New deacons invited to die to themselves to bear fruit 

Avatar

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: The Pell case: Developments down under

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

In three weeks, a panel of senior judges will hear Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unjust verdict rendered against him at his retrial in March, when he was convicted of “historical sexual abuse.” That conviction did not come close to meeting the criterion of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is fundamental to criminal law in any rightly-ordered society. The prosecution offered no corroborating evidence sustaining the complainant’s charge. The defense demolished the prosecution’s case, as witness after witness testified that the alleged abuse simply could not have happened under the circumstances charged — in a busy cathedral after Mass, in a secured space.

Yet the jury, which may have ignored instructions from the trial judge as to how evidence should be construed, returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. At the cardinal’s sentencing, the trial judge never once said that he agreed with the jury’s verdict; he did say, multiple times, that he was simply doing what the law required him to do. Cardinal Pell’s appeal will be just as devastating to the prosecution’s case as was his defense at both his first trial (which ended with a hung jury, believed to have favored acquittal) and the retrial. What friends of the cardinal, friends of Australia, and friends of justice must hope is that the appellate judges will get right what the retrial jury manifestly got wrong.

That will not be easy, for the appellate judges will have been subjected to the same public and media hysteria over Cardinal Pell that was indisputably a factor in his conviction on charges demonstrated to be, literally, incredible. Those appellate judges will also know, however, that the reputation of the Australian criminal justice system is at stake in this appeal. And it may be hoped that those judges will display the courage and grit in the face of incoming fire that the rest of the Anglosphere has associated with “Australia” since the Gallipoli campaign in World War I.

In jail for two months now, the cardinal has displayed a remarkable equanimity and good cheer that can only come from a clear conscience. The Melbourne Assessment Prison allows its distinguished prisoner few visitors, beyond his legal team; but those who have gone to the prison intending to cheer up a friend have, in correspondence with me, testified to having found themselves cheered and consoled by Cardinal Pell — a man whose spiritual life was deeply influenced by the examples of Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More during Henry VIII’s persecution of the Church in 16th-century England. The impact of over a half-century of reflection on those epic figures is now being displayed to Cardinal Pell’s visitors and jailers, during what he describes as his extended “retreat.”

Around the world, and in Australia itself, calmer spirits than those baying for George Pell’s blood (and behaving precisely like the deranged French bigots who cheered when the innocent Captain Alfred Dreyfus was condemned to a living death on Devil’s Island) have surfaced new oddities — to put it gently — surrounding the Pell Case.

How is it, for example, that the complainant’s description of the sexual assault he alleges Cardinal Pell committed bears a striking resemblance — to put it gently, again — to an incident of clerical sexual abuse described in Rolling Stone in 2011? How is it that edited transcripts of a post-conviction phone conversation between the cardinal and his cathedral master of ceremonies (who had testified to the sheer physical impossibility of the charges against Pell being true) got into the hands (and thence into the newspaper writing) of a reporter with a history of anti-Pell bias and polemic? What is the web of relationships among the virulently anti-Pell sectors of the Australian media, the police in the state of Victoria, and senior Australian political figures with longstanding grievances against the politically incorrect George Pell? What is the relationship between the local Get Pell gang and those with much to lose from his efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances?

And what is the state of serious investigative journalism in Australia, when these matters are only investigated by small-circulation journals and independent researchers?

An “unsafe” verdict in Australia is one a jury could not rationally have reached. Friends of truth must hope that the appellate judges, tuning out the mob, will begin to restore safety and rationality to public life Down Under in June.

Featured image by CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images