthood when he served at the altar for the first time. However, his life would have to unfold more in order for the call to become clearer. 

“The call to the vocation had not ever been clear to me until I graduated from the university and had a job,” he explained. “People around me, my pastors, my parents, some sisters of the Lovers of the Holy Cross, and some of my students, all encouraged me to think about becoming a priest. Finally, the death of my best friend moved me to come and talk to my vocation director at that time, and he helped me to discern God’s will in my life.” 

Now one step closer to the priesthood, Deacon Tran eagerly awaits the day when he can hear confessions and celebrate Masses as a priest.  

The new deacon credits St. Catherine of Siena as one of the central figures in both his life and vocation. 

“St. Catherine of Siena has always been with me since I was a six-year-old boy who really wanted to receive Holy Communion,” Deacon Tran said. “She was also the one who helped me recognize the vanity of this life and the true meaning of life. She brings me closer to God and helps me to love people’s souls more and more. She is like a teacher, a model, and especially a mother to me.” 

COMING UP: From rare books to online resources, archdiocesan library has long history of service to students

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National Library Week, observed this year from April 4 to April 10, is the perfect occasion to highlight the essential role of libraries and library staff in strengthening our communities – and our very own Cardinal Stafford Library at the Archdiocese of Denver is no exception.  

Since 1932, the library has served as a religious, intellectual, and cultural resource for seminarians and students at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

As the library of the seminary, we are always responsible for the four dimensions of the priestly formation of our seminarians. The library is charged with being responsible to all the divisions of the Seminary: the Lay Division (Catholic Biblical School and Catholic Catechetical School), the Permanent Deacon Formation Division, and the Priestly Formation Division, said Stephen Sweeney, Library Director. 

In addition to being one of the main resources to the seminary, the Cardinal Stafford Library serves the needs of other educational programs in the Archdiocese of Denver, including the St. Francis School for Deacons, the Biblical School, the Catechetical School and the Augustine Institute. While the library is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was previously open to anyone, giving people access to more than 150,000 books, audios, and videos. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library was named after Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican and former Archbishop of Denver from 1986 to 1996. He was a dedicated advocate of the library and of Catholic education.

In 1932, the library was established by two seminarians, Maurice Helmann and Barry Wogan. While they were not the first seminarians to conceive the idea of establishing a library, they are considered the founders for undertaking its organization.  

Since its founding, the library has grown and compiled a fine collection of resources on Catholic theology, Church history, biblical studies, liturgy, canon law, religious art, philosophy, and literature. Special collections include over 500 rare books dating back to the early 16th century and many periodicals dating back to the 1800s. The oldest publication in the library is a book on excommunication published in 1510. The Cardinal Stafford Library is also home to various relics and holds bills personally written by some of those saints.  

Over the past few years, the library has undergone a process of beautification through various renovations that include improvements in lighting, flooring, and even furniture restoration. During these difficult times, libraries are doing their best to adapt to our changing world by expanding their digital resources to reach those who don’t have access to them from home. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library provides a community space; we subscribe to about 200 print journals and have access to literally thousands more through online resources available on campus computers, Sweeney added. “I have been the Library Director for almost 11 years. I absolutely love my work, especially participating in the intellectual formation of the faithful from all of the dioceses we serve”.  

For more information on the Cardinal Stafford Library, visit: sjvdenver.edu/library 

Featured photo by Andrew Wright