5/27/2010 3:18:00 PM The Significant Seven Bishop Smith ordains men on path to priesthood
Newly Ordained – Bishop John M. Smith stands with the seven men ordained to the transitional diaconate May 15, from left; Rev. Messrs. Kevin J. Kimtis, Christopher P. Picollo, Carlos Castilla, John J. Testa, H. Todd Carter, Carlos Florez, and Fernando Lopez. The group felt it was a significant coincidence that their class of seven was the same number as the original deacons called to serve the early Church. Craig Pittelli photo
Congratulations! – Members of the transitional deacon ordination class of 2010 are given congratulatory hugs after being vested. Craig Pittelli photo
A heavenly coincidence.
That’s how many family members, friends and fellow students described it as they gathered for the ordination of seven transitional deacons – the same number of deacons first elected by the early Church – in Mary, Mother of God Church, New Monmouth, May 15.
For the seven – H. Todd Carter, Carlos Castilla, Carlos Florez, Fernando Lopez, Christopher P. Picollo, Kevin J. Kimtis and John J. Testa – the ordination marked a milestone in their long and very personal journeys to the priesthood.
Like everyone else in attendance on this solemn and joyous day, they were struck by the symbolism of the reading from the Acts of the Apostles that named the original seven – Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas – and explained that they were called to meet the needs of ministering to the people of Jerusalem.
The newly ordained Rev. Mr. Testa, reflected – as a member of the contemporary seven – on the convergence which Bishop John M. Smith called attention to in his remarks during the ordination Mass.
“I think that one of the things that really struck me was that seven were the first called and here we were, seven presenting ourselves now,” said Rev. Mr. Testa, whose home parish is Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Seaside Heights. “I thought that was very profound.”
The Rev. Mr. Kimtis, whose home parish is St. Paul, Princeton, called the size of the class a “great thing,” especially in these times where so often the focus is on the shortage of priests. “I think some people have gotten used to the idea that there will be (very few) priests in the future and it was nice for them to see that this is not entirely true, that there is growth.”
The size of the class added even more luster to the ordination in the new church where streams of sunlight illuminated candidates, clergy and those in the pews.
With great solemnity and ceremony, they were called individually and presented for ordination to Bishop Smith and all those present. As the Sacrament of Holy Orders unfolded, they professed vows of celibacy and obedience to the Church and the bishop and assumed the responsibilities of deacon: assisting at Mass; proclaiming the Gospel; giving homilies; witnessing at marriages and presiding at funeral vigils and graveside committal services and blessings.
The laying on of hands by Bishop Smith and the prayer of dedication followed and the seven were vested with the stole and dalmatic vestments they will don for Mass and services throughout the next year.
As the ordination drew to its conclusion, the bishop placed the Book of Gospels in the hands of each of the newly vested deacons, symbolically charging them to fulfill the vows they had just taken.
Following the kiss of peace, when first Bishop Smith and then all the clergy present, gave the greeting of peace to the new deacons, applause from the hundreds swelled through the vast reaches of the church.
In his remarks, Bishop Smith likened the new transitional deacons to an “abundant harvest” and spoke of how wonderful it was to “see our sons” dedicate themselves to the service of the Church.
He exhorted them to “do the will of God from your heart and to serve with love and joy and, dear sons, never allow yourself to be turned away from the Gospel.”
Bishop Smith had words of warmth for parents who had nourished the vocations of their sons and asked for a round of applause for them that was met with a standing ovation.
He noted that the parents of three of the new transitional deacons – who are all Colombian born – could not be present. The parents of Rev.
Mr. Carlos Castilla and the mother of Rev. Mr. Fernando Lopez, were unable to travel to the ordination. The father of Rev. Mr. Lopez is deceased as are the parents of the Rev. Mr. Carlos Florez.
Bishop Smith expressed his gratitude to the absent parents for the “gift of their sons” to the diocese and its faithful. To the audience within the church, he said: “Please congratulate these seven deacons who, please God, will be ordained to the priesthood next year.”
That task was taken up joyfully by all who came to the ordination Mass. At a reception that followed in the social hall, all seven deacons were surrounded by throngs of people who traveled from as far away as Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Ga.
At the reception, each transitional deacon hosted a table and each table was swamped by well wishers throughout the event.
Those who had come to know the Rev. Messers. Castilla, Lopez and Florez during their years in the United States, spoke of their joy in their accomplishments and their pride in standing in for their family members.
Alicia and Roy Gallus talked about the large group gathered at the Florez table – some of whom made the drive from Georgia – who regard the young deacon as an adopted member of their families.
“His parents died in an accident when he was four months old,” said Roy Gallus. “We met him at church and grew to love him. We ‘adopted him’,” Gallus said with a big smile. “We are his family.”
The Rev. Mr. Kimtis welcomed not only his family members and college classmates but 43 parishioners of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Trenton, who traveled in by bus to offer their support and congratulations.
“We came because we love Kevin,” said Suzanne Hughes.
“He was assigned to the parish last summer and we really developed a fondness for him. We are very proud of him.”
The families of the Rev. Messrs. Picollo and Carter both expressed their joy in the successful journeys of their sons. “It was the greatest day,” said Dolores Picollo of her son’s ordination. “Everything about it was wonderful. I am proud of all seven of them.”
Harry and Jacalyn Carter, Howell, parents of Rev. Mr. Carter, talked of “pride beyond understanding” at the accomplishment of their son. “He has made the very best choice for himself and I am so happy and pleased,” his mother said.
His father added: “to see our son grown into an upright man, to think that tonight, we will listen to him preach his first homily…what more can a parent ask?”