New deacons invited to die to themselves to bear fruit 

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Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila told the newly-ordained deacons: “You will be configured to Christ, the servant, to serve as he serves, to be those who are called to proclaim the Gospel in the world, to serve at the altar in the preparations of the gifts and to perform works of charity in those you serve”.

Four transitional deacons were ordained on the cool morning of Saturday, March 2 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, marking the next step in their journey to the priesthood. The men are: Christopher James Considine, Juan Adrián Hernández, Juan Manuel Madrid and Christian James Mast.

The archbishop recounted the calling of deacons to proclaim the Word of God, serve at the altar and carry out works of charity, focusing his homily on the Gospel reading according to St. John, which was read both in English and Spanish: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12: 24).

He also highlighted the example of Monsignor Michael Glenn, who served as rector of St. John Vianney Seminary and passed away March 1 after battling a long illness: “He trusted completely in the Lord and gave his life. We are called to the same. That’s what it means to die and produce fruit, to surrender to the Father. He was a shining example of what priesthood ministry and diaconate ministry is to be about.”

Regarding the diaconal ministry of proclaiming the Word, Archbishop Aquila gave the deacons a key to help them prepare for their future homilies: “You can read all sorts of helpful materials … but if you do not know the love of Jesus Christ, if you are not in intimate relation with him, if you are not listening to the spirit, your words will be divided because you will be more focused on yourselves than Jesus Christ and proclaiming his word.”

And he emphasized the meaning of doing God’s will the way Jesus did it.

“Bear fruit to do the will of the Father. Not seeking his own will, but the will of the Father,” he said. “In our ministry, no matter where we serve, we are constantly called to serve Christ and to be with him, to be those who give our lives in obedience to Christ and to the Church, in obedience to the Father, and living in that relationship with him.”

DENVER, CO – MARCH 2: Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila prays over the new deacons Christian James Mast, Juan Manuel Madrid, Juan Adrian Hernandez and Christopher James Considine during the transitional deacon ordination at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on March 2, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

Archbishop Aquila also spoke to them about the hard times the Church is currently facing: “It is not the first time in history that there has been hostility towards the Gospel, that there has been rejection of God.  In every period of history somewhere, some place has been challenged, and in other times, it has been much greater, but we are called to be in the world and not out of the world.”

He called the promise of celibacy “a sign of contradiction in today’s world,” and, yet, also a promise that brings “joy and peace,” even if that does not mean that “your life will be without temptations.”

“[Nonetheless], the more you choose the good, the more you will depend on Jesus Christ, and his grace in the spirit that lives in you will strengthen you in the virtue of chastity,” he told the deacons.

At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Aquila thanked the deacons’ parents in English and Spanish, saying, “Without you, they would not be here.” And referred to the newly-ordained deacons, telling them, “I pray that the Lord will continue to bless you [and give you] all the virtues to be disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Deacon Christopher James Considine

DENVER, CO – MARCH 2: Christopher James Considine approaches the sanctuary during the transitional deacon ordination at Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on March 2, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

Deacon Chris Considine describes his vocation to the priesthood simply.

“God called me to be a priest, and I know there’s nothing else that would make me happier,” he said.

Deacon Considine was born in Seattle and grew up in Texas with his parents and older sister, Shannon. The family attended Mass on Sundays, and Deacon Considine remembers being a good kid.

Although he had considered the priesthood as early as high school, he felt he wasn’t mature enough to discern it wholeheartedly. It wasn’t until he started his freshman year at CU Boulder and was rejected from the fraternity he rushed for that Deacon Considine had the chance to attend a retreat at the local parish.

From that point on, the transitional deacon felt “a clear, undeniable call from the Lord, and then a resounding peace and happiness within my heart knowing that this life would bring me joy,” and he said “yes” to God’s call.

He now looks forward to celebrating the sacraments as a priest and committing his life fully to God.

“Heaven is absolutely real,” said Deacon Considine. “And that’s what it’s about — getting everybody there.”

Deacon Juan Adrián Hernández Domínguez

DENVER, CO – MARCH 2: Juan Adrian Hernandez approaches the sanctuary during the transitional deacon ordination at Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on March 2, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

Originally from Texcoco, Mex., Deacon Juan Adrian never imagined himself living so far from home. But reflecting on his life, he can see how God planted a seed in him when he was a child. One of his most memorable moments was the time when an elderly devout woman asked him if he had ever thought about the priesthood. That question prompted a curiosity that would re-flourish in his high school years. After a brief period of “ignorance and teenage rebellion against God,” the devout life of his girlfriend at the time helped him recover his faith. When considering the possibility of marriage, he was taken back by the attraction to the priesthood that resurfaced. He told his girlfriend he wanted to enter seminary and his girlfriend in turn disclosed to him her desire to become a Carmelite.

Juan Adrián entered the seminary in Texcoco but later realized that it was during mission trips that he felt most alive. This reality led him to St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver. He looks forward to serving the Spanish-speaking community in Colorado joyfully, and asks for the prayers of the faithful so that he may be a saintly priest.

Deacon Juan Manuel Madrid

DENVER, CO – MARCH 2: Juan Manuel Madrid approaches the sanctuary during the transitional deacon ordination at Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on March 2, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

Born and raised in Santiago de Chile, Deacon Juan Manuel experienced the beauty of the Catholic faith from an early age. This environment of faith instilled in him a desire to be a priest when he was nearly 5 years old. Nonetheless, such desire “froze” when he went through a “time of rebellion” during his teenage years, in which he rejected his family, the Church and God. After realizing that all the world offered for happiness only left him empty, depressed and almost suicidal, he begged God to show himself to him. A couple days later, he heard a reading at Mass that would change his life forever: “The love of Christ urges us at the thought that if one man has died for all, then all men have died, and he died for all so that those who live may live no longer for themselves but for him who died and was raised to life for them” (2 Cor 5:14-15).

He entered Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Chile and was sent to Denver as a missionary. After almost 10 years in formation, in which he has learned to value community deeply, he is very joyful to take this important step.

Deacon Christian James Mast

DENVER, CO – MARCH 2: Christian James Mast approaches the sanctuary during the transitional deacon ordination at Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on March 2, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for Denver Catholic)

Deacon CJ Mast felt Jesus call him to the priesthood on a mountain in the midst of a dangerous storm.

“As we were trying to get down, a large rock that was around four feet tall was dislodged,” said Deacon Mast. “It jumped over my back, landed on my leg, crushed it then continued to roll down the mountain.”

Father John Nepil approached Deacon Mast, asking him, “Do you trust me?”

After Deacon Mast replied that yes, he did trust him, Father Nepil asked him again more fervently, “No, do you really trust me?”

“It was in that moment that for the first time in my life, I told the Lord, ‘If you’re calling me to the priesthood, I’m all in.’”

Father Nepil carried Deacon Mast for hours down the mountain, and the then-Colorado State University student began discerning the priesthood.

A Loveland Native and cradle Catholic who grew up with his parents, two older brothers and one younger sister, Deacon Mast now looks forward to entering the fraternity of the priesthood and bringing more souls to Christ.

COMING UP: AM[D]G           

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Last November 11, on the centenary of its relocation to a 93-acre campus in suburban Washington, D.C., Georgetown Preparatory School announced a $60 million capital campaign. In his message for the opening of the campaign, Georgetown Prep’s president, Father James Van Dyke, SJ, said that, in addition to improving the school’s residential facilities, the campaign intended to boost Prep’s endowment to meet increasing demands for financial aid. Like other high-end Catholic secondary schools, Georgetown Prep is rightly concerned about pricing itself out of reach of most families. So Prep’s determination to make itself more affordable through an enhanced endowment capable of funding scholarships and other forms of financial aid for less-than-wealthy students is all to the good.

What I find disturbing about the campaign is its “branding” slogan. I first became aware of it when, driving past the campus a few months ago, I noticed a billboard at the corner of Rockville Pike and Tuckerman Lane. In large, bold letters, it proclaimed, “FOR THE GREATER GLORY.” And I wondered, “…of what?” Then one day, when traffic allowed, I slowed down and espied the much smaller inscription in the bottom right corner: “Georgetown Prep’s Legacy Campaign.”

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam [For the greater glory of God], often reduced to the abbreviation, AMDG, was the Latin motto of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Georgetown Prep is a Jesuit school. So what happened to the D-word? What happened to God? Why did AMDG become AM[D]G while being translated into fundraising English?

I made inquiries of Jesuit friends and learned that amputating the “D” in AMDG is not unique to Georgetown Prep; it’s a tactic used by other Jesuit institutions engaged in the heavy-lift fundraising of capital campaigns. That was not good news. Nor was I reassured by pondering Father Van Dyke’s campaign-opening message, in which the words “Jesus Christ” did not appear. Neither did Pope Francis’s call for the Church’s institutions to prepare missionary disciples as part of what the Pope has called a “Church permanently in mission.” And neither did the word “God,” save for a closing “Thanks, and God bless.”

Father Van Dyke did mention that “Ignatian values” were one of the “pillars” of Georgetown prep’s “reputation for excellence.” And he did conclude his message with a call for “men who will make a difference in a world that badly needs people who care, people who, in the words Ignatius wrote his best friend Francis Xavier as he sent him on the Society of Jesus’s first mission, will ‘set the world on fire’.” Fine. But ignition to what end?

Ignatius sent Francis Xavier to the Indies and on to East Asia to set the world on fire with love of the Lord Jesus Christ, by evangelizing those then known as “heathens” with the warmth of the Gospel and the enlivening flame of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. St. Ignatius was a New Evangelization man half a millennium before Pope St. John Paul II used the term. St. Ignatius’s chief “Ignatian value” was gloria Dei, the glory of God.

Forming young men into spiritually incandescent, intellectually formidable and courageous Christian disciples, radically conformed to Jesus Christ and just as deeply committed to converting the world, was the originating purpose of Jesuit schools in post-Reformation Europe. Those schools were not content to prepare generic “men for others;” they were passionately devoted to forming Catholic men for converting others, the “others” being those who had abandoned Catholicism for Protestantism or secular rationalism. That was why the Jesuits were hated and feared by powerful leaders with other agendas, be they Protestant monarchs like Elizabeth I of England or rationalist politicians like Portugal’s 18th-century prime minister, the Marquis of Pombal.

Religious education in U.S. Catholic elementary schools has been improved in recent decades. And we live in something of a golden age of Catholic campus ministry at American colleges and universities. It’s Catholic secondary education in the U.S. that remains to be thoroughly reformed so that Catholic high schools prepare future leaders of the New Evangelization: leaders who will bring others to Christ, heal a deeply wounded culture, and become agents of a sane politics. Jesuit secondary education, beginning with prominent and academically excellent schools like Georgetown Prep, could and should be at the forefront of that reform.

Jesuit secondary education is unlikely to provide that leadership, however, if its self-presentation brackets God and announces itself as committed to “the greater glory” of…whatever.