PALM BEACH GARDENS | Following the ancient church tradition, Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito laid hands upon the heads of two candidates for the permanent diaconate as they knelt before him.
In doing so, the bishop silently summoned the Spirit of God, and after he completed the holy gesture found in Scripture, a subtle whisper came from a front pew, “They are deacons now.”
David William Zanotelli, a parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola, and Martin De Jesus Sandigo, a parishioner of Holy Family in Port St. Lucie, are now both graced with the title of “Deacon” before their names. Bishop Barbarito ordained the men to the diaconate Sept. 8 during celebrations at the cathedral in Palm Beach Gardens. The men now join 100 permanent deacons here in the Diocese of Palm Beach and a fraternity of 165,000 permanent deacons serving the U.S. Church.
“I am really proud of my son,” said Alberto Sandigo, Deacon Sandigo’s father. “He is following the call of God. He was a good child. He always loved the Church. I respect his decision.”
Parishioners from the various parishes witnessed the Mass of ordination creating a spirit of the faithful as one big family. Deacons dressed in white filled the pews, and as did many priests, some of whom served on the altar. Representatives of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, where the deacons attended classes as part of study and formation, were also present.
Ana Sandigo’s and her sons, Kelvin and Carlos, were among the many family members present in support of Deacon Sandigo. A large representation of people came from Holy Family Parish with prayers in their heart for him, one of their own, including the parish choir who sat with the diocesan choir and joined in the singing, under the direction of Jeanne Clark.
“I have always thought there was something special about him,” said Bobbi Hilyard among the Holy Family group. “We came to show our support.”
Parishioners of the cathedral parish attended the Mass in support of Deacon Zanotelli. Special guest was Zanotelli’s godmother, Shirley Sullivan, from Florida’s west coast, who came bearing photographs of Zanotell’s first holy Communion.
Deacon Zanotelli’s wife, Beth, sat in a front row accompanied by the Zanotelli daughters, Anne Marie, 27, Emma Rose, 25 and Francesca Grace, 21. Beth was full of mixed emotions as she watched her husband take final steps to the altar. She smiled at times and shed tears at other moments.
“I am so proud of him,” she said. “It has been such a beautiful journey for both of us. It has been amazing.”
The Diocese of Palm Beach Diaconate Formation Program started in 2002. The first diocesan permanent diaconate ordination was celebrated Sept. 9, 2006, when 12 men were ordained at St. Patrick Parish in Palm Beach Gardens. Permanent deacons are men who normally have no intention or desire of becoming a priest, but have the call to help the Church in a greater way. Ordained deacons generously give of time and efforts and make sacrifices. They baptize, distribute holy Communion, read the Scriptures and preach, preside at marriages and funerals, and perform works of charity and acts of justice.
Becoming a permanent deacon requires five years of intense studies and a great deal of dedication and sacrifice. “I have worked a long time for this day. I am very happy,” Sandigo said. He added his formation gave him knowledge and pastoral, spiritual and intellectual dimensions for ministry.
Deacon Zanotelli also appeared joyful and calm on his big day. He told the Florida Catholic that he began hearing the gentle call to the diaconate more than 15 years ago. The call grew louder over the years, and then, very clear. “I feel at peace,” he said adding he is excited about continuing on the next leg of the spiritual journey. n