Bishop Frank J. Dewane, celebrant of Mass of Ordination April 6 at St. Joan of Arc in Boca Raton,congratulates Seminarian Franckel Fils-Aime moments after he is ordained a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Venice. (LINDA REEVES|FC)

Transitional deacons closer to priesthood

As song and prayer filled the church of St. Joan of Arc in Boca Raton, 15 men laid prostrate, laying down their lives before the altar of Jesus Christ. The Church was filled with family members, friends, guests, seminary faculty and leaders, priests and brother seminarians, all a witness of great support for the candidates soon to be ordained to the diaconate and to the Church.

The ordination to the transitional diaconate, which took place on Saturday, April 6, is the next step to the priesthood for these men, including Adam Marchese and Thomas Pringle, seminarians for the Diocese of Orlando. For Marchese, the impact of the day struck him right away.

“As soon as I walked through the doors at St. Joan of Arc, I saw an old professor from the college seminary and I broke down sobbing uncontrollably,” said Marchese. “Seeing him made me reflect back on the journey. God has really been good to me and blessed me every step of the way.” 

An especially moving moment for Pringle came when Bishop Frank Dewane of the Diocese of Venice laid hands on each of the seminarians, invoking the Holy Spirit to come down on those being ordained. For Pringle, it was the culmination of a six-year journey with his classmates, who had become brothers.

“We’ve walked with each other through countless triumphs, helped each other through the tragedies, prayed with each other through struggles in discernment, and celebrated the moments of growth,” said Pringle. “Each of them have been given so many remarkable gifts that will bring others to Christ in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine.”

The journey to the priesthood for another seminarian began in Haiti and meandered throughout several countries. However, April 6 he was ordained a transitional deacon, one small step on his spiritual journey.

“This ordination for me is a moment of grace, a time of thanksgiving to God for his fidelity to me,” said Diocese of Venice Seminarian Franckel Fils-Aime, who was ordained by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Boca Raton.

During the homily, Bishop Dewane explained that the ministry is much more than taking on specific Church duties. “What you are called to do is to reflect the love of Jesus Christ,” he said. “You are called to demonstrate this love in many ways; this you do with the help of the Holy Spirit.”

The Bishop also encouraged the men to “sow hope and trust in the Lord. You will teach Holy Doctrine to others but must be men of God and examples of living a life of prayer, high moral values and faith. May God bless each one of you for this decision you have made in your life and for your blessedness going forward.”

During the ordination, the new deacons promised to live a life of prayer, celibacy and obedience to their Diocesan Bishop. Deacon Fils-Aime will have an additional year of theological studies and spiritual formation before petitioning for Ordination to the Priesthood in 2020. As part of the ordination rite, the Bishop placed the Book of Gospels in the hands of each candidate being ordained and said: “Receive the Gospels of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

“I have been looking forward to beginning to serve for so many years and now I finally have the opportunity to start doing that in an official capacity,” said Pringle, “That’s what I’m excited for most.”

Over the next year, the new deacons will continue to prepare for the priesthood as they serve at local parishes. They will proclaim the Gospel, preach and teach in the name of the Church, preside at baptisms, witness marriages and provide comfort for those who mourn at funeral services. In his homily, Bishop Dewane reminded these men that while these ministries are incredibly important, their vocation is more than the work they will do.

“The work doesn’t describe what you’re called to do. What you’re called to do is the love of Christ that you carry in your hearts,” he said. “You will be called upon to demonstrate it in many different ways.”

Elizabeth Wilson contributed to this story.